The ongoing success of Canada’s natural resource sector (contributing up to 12% of the nation’s gross domestic product, GDP) depends on continued adaptation and innovation in response to the changing global economy and climate. Genomics Research Entrepreneurship to Accelerate Translation (GREAT) will leverage the joint strengths of The University of British Columbia’s University-Industry Liaison Office (UILO) and Sauder School of Business to assemble a network of entrepreneurial expertise for knowledge sharing between commercialization experts, students, researchers, end-users and stakeholders in the natural
UBC’s exemplary track record in traditional technology transfer, and the research excellence of nine Genome Canada-funded projects, provide the foundation for an innovative entrepreneurial education and networking pilot program to help overcome significant impediments currently facing commercialization in the sector. The University of British Columbia (UBC) is consistently ranked among the top 10 universities in North America, it’s UILO generating more than $95M in revenues from nearly 150 spin-offs (nine in the last year alone). The Sauder School of Business is similarly recognized among the top 100 in the world.
Furthermore, UBC has been very successful in securing Genome Canada funds for 25 projects, since the first competition 10 years ago. A particular emphasis of the most recent natural resource projects is on effective near-term applications. The economic importance of forestry, agriculture and bioenergy to Canada requires that all measures are taken to ensure this success: forestry products contribute $60.8 billion to the economy4; agricultural land contributes $45.9 billion in revenues; and bioenergy is projected to generate $16.8 billion by 2020. Similarly, in British Columbia these sectors contribute 7.5% of the province’s $1.98 billion GDP.
Having been awarded $66.9 million in the latest two applied genomics competitions, Genome Canada-funded researchers at UBC in nine forestry, agriculture and bioenergy projects are faced with a unique commercialization challenge. Current technology transfer strengths at UBC are focused almost exclusively on the traditional commercialization framework, to which the natural resource sector does not entirely apply. Although elements of patent protection, product development and spin-off formation are relevant, translation across this sector is usually impeded by issues such as public ownership, societal opinion, resource policy, land use regulations, and often conservative managers who are resistant to innovation. Therefore, the UILO and Sauder have assembled their expertise and associates in a comprehensive education, networking and evaluation framework to address the unique commercialization needs of the natural resource sector. Through active consultation with research partners, end-users, stakeholders and commercialization experts, a Knowledge Network of entrepreneurial expertise will be assembled to devise and instruct an innovative curriculum that significantly extends traditional technology transfer training into the areas of engaged research, validation, business development and innovation adoption. More than 35 end-user and stakeholder communities will be engaged in the education process to ensure broad access to the benefits of genomic innovations. Students of science and business schools will have opportunity to identify ways in which their respective disciplines might better work together to bolster intended project outcomes.
Genome Canada-funded projects will act as business cases for demonstrating newommercialization know-how; winning business plans will have access to expertise, infrastructure and resources that move their innovations into the marketplace. The proposed program will enable more than 210 UBC researchers to successfully improve replanting stocks for better forest adaptation to changing markets and climate, enhance products and processes in the Canadian wine industry, and enable better management of bioenergy feedstocks.