Canadian government refocuses innovation, procurement programs in fight against COVID-19

On Friday, Minister Navdeep Bains announced plans by the Government of Canada to refocus innovation programs like the Strategic Innovation Fund, National Research Council of Canada, and Innovation Superclusters to help in its fight against COVID-19.

“I have heard from many companies that are already feeling impacts of this pandemic.”

Canada’s Plan to Mobilize Industry to fight COVID-19 is meant to make it easier and faster to deploy resources to domestic manufacturers and businesses. The latest federal government measures are set to support these businesses to rapidly scale up production or re-tool their manufacturing lines to develop much-needed products.

Bains, minister of industry, explained that the plan is to mobilize federal innovation programs in order to support promising projects.

To this end, the federal government is adding a requirement to program mandates that tasks them with prioritizing funding and support towards goods and services that can aid with COVID-19.

This includes, the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF), which is set to deliver support to large-scale projects; the National Research Council of Canada, will expedite research and development with small and medium-sized enterprises; and the Innovation Superclusters are being asked to tap into their networks to help companies commercialize products more quickly.

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“I have heard from many companies that are already feeling impacts of this pandemic,” said Bains. “Our government is acting quickly to ensure that we are using every possible tool in our toolbox to fight for the health and economic well-being of Canadians and their companies. The initiatives announced today will help strengthen our country’s response to COVID-19 while laying the foundation to protect Canadians into the future.”

While it is unclear at this time how exactly this strategy will be deployed, the government noted that SIF will be refocused to support “promising research and development projects” aimed at providing medical countermeasures to COVID-19, including vaccines and critical medical supplies.

The National Research Council of Canada is set to organize a COVID-19 Challenge Program, composed of teams of government, academic, and private sector partners to address a range of medium-term needs of the Public Health Agency of Canada and Health Canada. The challenge will focus on personal protective equipment, sanitization products, diagnostic and testing products, therapeutics, and disease tracking technology.

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Bains noted at the Friday conference that the full weight of the federal government is being put behind this plan. He added that the government is also taking advantage of its procurement programs. He announced that the government has already signed letters of intent with three Canadian healthtech companies: Thornhill Medical, Medicom, and Spartan Bioscience. Ottawa-based Spartan Biosciences’ technology integrates DNA testing systems and Bains noted that the company is now working to build a diagnostic device that could have the potential to provide readings within 30 minutes. He added, that if successful, the biotech company’s device could be used in Canadian airports. Quebec’s Medicom is set to help manufacture medical supplies such as lab coats and the N95 masks that are used by healthcare professionals.

Minister of Public Services and Procurement Anita Anand noted that the government is both working with existing providers and is working to develop new supply chains, in what she called an era of global demand. Both ministers stated that Canada is in a good place to handle the current situation and these measured are a step to ensure the government is overprepared and taking all the additional measures it can.

The government is calling on businesses that can supply products and services to support Canada’s response to COVID-19 to reach out through the government’s Buy and Sell website.

“We applaud the government for heeding the call of Canada’s innovation community in today’s call for action,” said Benjamin Bergen, executive director of the Council of Canadian Innovators (CCI). CCI chair John Ruffolo made a pitch to the federal government this week, calling for a massive influx of liquidity to support Canada’s innovation economy.

“Canada’s innovators are ready to deploy their products and services to help our healthcare system and beyond,” added Bergen. “Now is the time for the government to expedite purchase orders and speed up approvals so that our talented tech sector can do their part. Accelerating direct support to companies using existing government programs, including the Strategic Innovation Fund and the IRAP program, is critical at this time. In this hour of need, domestic innovators are more than ready to answer the call and are eager to help.”


Image source Pixabay.

Meagan Simpson

Meagan Simpson

Meagan is the Senior Editor for BetaKit. A tech writer that is super proud to showcase the Canadian tech scene. Background in almost every type of journalism from sports to politics. Podcast and Harry Potter nerd, photographer and crazy cat lady.

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