Regional Innovation Ecosystems

Regional Innovation Ecosystems

Regional Innovation Ecosystems

The Regional Innovation Ecosystems program aims to create, grow and nurture inclusive regional ecosystems that support business needs throughout the innovation continuum – incremental to truly transformative innovations.

RIE Program

Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) is delivering Regional Innovation Ecosystems (RIE) in western Canada. Through RIE, they are making targeted investments in not-for-profit organizations that support businesses in priority sectors to innovate, grow and compete globally. They are also fostering inclusive growth by supporting under-represented groups, mainly women, Indigenous peoples and young entrepreneurs, to more fully participate in the innovation economy.

By providing funds to advance the development of regional innovation ecosystems, WD is delivering on the Budget 2018 commitment to grow the western Canadian economy. This will ensure Canada’s prosperity for decades to come.

The RIE program stream builds on the federal government’s Innovation and Skills Plan. This plan helps make Canada a world-leading centre for innovation that creates well-paying jobs and grows the middle class.

Fostering an entrepreneurial environment conducive to innovation, growth and competitiveness. Objectives of RIE:

  • Support and grow strategic clusters to leverage regional strengths and support businesses commercialize products, technologies and services, and to scale-up.
  • Enhance the development and reach of business accelerators and incubators, and other organizations, which support entrepreneurs, start-ups and companies with high-growth potential.
  • Support projects led by innovation-oriented organizations to increase and promote business productivity and global competitiveness, and investment and talent attraction.
  • Enhance the capacity of ecosystems to support underrepresented groups, including women, Indigenous peoples, and young entrepreneurs.

Who can apply for RIE?

RIE is open to not-for-profit organizations that support businesses, innovators and entrepreneurs, for start-up, growth, productivity, technology commercialization, technology adoption, export and investment attraction, including:

Businesses must meet the following mandatory criteria:

  • post-secondary educational institutions;
  • Business Accelerator and Incubators;
  • angel networks;
  • Indigenous (First Nations, Inuit, Métis) organizations, including Indigenous-led not-for-profit organizations and Indigenous-owned businesses; social enterprises;
  • a group of eligible recipients such as an industry association or consortium; and a municipality and all other municipal-type organizations.

WD is now accepting applications for RIE on an ongoing basis. For information on how to apply, please contact their Vancouver office: 

Telephone: 604-666-6256
Toll-Free: 1-888-338-9378

National Resource Canada Crush it! Challenge

Natural Resources Canada – Crush It! Challenge

National Resource Canada Crush it! Challenge

If you have an idea or innovation that could Crush It! in the mining sector, this challenge is for you!

The Natural Resources Canada Crush It! Challenge promotes innovation in the mining sector. The challenge: develop a Cleantech solution that has the potential to transform how energy is used for crushing and grinding rocks in the mining industry.

Don’t delay! Deadline to submit applications: January 15, 2019

Develop the next generation of mining

Improving the crushing and grinding processes of mining will create a more sustainable mining sector. Do you have a solution that has the potential to…

Fight climate change? Develop innovative technologies to reduce energy consumption and pollution in mining.

Increase competitiveness? Increase competitiveness in the mining sector and develop world-leading clean technologies.

Transform the mining cycle? Revolutionize the mining cycle and unlock the future of mining.

Crush it! Find out more or APPLY NOW!

A solution to help create a more sustainable mining sector

Improving the crushing and grinding processes of mining will create a more sustainable mining sector. Do you have a solution that…

  • generates transformative energy savings at the mill?
  • increases productivity while reducing the environmental impacts of crushing and grinding rock?
  • can be scaled and applied to many operations?
  • has no negative impact on downstream activities?

Crush it! Find out more or APPLY NOW!

Who can apply?

