Taking talent and innovation to the next level

A look inside CDL Atlantic

- March 21, 2019

CDL Atlantic participants present in the Rowe Building. (Provided photo)
CDL Atlantic participants present in the Rowe Building. (Provided photo)

A unique seed-stage program for massively scalable, science-based companies is bringing together the best in the Atlantic region with the best in the world.

The Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) helps promising ventures transition into high-growth companies by providing access to a powerful network of national and international mentors. CDL started at the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and arrived at Dal’s Rowe School of Business in 2017.

Read more: Creating Atlantic Canada’s next entrepreneurial superstars

There are CDL locations at the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia, the Haskayne School of Business at the University of Calgary, HEC Montreal, and the Stern School of Business at New York University. The program recently launched at the prestigious Oxford University in London, England and it’s expected that more international locations will follow.

Admitted start-ups enter a nine-month program that is focused on defining objectives with measurable deliverables. It involves a series of eight-week “sprints,” and the ventures that demonstrate the greatest progress will continue to receive support and advice from fellows and associates. Those that stagnate, and are unable to resolve key issues and/or do not receive further offers of mentorship from fellows and associates, will not move forward in the program.

“CDL is all about finding ways to successfully translate science into social and economic impact.” says Jeff Larsen, executive director, innovation and entrepreneurship.

Commercialization of ocean, clean technology and agriculture research

CDL Atlantic engaged 52 business leaders to serve as fellows and associates for the first cohort of ventures admitted to the program in 2017-18. In total, 12 companies graduated from CDL Atlantic this year, and together they raised $9.6 million in investment and created approximately $48 million in equity value.

Harbr, a Halifax-based start-up that is revolutionizing the construction industry through its real-time project management platform for retail construction, graduated from the CDL program last spring. Over the course of nine-months Harbr raised $1.75 million in new funding, added customers, improved their product features and hired seven new staff.

They were also one of 11 graduating start-ups that attended the CDL Super Session, which was held at the Rotman School of Management in June 2018.

“I was truly impressed by the calibre of mentors at CDL Atlantic, as well as the excellent quality and performance of the ventures in attendance,” says Bill Aulet, managing director, Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship. “CDL Atlantic has achieved a great deal in its inaugural year and should continue to be a leading conduit for investment in science-based companies.”

A new wave of innovation

The newest CDL Atlantic cohort began in the fall of 2018, and included 25 companies. One of these companies is Rayleigh Solar Tech. Led by two long-time friends, Sam March and Dane George, Rayleigh Solar Tech is aiming to commercialize perovskite solar cells. Perovskite is a solution deposited at low temperatures, easy to make, and works really well. With an efficiency that has skyrocketed to over 23 per cent, this technology has gained incredible traction in the research community in the past five years, and it will be cheaper than any existing solar cell technology.

“Sam March is a great example of how CDL Atlantic can work, where a PhD student who might never have commercialized his research has started a company that will bring next generation solar to market,” says Larsen.

Read more: Nova Scotia start-up a game changer for future of clean energy

Another company involved in this cohort is Motryx. Founded by two PhD students at Dalhousie, this start-up has developed a compact and robust accelerometer tag that can be attached to samples of blood, and helps to identify problems while they are being transported.

The next session for this cohort will be held in April.

Research Support Fund

At Dalhousie, the federal Research Support Fund (RSF) program helps to fund, among other things, the commercialization of research at Dalhousie. Established in 2003, the RSF (formerly the Indirect Costs Program) helps Canadian universities and colleges, along with their affiliated health research institutes and research hospitals, with the indirect costs associated with federally-funded research.

Last year, the RSF grant provided $8.9 million to support the indirect costs of research at Dalhousie and affiliate hospitals. 


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