GRAND workshop to help BC’s digital media sector tap into university research and innovation
Upcoming Emerging Mobile and Digital Media Technologies Workshop aims at promoting technology transfer with new industry-academic partnerships and collaborations.
Posted by GRAND NCE, January 15, 2014

(VANCOUVER) The Canadian ICT (Information, Communications, and Technology) and entertainment sectors are failing to make innovation a priority when it comes to allocating funding or resources, according to a 2013 PwC report – a lack of interest ill-suited for the highly dynamic industry.

In contrast, Canadian universities are spending over $11-billion a year on research and development – more per capita than U.S. universities – yet the opportunity for SMEs, entrepreneurs, and start-ups to develop and commercialize emerging research technologies remains largely untapped as highlighted in a 2013 C.D. Howe Institute report.

“Technology transfer requires university expertise to provide research, and business expertise to do the development,” the report noted, arguing that to grow business innovation, university-industry cooperation must also increase.

To help connect businesses with university research, GRAND is reaching out to potential industry partners at its upcoming Emerging Mobile and Digital Media Technologies Workshop (February 7th at the University of British Columbia’s Robson Square in downtown Vancouver).

Sponsored by the BC Innovation Council, this free event will join some of British Columbia’s leading researchers, developers, venture capitalists, and representatives from supporting agencies and organizations to stimulate discussions between industry and the GRAND research community.

The workshop is the latest in an ongoing networking series of hosted by GRAND in cities across Western Canada. The series provides both a forum for discussion on key graphic, animation and digital media problems and needs in the industry, and helps place research students with companies or startups.

To date, GRAND’s demonstration and networking events have exposed hundreds of SMEs and other organizations to a broad range of technologies being developed at Canadian labs. It’s commercialization and outreach initiatives have helped  support nine new companies and commercialized seven new technologies with over $300,000 in new business funding.

Providing the first spark of life to companies and products

For GRAND’s Technology Transfer & Commercialization Manager Mark Salopek, the immediate goal of the networking events is to make university research accessible. The series began in 2012, seeded by a two-year partnership with Western Economic Diversification (WD) with the mandate to support technology transfer, start-up creation, and prototype development in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Salopek expertly matches entrepreneurs and companies with researchers, looking at who could benefit from technologies being developed at any of GRAND’s 26 member universities.

"The general problem with academic-industry interaction is that academics don't know what industry is interested in, and industry doesn't have a clue what is happening at the university labs,” said Salopek. “The GRAND workshops bridge that chasm and provide insight that both find useful; the workshops are the first step toward creating partnerships and unlocking opportunities for both academics and entrepreneurs."

Thanks to a workshop held in Edmonton, entrepreneur Cardmar Larson was able to connect with researchers at the University of Calgary who have developed special sensors to help speed skaters improve their technique; for Larson, GRAND represented an unexpected boon in establishing a relationship with a university research team.  “It was like a gift from heaven,” he said in an interview with BCBusiness.

Salopek’s other case studies include an initiative with Winnipeg-based startup MOBRO Software Ltd. that developed a mobile games platform inspired by eye-tracking research at McGill University.  The company’s initial stride into the mobile market with its Space Evaders Game was followed by special recognition during the Extreme Motion iPad Challenge in 2013 as the People’s Choice Winner and 2nd place winner in the overall challenge. The company continues to expand and is currently focusing its attention on a mobile health-vaccination application.

In other games-related research, technologies at the University of Toronto are being used to enhance the 3D hand/finger animation and simulation for a guitar training application developed by Victoria-based 3D Simulation Solutions. Research into augmented-reality games for mobile devices at the University of Alberta caught the attention of Norman Mendoza, Chief Operating Officer with Edmonton-based game developer Rocketfuel Productions Inc. Based on the thesis work of engineering master’s student Lucio Guiterrez, the company developed a social location-based game for the university.

"I've gone to other university research networks where the level of research is much more academic or more pure research, and it's hard to see where that connection is to a company. But for me, that was extremely useful," said Mendoza in an interview with the Edmonton Journal.

GRAND’s networking events have also resulted in greater multi-university collaboration. Through networking events in 2012, Salopek helped bring together a cross-disciplinary collaboration between researchers at the University of Alberta and Emily Carr University to develop low-cost, high-quality surgical models using 3D printers.

“It’s valuable to have someone who is connected to the research community in a broad sense and not immersed in it,” says Phillip Robbins, a materials researcher from Emily Carr University. “When you’re doing the research you’re very focused - whereas Mark has a good overview of what people are doing and developing and can see how he can interconnect them.  That is how this connection came about.”

Commercialization and related activities in GRAND are not limited to the western provinces. Salopek works closely with Vic DiCiccio, GRAND's Research Partnership Director, to identify opportunities in other regions as well as cross-regional opportunities.

At University of Waterloo, Ph.D. student Krzysztof Pietroszek, working at the HCI Lab with Dr. Edward Lank, has started a Toronto-based company called Cineclick. Building on middleware that enables moviegoers to interact with the big screen using their mobile phones, Cineclick has a secured budget of $825,000 from the Canada Media Fund to create a system for interactive games to be played during theatre pre-shows.

GRAND expects to see a continued increase in commercialization activity as more mature results emerge from the research, and commercialization efforts continue to bring researchers and industry together.

To register for the workshop go to


About BCIC

BCIC encourages the development and application of advanced or innovative technologies to meet the needs of industry in BC. We accelerate technology commercialization by supporting startups and developing entrepreneurs. With our partners, BCIC delivers programs and initiatives that promote company growth, resulting in jobs, increased revenue and economic development in BC. BCIC is a Crown Agency of the Province of British Columbia.

About Western Economic Diversification

A department of the Government of Canada, Western Economic Diversification Canada (WD) was established in 1987 to improve the long-term economic competitiveness of the West and the quality of life of its citizens by supporting a wide range of initiatives targeting inter-related project activities – innovation, business development and community economic development.  These programs and services are supported by WD's policy, advocacy and coordination activities. Together, these priorities create a foundation to build the prosperity and competitiveness of the West in the 21st century.


GRAND is a Canada-wide research network and commercialization engine whose goal is to address complex issues in digital media and transform multidisciplinary research into user-centred solutions. GRAND explores the use and application of digital media in a variety of settings including entertainment, healthcare, education, environmental sustainability, and public policy. As a federally-funded Network of Centres of Excellence. GRAND's network includes hundreds of researchers at 26 universities across Canada with more than 60 industry, government, and nonprofit partners.



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