Seed fund gives research a boost

Promising research at UBC and 10 other universities in Western Canada got a boost recently with the announcement of a $25 million fund supporting early stage development of new technologies.

The Western Technology Seed Fund will invest capital and management expertise in emerging companies and assist in setting up businesses to develop the commercial potential of university research discoveries. The fund was established by the Bank of Montreal and the Business Development Bank of Canada.

Bill Palm, director of UBC's University Industry Liaison Office (UILO), says researchers and entrepreneurs have traditionally had the hardest time finding capital in the phase directly after a promising technology is conceptualized.

"This new fund will be an important initial link in the financing chain," Palm said. "It will help ensure that university research discoveries reach the marketplace where their economic and social benefits can be realized."

A network of industry liaison offices at the 11 western universities has been formed to help build relationships among the three fund managers and research groups on campuses.

UBC's UILO receives more than 100 invention disclosures annually. The office's Prototype Development Program, the first of its kind in North America when it was created in 1989, shepherds inventions from the feasibility stage through to commercialization.