Research Support Fund Profile: Innovation Office
Ian Hand is the Executive Director of Simon Fraser University’s Innovation Office and Managing Director of VentureLabs®, a technology business accelerator program delivered by SFU in partnership with the NRC IRAP, the BC Innovation Council, University partners including Ryerson University, the University of Ontario Institute of Technology, the University of Victoria, the British Columbia Institute of Technology, the Emily Carr University of Art + Design, government and industry partners. As a serial entrepreneur, advisor, director and investor, he works to advance SFU and British Columbia’s innovation ecosystem by building effective partnerships bridging the public and private sectors in Canada, and internationally.
The Innovation Office provides a full set of services needed to support the invention process. The Office’s services include confidential invention disclosure reviews, technology assessments, patentability reviews, market assessments, intellectual property protection and commercialization assistance as well as industry partnership development. These partnerships include not only faculty members, but principle investigators, undergraduate and graduate students, as well as staff members with the goal of creating new products, businesses and jobs that contribute to the growth and diversification of the economy.
“We assist them with understanding whether an idea is patentable, whether it has a potential market, and whether it may have a significant social impact or benefit on mankind,” says Hand. “We try to evaluate each invention on a confidential basis. We’re also trying to determine the best commercialization path for that technology.”
Hand’s team also supports entrepreneurs undertaking independent commercialization and has a student program called Venture Connection®. This program trains future leaders and innovators with the skills, passion and dedication to be the next generation of entrepreneurs.
The Research Support Fund (RSF) covered the salaries of certain positions within the Innovation Office. These positions help SFU researchers build effective working relationships with communities, industry, governments, NGOs and non-profits to increase the solution capability of SFU innovators with real world challenges that industry, community and governments may have. The RSF support of SFU’s Innovation Office ensures the University is able to continue to be effective in operating in this open innovation model.
Hand provides examples of a few successful companies and technologies spinning out of SFU: V-chip, an innovation developed in the early 1990s that provides a simple way to block unwanted television content. It stands as one of SFU’s most celebrated research-based innovations. Switch Materials, a VentureLabs backed company that enables automotive sunroofs to darken automatically in sunlight to reduce heat and glare. Lungpacer Medical Inc., to facilitate weaning critically ill patients from mechanical ventilators.
Thinking on some of the most rewarding aspects of his work, Hand explains, “It’s amazing watching entrepreneurs grow and progress in the programs that SFU offers. It’s incredibly rewarding to see their ideas transition from the ‘idea stage’ to an actual company or product that’s introduced into the market and making a difference for the people using it.”