Thumbs up after Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai (centre) visits SFU's Surrey campus to announce nearly $3 million in funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) to advance entrepreneurship and clean tech research. L-r: Rachel Chase, alumna and co-founder of Zennea Technologies, Joy Johnson, SFU VP Research and International, Sarai, Janice O'Briain, director, Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection, and Ali Dastmalchian, dean, Beedie School of Business.

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Entrepreneurship, clean tech research to expand with federal funding support

July 26, 2019
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Two key SFU initiatives, one focusing on entrepreneurship and another advancing clean technology research, will benefit from nearly $3 million in federal funding from Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD).

Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection is receiving more than $1.9 million to expand its youth entrepreneurship program to underrepresented faculties, and engage with industries so that student innovators can work to solve industry challenges in key areas, such as health, sustainability, and creative technologies. The funds will also help turn more research into commercial ventures by growing SFU’s Invention to Innovation (i2I) program offered through the Beedie School of Business.

“This funding allows us to catalyze SFU´s growing leadership in unleashing the entrepreneurial mindset and developing the skills, ambitions and interdisciplinary teams required to tackle complex global challenges,” says Sarah Lubik, SFU’s director of entrepreneurship and executive director of the Chang Institute for Entrepreneurship.

Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai and Joy Johnson, SFU VP Research and International with Rachel Chase, co-founder of Zennea Technologies, one of many Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection success stories.

Venture Connection and the Chang Institute deliver training programs and resources to support the next generation of entrepreneurs. Since Venture Connection started in 2008 the initiative has helped equip more than 10,000 future leaders and innovators with entrepreneurial skills, mentored more than 750 teams and provided business development services to more than 230 early-stage startups.

Meanwhile more than $1 million in WD funding will go to the School of Mechatronic Systems Engineering, in conjunction with the new School of Sustainable Energy Engineering, to create an experimental research facility to prototype clean technology solutions for the aerospace industry. 

The facility will foster academic-industry partnerships to develop such projects as lightweight hydrogen storage and fuel cell power systems for zero-emission, long-range, unmanned aerial vehicles.

MP Sarai with SFU MSE professor Erik Kjeang

“Emission reductions in the aerospace sector are a major challenge for the global clean energy transition, says Erik Kjeang, an MSE associate professor who holds a Canada Research Chair in Fuel Cell Science and Technology Development.

“Our aim is to contribute new technology for lightweight, highly efficient hydrogen storage and fuel cell systems as a power source for electric aircraft, in close collaboration with innovative Canadian industry partners. We are very grateful for the support provided by Western Economic Diversification Canada which enables prototyping and experimental testing of these new technologies.”

Janice O'Briain, director, Coast Capital Savings Venture Connection

The funding was announced July 26 at SFU’s Surrey campus by Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai, on behalf of the Hon. Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development.

“The jobs of the future depend on our ability to maintain our competitive edge in a fast-paced global economy by adapting to new markets,” said Bains in a statement. “The Government of Canada is ensuring that research institutions like Simon Fraser University have the resources they need to provide entrepreneurs and innovators with cutting-edge training, facilities, and mentorship opportunities.”

Added Sarai: “Growing a culture of innovation means investing in high quality facilities, supporting cross-sector partnerships, and expanding access to learning opportunities. Today’s investment in two important programs at Simon Fraser University builds on our competitive advantages and will result in game-changing technologies and commercial ventures that benefit all Canadians.”