Since being founded in 2000, Genome Atlantic has enabled over $90 million and 1,500 person years of employment in genomics research and development (R&D) in Atlantic Canada.
With a $750,000 non-repayable loan through the federal government’s Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) announced on Wednesday, the Halifax-based not-for-profit corporation hopes to develop more partnerships and increase the level of private funding.
“We want to ensure that there is an investment of at least $18 million of new R&D into the region,” says president and CEO Dr. Steve Armstrong.
“We want to ensure that companies are putting in a significant piece of that money and with that should come about 170 person years of employment in the region in the next three years.”
Historically, companies have relied on government exclusively to help fund R&D projects. Ten years ago, Armstrong says, just four per cent came courtesy of the private sector. Over the last three years that number has increased to 22 and the goal is to increase it to 25 per cent over the next three years.
“I think (companies are) becoming a little more risk-tolerant and some of the tools we bring to the table help de-risk their R&D decisions and that’s made a huge shift.
“If they have a vested interest in the project and cash on the table, then they get to drive the bus and the agenda, and we think that makes a lot of sense.”
The funds will allow Genome Atlantic to connect with different companies in seven sectors throughout Atlantic Canada and, in turn, connect those firms with academic expertise, which will help them develop competitive proposals to government to flesh out their funding.
The industry sectors being targeted are agriculture, aquaculture and fisheries, energy, environmental, forestry, human health and mining.
“The funding space is getting increasingly difficult. Therefore groups like ours need to help the companies and the teams to submit a really polished, credible, competitive product to bring more national and regional funds to fruition here in Atlantic Canada,” says Armstrong.
Genome Atlantic currently has 21 funded, active projects in the region. In Newfoundland in particular, genomics research is being used to understand corrosion in the oil and gas sector, to explore ways of enhancing gold recovery in mining operations, and in the burgeoning salmon aquaculture industry, where Amstrong says they are working with major producers, “trying to develop brood stock that will thrive in our waters, that can adapt to climate change, that are resistant to disease, so those companies can produce a product in a more competitive way.”