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Dal startup space partners with province to boost biomedical innovation

Posted by Theresa Anne Salah on May 10, 2024 in News
The Government of Nova Scotia is investing $650,000 to support additional capacity in the Emera ideaHUB's ideaBuild program. (Images courtesy of Candidads Photography)
The Government of Nova Scotia is investing $650,000 to support additional capacity in the Emera ideaHUB's ideaBuild program. (Images courtesy of Candidads Photography)

One of Dalhousie’s key facilities for startup development will double the number of companies in its flagship program over the next three years thanks to new financial support from the Government of Nova Scotia.

Dalhousie’s Emera ideaHUB will receive $650,000 to boost the number of startups enrolled in its ideaBuild program each year, with a particular focus on increasing the number of firms focused on biomedical technology innovation in the province.

“This investment is a wonderful example of the power of partnership and collective vision in advancing critical initiatives for the betterment of our province, including innovation and entrepreneurship and enhanced health care for all Nova Scotians and beyond,” said Dr. John Newhook, dean of Dalhousie’s Faculty of Engineering, at an announcement event Tuesday (May 7) in the Emera ideaHUB space.  

The funding will facilitate the addition of a second annual cohort in the space on Dal's downtown campus each spring, welcoming 10 new startup companies focused on health care-related products and tech to complement the ten startups enrolled in the program’s fall cohort.

The ideaBUILD program helps ventures in the deep-tech space — those building physical products — develop functional prototypes.

Attendees at this week's announcement in the Emera ideaHUB.

Shared priorities

The announcement reflects the aligned priorities of the provincial government and Dalhousie in improving health care and health innovation within Nova Scotia.

“With the right people, the right resources and the right environment, we can achieve great things,” said the Honourable Susan Corkum-Greek, Nova Scotia's minister of economic development, at the funding announcement.  

“Education, industry, and quality of life are intertwined. This government knows that, and that’s why we’re investing in innovation…in startups…and in research and development.”

“By investing in high-tech solutions and the biomedical sector, we are supporting innovation and job growth, while also making improvements in healthcare,” she added.

Dean Newhook, left, chats with Minister Corkum-Greek.

Building viable businesses

The province’s funding will provide up to $10,000 to startup founders for purchasing materials they need to design, build, and prepare for manufacturing. 

“We see the province’s funding enabling more of the collaboration already happening at the HUB that leads to market-relevant products and founders building viable businesses here in the province,” said Erin O’Keefe Graham, director of the Emera ideaHUB. 

“Not only do we see founders from Engineering join a HUB program and go on to bring their product to market, but we also see them hiring students and others from the community as they grow their businesses.”

The Emera ideaHUB is unique in Atlantic Canada and one of only a few early-stage deep-tech incubators worldwide, equipping diverse founders with the space, resources and expertise they need to innovate. 

The ideaBUILD program, which this funding will support, takes startups through an intensive 10-month initiative designed to assist founders through the critical stage of product development, from idea conception to functional prototype. Startups receive extensive support through immersive workshops, access to expertise from the Faculty of Engineering, and mentorship from seasoned deep tech founders. 

Emera ideaHUB

Five years of helping build successful startups

  • Since its establishment in 2018, the Emera IdeaHUB has been instrumental in supporting students within Dalhousie’s Faculty of Engineering.  “We’ve had 47 Engineering capstone projects in support of HUB start-ups, and 60 co-op placements,” said O’Keefe Graham.

  • The Emera ideaHUB has also effectively supported 148 startups, with an impressive 85 per cent of them still operating more than a year after completing their HUB program or residency. These startups have reported the creation of 571 jobs since 2018, surpassing the original target for job creation when the HUB opened its doors.

  • Over the past five years, collaboration between Dalhousie University and IdeaHUB startups has resulted in significant research and development partnerships valued at $7.7 million.

Erin O'Keefe Graham, director of the Emera ideaHUB.

For founders in the biomed sector, the program also involves collaboration with the Faculty of Medicine, LifeSciences NS, and the Nova Scotia Health Authority, ensuring alignment with the province's top healthcare priorities and leveraging expertise in the field. 

Combined, these resources guarantee founders successfully navigate customer discovery and validation.Erin O'Keefe Graham, director of the Emera ideaHUB.