Why we created a Startup of the Year Award in printable/flexible electronics

Last week, on a new Day 3 agenda for the Canadian Printable Electronics Symposium (CPES2017), we handed out the first award of its kind in Canada – a Startup of the Year award.

Why? It takes more than great technology to bring compelling products to market.

Financing is a critical issue for our industrial members. During our strategic consultations last fall, CPEIA members identified a need for more financing and more flexible forms of financing, to assist with commercialization and manufacturing scale up.

Startups and SMEs also identified the need for mentoring that is specific to our industry – something that cannot be obtained from the typical regional incubator or accelerator.

We want to do all we can to help young companies in printable, flexible and wearable electronics tap into the resources and the opportunities they need to achieve global success.

So, for Day 3, we pulled together a panel of representatives from six financing organizations and programs that are available to all our industrial members – from startups to established multinational businesses looking to expand into new areas.

These included the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC), Service OptiPrint, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), MaRS Discovery District, the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) and Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC). All six, incidentally, have already support companies in our sector in one form or another.

We then asked these speakers to play the role of judge. They heard pitches from our four pre-qualified startup companies. These startups had been coached over the past two months by BDC’s Kirk Irving and myself.
The judges scored each startup based on the market potential of the product/application, the soundness of the business plan and the viability of the business to generate wealth and jobs for the Canadian economy.
And the winner was …

NanoCnet Ltd. This Waterloo-based company has manufactured a transparent conductive film using silver nanowires so thin that they are invisible to the human eye. This stable silver nanostructure has set a new standard for cost, durability and flexibility, making it a promising option for thin solar cells, printed and flexible electronics, touch screens and smart windows. Compared to typical silver nanowire, the synthesis process for NanoCnet’s nanomaterial is faster and can occur at room temperature – essential for low-cost manufacturing.

But all our finalists were winners. As part of this program, the CPEIA will continue to provide support to all our finalists, with introductions to customers and partners, assistance with accessing financing and securing mentorship from seasoned industry leaders over the next 12 months.
Having an experienced industry executive whom these companies can reach out to is gold. Only together can we achieve more.

Our other finalists were:

Acquire Industries Ltd.: This Toronto-based startup is the first in Canada to offer novel electronic alternatives to snowmelt that are cost-effective and scalable for residential, municipal and commercial applications, using nanotechnology and molecular engineering.

Formi 3DP Inc.: This London, Ont.-based startup has created a new generation of photopolymers – polymer resins that are cured by ultraviolet light. These offer new levels of functionality, precision and resolution for 3D printing of multi-functional objects.

Wibicom Inc.: This Montreal-based startup is the first company to commercialize the photovoltaic/solar antenna and patent its design. Its products ensure smart energy usage, enabling long lifetime device autonomy and battery-less solutions.

It is our intent that this kind of recognition in an industry peer environment will showcase all our participating startups as attractive opportunities for investment and partnership, and help them gain traction among customers.

If you are a technology industry executive who would be interested in mentoring one of our startups, please contact me.

IT World Canada is a media sponsor of CPEIA’s annual symposium.

Peter Kallai
Peter Kallai
A senior high-tech management consultant who has consulted with more than 100 companies and government organizations, Peter Kallai now serves as CEO of the intelliFLEX Innovation Alliance (formerly the Canadian Printable Electronics Industry Association). You can read more of his work on intelliFLEX's website.

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