Canadian Lawyer InHouse

October/November 2021

Legal news and trends for Canadian in-house counsel and c-suite executives

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Page 14 of 35 13 INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY Milton in talks for testbed to speed Halton innovation through university-business link Supporting open innovation in the business community and promoting early matchmaking with start-ups is one solution, writes Steven Leach IN 2001, Jean Chretien, in releasing Canada's Innovation Agenda, made innovation a Canadian priority. Governments have repeat- edly responded to the call. The result: Canada's rank is near the bottom of its peer group in terms of innovation performance and business R&D spending is at its lowest level in 25 years. Stakeholders in Halton Region think that one solution to this is to support open innovation in the business community — that is, adoption by organizations of externally-produced innova- tion, with early matchmaking. Traditionally, by the time technology start-ups get in front of strategic partners, non-aligned business plans are often capitalized to a point where the cost benefit of participation does not work. To address this, Shann McGrail, Executive Director of Haltech, the Halton Regional Innovation Center, formed a relationship with a large enterprise manufacturer and created the Innovation Showcase program. "We recognized that one of the challenges our start-up clients face is access to customers to give them critical feedback and potential selling or channel rela- tionships," shares McGrail. The early results are encouraging. The manufacturer had innovation inter- ests but could not spare the time to scan the landscape to see what was happening with local early-stage technologies. The Haltech team spent time developing an understanding of its interests and then curated a list of applicable start-up clients with potential fit solutions and introduced them through morning showcases. "From there, we implemented a rigorous follow- up process to track feedback given to compa- nies — and grouped those slated for a deeper dive discussion and those ready for pilots or sales," says McGrail. "For our start-up clients and the partner manufacturer, we were pleased with the results, and we are looking to expand the offering." Local municipalities are similarly eager to see the service expand. TechPlace is funded by Burlington Economic Development as the space and place for innovation. As per Izabela Goclik, Manager of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at TechPlace: "This idea — of matching local manu- facturers with start-ups and applicable offerings — could be a game changer." Mike Launslager, Manager of Economic Development in the Town of Milton, another part of the Region, has related thoughts: "We are aware that there is a real unmet appetite in the Region for open innovation support and this initiative poses great potential." Like anything worthwhile, it is not without complication. Scale and alignment of technologies are the core of the challenge. Per McGrail, "We have great start-ups in our community, but there is not always perfect alignment between the technologies they are developing and the needs of local established businesses. We need to look farther afield to make the most optimal matches. And of course, we only have so many staff available with the right skills to do the vetting and matching." Enter another not-for-profit, Techlink Innovation Exchange, which is applying enterprise to a solution. Paul Subject, one of its founders, describes how "Techlink does for early-stage IP what the Innovation Showcase does for companies: curated matchmaking. But Techlink does it at scale, by leveraging insights obtained from a patent newsfeed that it publishes to businesses to help them guard against patent infringement," says Subject. "We are excited to help Haltech and Techplace deepen their relationships with busi- nesses in Halton Region." Khasha Ighanian, VP of Prollenium Medical Technologies Inc., says of Techlink: "We've been receiving the patent newsfeed for some time. It's a great value, not just because the cost is low, but because it delivers insights to us about relevant technology developments. I think every lawyer in Canada that has export manufac- turers as clients should be learning about and signing clients up to Techlink." With Techlink, the HR constraints faced by McGrail become manageable, and the group expects to repeat its success many times in the coming years for start-ups and established businesses throughout the Region and beyond. However, the group has even loftier goals. Per McGrail: "We've been in discussions with a nearby university that has a desire to deepen its relationship with the Halton business community and create more opportunities for technology licensing, co-op placement and sponsored research, and we are nearing the finish line for the plan." "We envision this university being a great source for technology and technologists for the businesses we serve." For more information, contact Steve Leach at "Scale and alignment of technologies are the core of the challenge." Steven Leach is a Partner of Ridout & Maybee LLP, in the firm's Burlington office. He has been helping businesses grow through strategic use of the law and the intellectual property system since 1996.

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