March 11, 2024

Faculty of Science Innovation Fair a goldmine for startup exposure

Eleven UCalgary startups make waves in Calgary’s innovation ecosystem
Dr. Pierre Kennepohl, the Faculty of Science’s interim associate dean for innovation and strategic programs, gives the opening remarks at last month’s Innovation Fair in front of a crowd.
Dr. Pierre Kennepohl gives the opening remarks at last month’s Innovation Fair. Clarisa Arteaga Luna

Calgary’s innovation landscape has flourished thanks, in part, to Innovate Calgary and startups hailing from the University of Calgary’s Faculty of Science.

Eleven of these early stage ventures were showcased at the faculty’s Innovation Fair in the Energy Transition Centre on Feb. 23. The event, held twice a year, acts as a bridge between Calgary startups, potential industry partners and ecosystem partners.

“The world has changed a lot. The way we take risks now is to make sure that we are not on our own, doing our own thing … that we are connected to the outside world and constantly making those connections as we move forward,” says Dr. Pierre Kennepohl, PhD, the Faculty of Science’s interim associate dean for innovation and strategic programs.

“That idea of taking risks is embodied by all of the people that are here, representing these nascent companies of people having an idea and having a technology that they feel is important enough to move forward. Being able to do that is integral to what we're trying to do with the University of Calgary and the Faculty of Science. It is really important to us moving forward, in everything that we do.”

The fair is dynamic, providing an open space for technological demonstrations and a chance for each startup to present their vision and research in a conference-like style.

Kathryn Wolfe, BSc’21, co-founder and CEO of Chromasense Technologies Inc. and a UCalgary PhD student also enrolled in Innovate Calgary’s e2i program, emphasizes the importance of attending collaborative events like this.

Kathryn Wolfe, BSc’21, speaks with fairgoers.

Kathryn Wolfe, BSc’21, speaks with fairgoers.

Mave Cagas

“This is a very new company and we're still in the process of developing IP (patentable material),” Wolfe says in an interview. “It’s good right now for us to network and see how we can collaborate with other industries within the city. Once we have our patented material (with) our prototype, we’ll be ready to accelerate into the market. So, it's a really good event for networking and exposure.”

Chromasense develops food spoilage sensors for integration into food packaging to provide real-time tracking on the freshness/spoilage of food products. By doing so, it aims to mitigate food waste, helping to tackle food insecurity. Additionally, Chromasense aims to reduce food-borne illnesses, decreasing the burden on our health-care system.

Approximately 120 attendees got to witness the expansive expertise and technology on display, from exploring carbon dioxide (CO2) capture technologies and formulating new antibacterial agents, to developing new therapies tackling opioid use and withdrawal. All the participants are UCalgary alumni, with the fair made possible by the All-Access Partnership Fund and the UCalgary Alumni Association.

Mendel Perkins, BSc’14, MSc’17; Ayush Gupta, BSc’20, MBT'22 ; and Ethan Coates, BSc’21, MSc’24 ; represent AgGene.

From left to right: Mendel Perkins, BSc’14, MSc’17; Ayush Gupta, BSc’20, MBT'22 ; and Ethan Coates, BSc’21, MSc’24, represent AgGene.

Clarisa Arteaga Luna

“It’s important for us to be in front of potential partners, employees and investors; anything where we can get what we're doing out to people who might be helping us in some way in the future is great,” says Mendel Perkins, BSc’14, MSc’17, a fourth-generation Alberta farmer and lead scientist for AgGene, a company using gene-editing technology to increase protein levels in globally important crops.

The biggest payoff of the fair is collaboration, says Jordan Smith, BSc’20, MSc’22, of Quantized Technologies Inc., which specializes in quantum cryptography. “The most important thing that we get from events like these is the opportunity to network and collaborate … to find stakeholders both within the university and outside the university that can really help us add value to the world and make an impact — because we, by ourselves, can't do that,” says Smith. “We need to collaborate with others.”

Innovate Calgary was founded in 1986 to support UCalgary’s innovation community and since has grown to help hundreds of entrepreneurs accelerate their growth at events like this. There was excitement in the room about the collective expertise UCalgary startups can offer to both the local and global community.

“I want to encourage all of those people from the Calgary community (to ask themselves) the question: What could you do if you leveraged the expertise that exists at the University of Calgary?” said Kennepohl. “Come and talk to us, because we are ready, and this is what we want to do.”

To learn more about Innovate Calgary, please visit our website.

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