Alberta Innovates co-funds first-of-its-kind national competition
(Written by Joe McFarland, Schulich School of Engineering)
(Calgary, Alberta) March 8, 2021…Weeks of work all came down to a ten-minute presentation on a Friday afternoon.
The stage was set to see some of the best and brightest from across Canada take part in the TELUS Innovation Challenge, and the final four teams did not disappoint.
After making their proposals, and answering questions from the panel and audience, FentaGone – from the University of Alberta – was awarded the grand prize.
They received a $100,000 prize package from TELUS, including a seed fund to help build their prototype and personalized mentorship to support the development of their go-to-market plan. Alberta Innovates also provided support of up to $100,000 for the top four teams to support commercialization, which included mentorship, resources and infrastructure.
The team’s idea centered around the international opioid crisis, where they hoped to “embed an innovative fentanyl-detecting technology within a typical syringe design, allowing users to gain feedback on whether the drug-in-use contains a lethal dosage of the drug.”
They admit they were in complete suspense waiting to hear who had won.
“We really appreciate it and all of the teams have been absolutely amazing,” Simran Dhillon said.
Buzz generated from coast to coast
The journey began with 70 teams from 19 post-secondary institutions across the country applying for the first-ever national event.
The proposed innovation spanned several sectors including information technology and communications, health care, energy and environment, and transportation. The competitors went through a series of workshops and training sessions aimed to get them ready for the big day.
“This prestigious event has generated a buzz of excitement,” Schulich School of Engineering Dean Bill Rosehart remarked at the event. “Not just here at the University of Calgary, but across the country.”
He was also impressed with the diversity amongst the teams, which included 12 undergraduate teams, six graduate teams and two teams led by students pursuing diplomas.
“We wanted Canadian students with an interest in entrepreneurship, engineering and technical innovation to come forward, and that’s exactly what has happened,” Rosehart added.
Investments in the future
While the teams were all excited about the opportunity to learn and grow their own initiatives, those involved in planning the TELUS Innovation Challenge were equally impressed with what was brought to the table.
“It was a sincere honour to collaborate with the University of Calgary and Alberta Innovates to provide a platform that supports getting Canadian ideation to market,” said Ibrahim Gedeon, chief technology officer at TELUS. “We appreciate the leadership it took to make this event happen and hope it will create some sustainable momentum in our country as these students realize their ideas.”
The competition also opened the door for some more collaboration in the future.
“We are proud to be able to support this initiative, and reward the finalists with financial support as well as coaching and mentoring opportunities,” Doug Holt, Executive Director of Post Secondary Investments & Emerging Technologies at Alberta Innovates said. “We’re also offering tickets to Inventures, which is a conference we organize that allows entrepreneurs like these to get together and form relationships with investors.”
For now, the victors will breathe a little easier and get the chance to reflect on the experience.
“Participating in the TELUS Innovation Challenge has further ignited an intense drive to pursue entrepreneurship to solve key issues facing our society,” Dhillon said. “Not only does this opportunity serve as a catalyst to kick-start our innovation, but this process has provided insight and feedback into how to grow, and better serve our community.”