Ontario government invests $5.25 million to help innovative health companies scale


The Ontario government is investing $5.25 million in a new project aimed to train and mentor health sciences companies in securing investment and bringing their solutions to market.

The new project, called the Business Development Skills Program, is being led by the Ontario Bioscience Innovation Organization (OBIO). The province’s investment is aimed to train up to 150 people through the program, which will run from June to March 2022.

OBIO’s program could prove useful to Ontario’s myriad healthtech startups.

The Business Development Skills Program is aimed to teach bioscience companies financial, business, and intellectual property commercialization skills to help them scale. Participants will also receive one-on-one mentorship with business development experts.

As part of this new program, OBIO will issue select Ontario-based health science companies up to $100,000 in grant funding per company. Grant funding must be spent by the recipient by March 31, 2022.

The province’s $5.25 million investment comes in part from its $115 million Skills Development Fund, which was created to support innovative ideas for training and skills development.

“COVID-19 has emphasized the importance of the health and life sciences sectors, both here in Ontario and around the world,” said Nina Tangri, parliamentary assistant to the Ontario’s Minister of economic development, job creation and trade.

“This new program will enhance our world-class ecosystem and further develop our workers’ skills and ensure that companies have access to the skills and talent needed to invest and expand in Ontario,” Tangri added.

Based in Toronto, OBIO exists to provide health sciences companies with strategy support, programming, policy development, and advocacy. OBIO does this by partnering with the private sector, the bioscience investment community, academia, patients and government.

OBIO’s new program could prove useful to Ontario’s myriad healthtech and life sciences startups, many of which have experienced growth during the pandemic-fuelled surge in demand for healthcare solutions.

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According to Hockeystick’s ecosystem report, the Greater Toronto Area (GTA) became a healthtech hotbed in 2020. Healthtech beat out all other verticals in terms of overall investment, with startups in the space raising a total of $186 million in venture capital over the year.

Though many Canadian companies in the health sector have seen success as of late, they face a number of unique challenges that can hamper their ability to commercialize and scale.

One of the biggest barriers to healthtech adoption and commercialization has been procurement. Recognizing the need for more procurement opportunities for startups, the federal government recently expanded its CAN Health Network program, which helps connect healthtech startups with Canadian healthcare institutions.

Another issue highlighted by the OBIO is business development. According to a survey conducted last year by OBIO, 83 percent of health industry leaders say access to financing should be a priority focus to speed up opportunities for health science companies to succeed. Yet half said they often face difficulties when hiring highly qualified business development professionals.

OBIO’s training will be delivered virtually, starting in June, at no cost to the program’s selected participants.

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle Kirkwood

Isabelle is a Vancouver-based writer with 5+ years of experience in communications and journalism and a lifelong passion for telling stories. For over two years, she has reported on all sides of the Canadian startup ecosystem, from landmark venture deals to public policy, telling the stories of the founders putting Canadian tech on the map.

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