A U.S.-based business group has honoured two Canadian incubators at its annual conference in Toronto, the first time in 16 years the meeting has been held outside the United States.

The Quebec Biotechnology Innovation Centre of Laval, Que., was given the Randall Whaley award as incubator

of the year on Monday, the top award of the National Business Incubation Association.

The Montreal area’s first biotech incubator, the centre helps startups in the health, environment, agri-food and forestry sectors. The Northern Alberta Business Incubator, of St. Albert, Alta., was named incubator of the year in the mixed use category.

The 13-year-old non-profit NABIA has launched 56 new businesses so far and provided assistance to hundreds of other local firms. It even pays the city property taxes, notes manager Lorne Ross.

Among its graduates are an online sports association registry with 15 full-time and nine-part time workers in offices across the country, he said in an interview.

Asked what makes a good business idea, he said “”anything innovative that gives a good return and catches an investors’ fantasy.””

However, finding money for young companies, not ideas, is on the minds of many attendees, such as Clare Boule, director of Emergence Entrepreneur, a Quebec City -based incubator.

“”For information technology companies its almost impossible”” to find investors these days, she said in an interview. She came to the conference to get tips on how to help entrepreneurs raise money.

Frederick Spoke, president of Toronto’s Ibex International Associates, came to learn how to mentor the young companies aiming to do business overseas his firm wants to invest in.

Meanwhile Louis Park, a transplanted Canadian who lives in Connecticut, where he’s managing director of LaunchAdvisors, wants to meet incubators whose clients are looking to do business in the U.S. LaunchAdvisors helps such companies with their strategies.

Also honoured as the most outstanding incubator technology graduate was Garrison Guitars of St. John’s, Nfld., which uses a single piece glass fibre instead of wood supports in its acoustic guitars.

Some 600 people from China, Japan, Britain, South Africa as well as the U.S. have come to the three-day conference to learn how to create and support for-profit and non-profit business incubators.

While some of the attendees are from this country, about 100 will show up Wednesday when the Canadian Association of Business Incubators holds its 11th annual conference. The highlight will be its May 2 awards dinner.

Many Canadian incubators are members of both groups. According to association president Marie Lussier, the number of Canadian incubators doubled last year and now stands at 125.

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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