In a tech-driven world filled with new products and business ventures, Dalhousie continues to drive innovation and entrepreneurship in Atlantic Canada — particularly since introducing Dal Innovates in 2019. The on-campus skills development and venture creation hub has fostered the skills and experiences of hundreds of students and researchers, catapulting them into the innovation economy to help solve some of today’s greatest challenges.
One of them is Dr. Hamed Hanafi (MASc’10, PhD’16). His experiences with Dal Innovates helped shape his newest venture, NovaResp Technologies Inc., aimed at improving sleep quality for his patients. Normally, he shares, there are inevitable delays in developing a new product for the MedTech industry, but with help from Dal, he skipped past the wait.
“It’s streamlined,” he says. “You have access to professors, industry experts and resources. You can weed out the bad ideas and bad applications and instead, focus on the big idea.”
But what exactly does it take to leverage Dal’s strengths to help solve these challenges? And how can Dal — as a civic institution — best serve its people and communities here at home in this regard? An upcoming Open Dialogue Live (ODL) panel event will address this.
In partnership with the Faculties of Management and Engineering, along with Dal Innovates, this year’s ODL series kicks off on Sept. 29 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. AST with a streamed event, “Driving Innovation and Entrepreneurship”. It will address the question: what role does Dal play in driving innovation and entrepreneurship here and around the world?
The event will be moderated by Jeff Larsen, Dalhousie’s assistant vice president of innovation and entrepreneurship. “Atlantic Canada is small on the global scale,” says Larsen. “The key is knowing how we collaborate to maximize our ability to have scale and make impact.”
Larsen says thanks to Dalhousie, the Atlantic Canadian innovation ecosystem contains two key ingredients. “Universities are a critical engine of talent and ideas,” he says. “The Dal Innovates program is open to any university student in Atlantic Canada. Soon, the program will be offered across Canada, helping to develop the innovation platform for the country. We are really starting to make an impact globally.”
Panelists will include:
· Dr. Hamed Hanafi (MASc’10, PhD’16), Dal Innovates participant, adjunct assistant professor at Dal’s Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and founder and CEO of NovaResp Technologies Inc.
· Dr. Rafaela Andrade-Vieira (PhD’15), Dal Innovates participant, Dalhousie postdoctoral fellow and co-founder of Myomar Molecular
- Julia Rivard Dexter (BREC’00), former Olympian, one of the top 50 Canadian women in STEM, co-founder of Shoelace Learning, board member of Nova Scotia Power and member of the Prime Ministers Economic Strategy Table - Digital Industries (2017-2020)
· Wade Dawe, managing director of Brigus Capital, chair and CEO of Numus Financial Inc, director of Kneat.com Inc., former chair of the board of TSX-listed Pivot Technology Solutions Inc., and CDL Atlantic fellow
Meeting the need
As a civic institution, Dalhousie works with and for its communities, leveraging its experience, knowledge, and skills to benefit the people and places where it has a presence. Simultaneously, Dal brings its best to the world, understanding needs and offering solutions.
MedTech innovator, Dr. Rafaela Andrade-Vieira (PhD’15), says participating in a suite of Dal Innovates programming helped with everything from identifying her product, to gaining the skills to run her business and seek financing.
Today, as CEO and co-founder of the start-up, Myomar Molecular, she is striving to improve quality of life, facilitate a faster recovery process, and empower healthy aging for individuals through the identification of early markers of muscle loss. “I always knew I wanted to use basic science to create something meaningful to society, she says. “Now, I’m translating my research into something practical for society.”
Embracing our role
Beyond Dal’s borders, former Olympian and Halifax-based entrepreneur, Julia Rivard Dexter (BREC’00), has founded and led several successful technology ventures. Currently, she serves as co-founder and CEO of Shoelace Learning, a platform with over five million users built to deliver literacy and comprehensive skills through hyper-engaging mobile games. “We know that at least 50 per cent of high schoolers struggle with comprehension, and teachers are abandoning the profession at historic rates,” she shares. “Real change must happen in education if we are to build future generations equipped to tackle some of the world’s big problems.”
Rivard Dexter does not consider herself to be a typical entrepreneur but says that having support and surrounding yourself with the best and brightest minds can make all the difference.
“That’s what it’s all about,” says moderator, Jeff Larsen. Many first ventures are unsuccessful but offer lessons that can be applied to successful second and third ventures. Dal Innovates, he shares, is a space where ideas can be explored fully. “You’re offered resilience, leadership and an environment that lets you make mistakes and learn from them.”
Wade Dawe, a Halifax-based entrepreneur, financier and investor, and fellow of CDL Atlantic, will also bring an interesting perspective to the upcoming ODL. Over the course of his career (so far), he has completed business deals valued at more than $1 billion for both private and public companies. He shares that the world is changing very quickly, as is the rate of innovation.
Larsen says there’s a real shift in how we develop new and better apps, science and deep technology – for everything from pandemics and climate change to complex supply chains and mental health. “The question,” he says, “is how to ensure that we as a civil society push past the challenges of the modern world, to innovate in the areas that are needed.”
Join us for the in-person, in-depth and interactive discussion on Sept. 29 from 6:30 – 7:30 p.m. AST at Dal’s Weldon Law Building (Room 305) at 6061 University Ave. or on on-line for streamed coverage. RSVP required at https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/open-dialogue-live-driving-innovation-and-entrepreneurship-tickets-416828604577. There is no cost to attend and in-person and online audience members will have an opportunity to ask questions.
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