Thanks to a unique financial initiative recently launched by Mitacs — a leading innovation organization that helps solve business challenges with research solutions from universities, colleges, polytechnics and CEGEPs — students across the province are adding much needed skills for employers looking to manage and grow their operations in an environment disrupted by the pandemic.
What’s more, the Mitacs initiative — available to all small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and not-for-profit organizations with fewer than 500 employees — offers a significant cost reduction. Qualifying partner organizations contribute only 25 per cent of the intern’s $10,000 or $15,000 stipend for the first four months of an innovation project done in collaboration with a post-secondary institution instead of the usual 50 per cent. Mitacs interns bring much needed support to business, not-for-profit, hospital, and municipal innovation in all sectors — everything from agriculture, arts and entertainment, and energy, to healthcare, technology, tourism and utilities.
“Through this effort, we are simultaneously helping Canadian small- and medium-sized businesses to grow and innovate, and our country’s up-and-coming top talent and researchers to secure valuable employment opportunities in spite of a challenging job market caused by COVID-19,” said Eric Bosco, Mitacs Chief Business Development and Partnership Officer. “Both SMEs and academic talent are integral to Canada’s economic recovery, and Mitacs is committed to making the connections needed to help Canadian organizations solve their business issues, remain competitive, and thrive.”
Since the start of the pandemic, more than 2,000 businesses — about 70 per cent of which are SMEs — partnered with Mitacs for the first time. Since 2011, Mitacs has helped more than 8,500 organizations, the majority of which have 500 employees or less. The total value of all industry-related innovation projects funded through Mitacs nears $1 billion, with businesses contributing about half that amount.
“We have the tools, connections, and solutions that small businesses need to navigate the current economic challenges, and we’re seeing firsthand how many of those companies that take advantage of working with us are thriving,” Bosco added.
Funding helps Quebec students launch new business during pandemic
Montreal-based startup Statera Medical Inc. not only launched during the pandemic, but is rapidly moving forward with development of a next-generation shoulder implant that is improving joint replacement by making it possible to ‘see’ inside a shoulder thanks in large part to the Mitacs financial incentive for small businesses. Statera Medical Co-founder Frédérik Plourde, a master’s student in mechanical engineering at École de technologie supérieure in Montréal, said the reduction in price for internships is allowing the young company to access vital research and development talent.
Just one year after launching in October 2020, Statera Medical is poised to disrupt the joint replacement industry with a ‘smart’ shoulder implant intended to improve the quality of life for people suffering from osteoarthritis or muscle tears who have to undergo total shoulder replacement, a patient population estimated to be as high as 100,000 people per year in North America.
“We’re a niche industry that requires deep knowledge in areas like musculoskeletal simulation and mechanical engineering,” Plourde said. “Working with Mitacs, we’ve created some really strong relationships with those in the university setting who are at the cutting edge of their respective fields.”
“We’re changing the future of joint replacement,” said Plourde, explaining that the company’s Tera-Life prosthesis is a first-of-its-kind implant that uses sensors to monitor the condition of the implant and ensure an optimal fit during surgery. “Our goal is to restore full mobility to the shoulder while reducing complications inherent in the prostheses used today, which often result in patients returning to the operating room,” he explained.
Incubated at Centech, the start-up company has already worked with several Mitacs interns, including Amedeo Ceglia, a PhD student in biomedical engineering from the University of Montreal. Over the course of his eight-month internship with the company, Ceglia is applying his expertise in musculoskeletal simulation to develop and run a computer model that the company is now using to refine the design of its prototype as it gears up to begin its first human cadaver study this month. “It’s extremely interesting to contribute my skills to an area where there’s very little existing knowledge and to know that the work I am doing will ultimately improve the lives of others,” said Ceglia, adding that the experience is inspiring him to pursue the prosthetics field once he completes his PhD.
Statera Medical is aiming to have its implant certified by Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration by mid-2023 and is working closely with orthopedic surgeons in Europe, the U.S. and Canada to ensure its next-generation product meets industry standards and expectations.
Mitacs is a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions.
Mitacs is funded by the Government of Canada along with the Government of Quebec, the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Saskatchewan and the Government of Yukon.