issues and experts

Mitacs provides $5M for wearable tech development at SFU

August 03, 2021

A new partnership between Simon Fraser University's Personalized Lightweight Apparel Network (PLANet) and Mitacs, a non-for-profit organization dedicated to innovation, will accelerate the development of new Canadian wearables and gear over the next five years.

The agreement provides $5.1 million in funding for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows to work with the industry to develop new technologies that will benefit societal health and wellbeing.

PLANet is dedicated to improving Canadians’ lives by creating intelligent wearables and gear. The network combines BC’s strengths in materials science, biomedical physiology and kinesiology, engineering, interactive arts and technology, and innovative commercialization with Metro Vancouver’s industry leaders in wearables and gear products. 

Professor Neil Branda, SFU Innovates director of technology readiness and prototyping and 4D LABS executive director, says, “Through this partnership we will deliver new smarter, personalized apparel and gear to better our lives, and change the ‘tech’ in tech apparel from ‘technical’ to ‘technology.’ By combining new textiles, embedded sensors and actuators, and machine learning our advanced wearable systems will improve health and wellbeing.”

Eric Bosco, chief business development and partnerships officer at Mitacs, says, “Mitacs is pleased to partner with SFU and the PLANet to facilitate the development of the next generation of wearable gear and apparel. Mitacs accelerates innovation by connecting researchers to industrial partners in important areas such as this. This agreement will play a key role in making Metro Vancouver and Canada a global leader in wearable technology.”

Research will advance wearable technology innovation

Branda says the new technologies will benefit a wide range of users, from first responders and medical staff to recreational and professional athletes, as well as those in military services. “When we think of wearable technology perhaps the first thing that comes to mind is fitness trackers and smart watches, but the technology has the potential to provide much more than just feedback to the user,” he says. 

Developing smart helmets with the aim of preventing injuries or diagnosing impacts, including the onset of concussions, is just one potential application. 

Others include designing smart fabrics that respond to environmental conditions, which could benefit athletes as well as others whose lives or livelihoods are impacted by weather conditions, by measuring temperature, humidity and moisture loss, then adjusting to become more breathable for the wearer.

Such technology can also provide biomarkers of stress, helping to detect and prevent potential injuries while keeping individuals’ wellbeing top of mind. 

Companies interested in learning how our researchers can help you solve technology challenges can reach out to us here.


NEIL BRANDA, professor, chemistry            


MELISSA SHAW, SFU  Communications & Marketing 
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As Canada’s engaged university, SFU works with communities, organizations and partners to create, share and embrace knowledge that improves life and generates real change. We deliver a world-class education with lifelong value that shapes change-makers, visionaries and problem-solvers. We connect research and innovation to entrepreneurship and industry to deliver sustainable, relevant solutions to today’s problems. With campuses in British Columbia’s three largest cities—Vancouver, Burnaby and Surrey—SFU has eight faculties that deliver 193 undergraduate degree programs and 144 graduate degree programs to more than 37,000 students. The university now boasts more than 170,000 alumni residing in 145+ countries.


SFU established SFU Innovates in 2016 as the university’s innovation strategy for engaging researchers, staff and students with SFU’s communities and partners to solve societal challenges through innovation and entrepreneurship.


Mitacs is a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions. 

Mitacs is funded by the Government of Canada along with the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Yukon.