July 30, 2010 Federal program pumps $3 million into new, London business Publisher: The London Free Press Author: Norman De Bono
Last Updated: July 30, 2010 5:12pm
A federal program to fund research and development paid out more than $3 million last year to about 25 London businesses - and more is on the way.
The Industrial Research Assistance Program this week got a $45 million budget hike from the federal government's FedDev Ontario program, to fund research and development in Southern Ontario.
That program has proved a hit here, say business people, as it has helped new businesses in the life sciences and technology sectors start-up, and established ones to take that next step.
"In the early days it was critical for us, we could not have gotten this company started without IRAP," said Blair Poetschke, president of Scisense, a London medical devices company.
IRAP was there in Sciesense's early days, and as recently as last year when the program funded more research and development, he added.
"Our business is technology intensive, a lot of research and development is required. Technology companies have to be constantly innovating and funding research is a big part of that. That is where IRAP is a great help."
Scisense makes sensors for use in medical research, specifically in heart failure studies. That is exactly the kind of intensive research IRAP is set up to help, said Charlie Johnston, industrial technology adviser with the National Research Council office in London, at the research park, which houses the IRAP program.
"IRAP has made an impact, it has made a difference here," said Johnston, who alone handed out $1.8 million last year to businesses.
When FedDev Ontario was in London this week to boost funding, for IRAP, it focused on Sernova, a life sciences industry located at the Stiller Centre for Technology Commercialization in London that is working on a cure for diabetes --- as exemplifying the work IRAP does. It has received nearly $500,000 and is in line to get more money this year. IRAP will fund to a maximum of $500,000 a year.
"Sernova is an early stage company now but as soon as it hits the market, it will create jobs like crazy. That is the way high-tech tends to play out," said Johnston.
Sernova is, potentially, on the verge of significant growth, with nine million possible customers in North America, he added.
The client list for IRAP funding in London is a list of young companies which,may just carry London's economic hopes for the future, including: Trojan Technologies, Viron Therapeutics, Neo Ventures, Cyborg Trading. Purifics, AV-Base Systems, Critical Outcomes, Givens Engneering, Electro Fab Inc., Phoenix Interactive, CVD Diamond, Claymar Technologies, XLR Imaging, QDAC Inc., Cytognomix Inc. and CS Automotive Tubing Inc., to name a few.
"Without IRAP these companies would just not move ahead," said Johnston.
In Ontario, the research program has funded 1,000 firms and 1,500 projects.
The budget for the program was $80 million and in 2009 increased by $200 million. When FedDev Ontario was launched, the program received another $45 million last year and another $45 million this year.
Officials with the Industrial Research Assistance Program determine who gets funding. Business and industry must apply for grants. Businesses are funded based on potential, but the funding is geared to help take ideas to the development stage and then to consumers.
"These companies take great risk and what IRAP does is share the risk, we stimulate research and development so they can come up with new, innovative products and services to grow the company, " said George Biljan, also an industrial technology adviser with the NRC in London.
IRAP funding is often used to hire staff, especially those doing research and development work, but the program offers advice and expertise as well as cash, he added.
"We link them with whatever other resources they need for their projects," he added.