For-profit and not-for-profit organizations such as companies, industry associations and research centres
Indigenous organizations and groups
Canadian post-secondary institutions
Independent small-scale innovators and individuals


  • $10,000 for each small-scale innovator selected as one of the up to twelve (12) Challenge semi-finalists to help them pitch their ideas to the Challenge Jury (in Toronto)
  • Up to $800,000 each for up to 6 finalists to build and test their cleantech solutions.
  • $5 million grant to the innovator who can demonstrate the best energy breakthrough in crushing and grinding rocks

Key Dates:

January 15, 2019: deadline to submit applications
March 2019: pitch proposal at #DisruptMining event
May 2019: top 6 announced
November 2020: final submission deadline for Challenge finalists
March 2021: final grand prize winner announced

Crush it! Find out more or APPLY NOW!



Selkirk College Smarts Program

Selkirk College SMARTS Program – Call for Proposals

Selkirk College Smarts Program

SMARTS: Connecting small- and medium-sized businesses with research expertise in the fields of geospatial technology and digital fabrication.

The Selkirk-SME Applied Research and Technology Solutions (SMARTS) Program connects businesses with Selkirk College faculty and student expertise in the fields of geospatial technology and digital fabrication. It aims to help small- and medium-sized enterprises use advanced technologies to develop new or improved products and services. The Program is supported by the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP). As a result of this support, financial assistance is available to cover a portion of research costs associated with successful proposals.

Submissions are accepted on a continuous basis. The SMARTS programs end in March 2019.

Selkirk College’s SMARTS Program invites small and medium-sized businesses to submit proposals for technology-oriented research and development projects.

Proposed projects should make use of Selkirk College research expertise in a way that helps the applicant develop new or improved products, services, or business processes that are anticipated to drive the growth of the enterprise. Projects should be experimental or innovative in nature.

Note that services without a research or innovation component (e.g., cartography) are not offered through the SMARTS program. Potential applicants are encouraged to contact the SMARTS team in advance of the proposal deadline to confirm their eligibility, discuss their project idea and its fit with Selkirk College researcher expertise, and get help to scope a proposal.

Submissions are accepted on a continuous basis. The SMARTS programs end in March 2019.

SMARTS Program Project examples

SMARTS researchers have broad expertise in the fields of geospatial technologies and digital fabrication. Past SMARTS projects have involved the following R&D services:

Digital Fabrication

  • Rapid Prototyping (producing prototypes, researching and testing prototype designs and materials)
  • 3D Modeling (scanning 3D objects for reproduction, generating 3D models for analysis and production)
  • Advanced Manufacturing Process Optimization (building custom digital fabrication equipment, improving productivity with new workflows and equipment configurations)

Geospatial Technologies

  • Web Mapping (developing innovative mapping platforms for data sharing and communications)
  • 3D Visualizations (generating static and dynamic visualizations of 3D geospatial data, developing augmented reality and virtual reality applications)
  • Remote Sensing and Unmanned Aerial Systems (collecting data via UAV, testing sensors, analyzing remotely sensed data from UAV or satellite, developing workflows and algorithms)
  • Spatial Modeling (modelling landscape impacts of environmental change)
  • App Development and Customization (building customized mobile tools for geospatial data collection and sharing, researching and testing technology options)

If you have a technology-focused project idea that does not fit in the categories or digital fabrication orf geomatics, contact the SMARTS project team to discuss options. Faculty from other fields such as engineering, health and natural resources may also be available to provide research services depending on your project needs.

Eligible Applicants

The program is open to small- or medium-sized enterprises (up to 500 employees) in Canada. Businesses must be growth-oriented.

Application deadline

Submissions are accepted on a continuous basis. The SMARTS programs end in March 2019.

Available Funding & Eligible Expenses

The SMARTS program provides up to $5000 per project in research funding and proponents are required to contribute at least 25% of project costs. Projects with a larger budget may be proposed with the understanding that costs over the $5000 contribution will be the company’s responsibility. Eligible expenses for SMARTS funding are limited to Selkirk College research services, contractor fees and certain fees for access to specialized equipment. Selkirk College research services are expected to make up the majority of each project’s budget.

Apply Now

Please contact the SMARTS program facilitator, Lauren Rethoret, for the application form and to discuss your project idea.

Bringing the Latest Technology to Basin Communities

Bringing the Latest Technology to Basin Communities

Bringing the Latest Technology to Basin Communities

The Columbia Basin Trust’s new Community Technology Program helps create tech-enabled spaces.

Much of life today revolves around technology. More and more people are seeing new opportunities in the areas of video and music production, creating digital art and animation or recording their own podcasts. Yet not everyone has access to the technology required to participate or thrive in this digital world.

Soon, more Columbia Basin residents will be able to access digital equipment and software, with support from Columbia Basin Trust’s new Community Technology Program.

The two-year, $1.5-million program will provide grants and support to registered non-profits, and First Nations and local governments that operate public spaces like libraries and community centres. These organizations will be able to outfit their public space with sophisticated digital equipment so that residents can access the latest technology to help bring their creative ideas to life.

“It’s easy to say that everyone should be online these days, or using state-of-the-art digital equipment, but not everyone has the means to do so,” said Johnny Strilaeff, Columbia Basin Trust President and Chief Executive Officer. “This new program will help level the playing field so that Basin residents can enhance their digital literacy and get creative. They can try out things like 3D printers, robotics kits or receive training to learn, connect and create using technology for free at community spaces.”

Creating a tech-enabled community space may include purchasing equipment such as desktop computers with specialized software, video cameras, and digitization and recording studio equipment. The program will also support renovations to house the equipment, or acquiring suitable furniture. Educational and training components that teach the public how to use the equipment will also be supported.

Interested organizations must submit an Expression of Interest by December 17, 2018.

Selected organizations will work with a program advisor to develop the concept and write the application. A second intake will be held later in 2019. Learn more at

This program is one of the ways the Trust helps communities address their priorities. It also supports community efforts through several other programs, including its Community Development Program and Community Initiatives and Affected Areas Programs. Learn more at

Announcing #BCTECHSummit 2019 Keynote Speakers Eric O’Neill and Tan Le

#BCTECHSummit 2019 Keynote Speakers Announced: Eric O’Neill and Tan Le

Announcing #BCTECHSummit 2019 Keynote Speakers Eric O’Neill and Tan Le

Innovate BC and the B.C. government announced Eric O’Neill and Tan Le as keynote speakers for the 4thannual #BCTECHSummit, March 11-13, 2019 in Vancouver.

This year’s theme of the Reality Revolution invites speakers and delegates to explore and discover how we can use emerging technologies — from AI to robotics, quantum to cleantech, blockchain to AR/VR — to solve the biggest challenges facing B.C. and the world.

Eric O’Neill is an attorney, former FBI counterterrorism and counterintelligence operative, cybersecurity expert, and was the inspiration for the film, Breach. In 2001, Eric helped capture the most notorious spy in United States history, Robert Phillip Hanssen. O’Neill is at the forefront of cybersecurity and will share insights into how people and organizations can take advantage of an era of big data and innovation while protecting themselves from the security vulnerabilities of a digitally, interconnected world.

Tan Le is an entrepreneur, inventor and CEO of Emotiv, a cutting-edge brain research company. Le has created technology that enabled a quadriplegic man to drive a Formula One car, using only his brain waves. For her achievements, Le has been recognized by Fast Company, Forbes and the World Economic Forum. Le will share her unique story, from refugee to tech and innovation leader, and she will demonstrate how advances in technology can fundamentally improve people’s lives here in B.C. and around the world.

“The #BCTECHSummit is an extraordinary event that will showcase the best of technology and innovation in our province and around the world,” said Bruce Ralston, Minister of Jobs, Trade and Technology. “This year’s summit will show why B.C. is such an exciting place for cutting-edge tech and will give participants a unique opportunity to connect with innovators, thought-leaders and companies that are developing emerging technology here in B.C. and at a global level.”

Additional speakers will include John Horgan, Premier of British Columbia, Shirley Vickers, President & CEO of Innovate BC, and Dr. Alan Winter, B.C.’s Innovation Commissioner.

Early bird tickets to the #BCTECHSummit are currently available for $699. To purchase tickets, or for more information about the event, visit

Vancouver tech firms migrate to bucolic B.C. Interior

Vancouver Tech Companies Migrating to Kootenays

Vancouver Tech Firms Migrate to Kootenays

The Kootenays offer an attractive combination of affordability, lifestyle, and increasing opportunity making it a no-brainer for Millenials from the Lower Mainland who want to get ahead.

Smaller interior communities, particularly those gaining a reputation for a supportive startup culture like the Kootenays, are attracting qualified, experienced tech and knowledge workers.

“What we’ve started seeing was a little bit of an interesting migration, actually, of our team members moving to smaller communities,” said Greg Malpass, CEO and founder of technology company Traction on Demand who employs about 250 workers in Metro Vancouver.

This spring Traction on Demand will follow workers to B.C.’s interior, specifically the West Kootenay, in an effort to retain and attract employees feeling overwhelmed by the cost of living in the Lower Mainland.

A new office will open in Malpass’ hometown of Nelson, B.C., where an initial “pod” of 10 workers – half of whom will be hired locally – will be based.

The CEO’s vision is to partner with nearby Selkirk College and expand the remote office to a full “squad” of 25 workers.

“There are a few other small towns that we’re going to be activating quite quickly,” said Malpass, whose software firm helps companies implement marketing strategies using the Inc. customer relationship management service. “The goal is to build small towns into squads.”

Malpass said any business advantage lost through smaller economies of scale will be regained by keeping workers who no longer find Vancouver to be the right fit.

Kootenays communities a supportive environment for economic diversification through the technology sector.

Tech entrepreneur Brad Pommen, who moved to Nelson eight years ago from Alberta, said it won’t be difficult to recruit tech talent in the West Kootenays.

He founded the Nelson Tech Club shortly after his move, building it up to 500 members, of whom 20 to 50 meet every week to hear presenters discuss topics like artificial intelligence and find out who’s hiring locally.

“You’ve got this lifestyle and technology mix that makes Traction on Demand very [suitable],” said Pommen, the lab director at Metallurgical Industrial Development Acceleration & Studies (MIDAS), an applied research, commercialization and digital fabrication training facility in neighbouring Trail, B.C.

Meanwhile, Nelson-based Pacific Insight Electronics Corp. announced in early October it was laying off part of its workforce, placing workers on the job hunt.

“There are a lot of talented people in that facility that would be directly [qualified] but there’s also a great pool from other regions that also might be shifting where they’re living now,” Pommen said.

Software company Thoughtexchange, an hour’s drive from Nelson in Rossland, B.C., launched in the city five years ago.

Its headcount has since ballooned from about a dozen to about 80 workers.

And the i4C Innovation Centre, an innovation hub and commercialization facility, has built up a team of about a dozen workers since opening last year near Trail’s airport.

“It was kind of quiet and slowly growing but in the last two, three years quite a few of us have startup companies that have grown into something,” said i4C Innovation CEO Pilar Portela, who oversees a 46,000-square-foot industrial internet of things lab and testing facility.

The Columbia Basin Trust invested millions in building a fibre optic network in the region, providing access to high-speed internet for companies and residents and making it more practical for tech companies to launch in the West Kootenays.

“If you understand how to do business using remote technologies … then you would be able to succeed anywhere,” Portela said.

She said lower overhead costs for tech startups and lower housing costs for workers have also been driving growth in the region.

“In the case of Traction on Demand, it is some of the pressures here in the Lower Mainland on housing and on childcare,” Jobs, Trade and Technology Minister Bruce Ralston told Business in Vancouver.

The average Multiple Listing Service price for a home in the Kootenay region sits at $319,000 compared with $1.05 million in Greater Vancouver, according to the BC Real Estate Association’s third-quarter forecast.

But Pommen noted that access to housing and commercial real estate can be hard to come by in Nelson’s core, where Traction on Demand plans to open.

Malpass said there are tentative plans to operate out of the local Royal Canadian Legion and support veterans through training and education.

As for overhead costs like salary, the CEO said he knows he can’t ask current employees to take a pay cut if they choose to relocate but the company may “slow” those particular workers’ wage growth for a period.

“I don’t know what’s going to come around the corner and surprise our business,” he said. “The most powerful part of our business is … in how our team will respond to things we don’t expect. If we can’t keep people on board for two or three years, we’ll lose that.”