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Non-profit enabling business to transform during COVID-19

Don Horne   


If you’re a small to medium-sized business (SME) with an idea that can help in Canada’s fight to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, a national research organization is poised to help your company rapidly transform that concept into reality.

Mitacs — a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions — has announced a first-of-its-kind initiative to help SMEs expedite coronavirus-related projects by securing government funding, accessing resources for research, development and equipment, and hiring post-secondary interns, within days.

“Our team is committed to supporting the development of innovative solutions for Canada and the world,” said John Hepburn, CEO and scientific director of Mitacs. “In response to federal and provincial government announcements of funding for coronavirus research, our 80 business development experts nationwide are poised to guide SMEs through the process and give them access to the talent and tools needed to succeed.”

The team assists SMEs in answering government calls-for-proposals by helping to complete Mitacs funding applications. Mitacs also matches and connects businesses with top researchers at Canadian universities and colleges according to the skills and expertise required to develop each particular solution.


Most recently, college interns have been added to the mix in order to support project development with activities such as coding, prototyping, monitoring cell cultures, managing data, and creating visual presentations of modelling. Incorporating college students in the R&D process will help commercialize products, services, and technologies faster than would otherwise be possible, Hepburn explained.

For SMEs looking to hire a post-secondary researcher for a four-month internship to help develop COVID-19 solutions, Mitacs will cover 75 per cent of the intern’s $15,000 salary. That means that businesses with qualifying COVID-19 projects during this finite period will contribute $3,750 for a four-month internship, with the remaining cost of $11,250 covered by Mitacs through government and other funding sources.

Traditionally, Mitacs requires organizations to contribute $7,500 per four-month research intern for projects, all accessible as part of the organization’s Accelerate internship program.

“This increased funding leverage is unprecedented in Mitacs’s 20-year history,”Hepburn explained, adding that Mitacs has already deployed resources to mobilize Canadian researchers to develop solutions for projects ranging from improved facial masks to a COVID-19 vaccine. The organization’s business development team is also serving as connectors for calls for highly needed specialty equipment, including 3D printers and ventilators.

“While we continue to focus on our core operations and established programs, Mitacs is committed to doing our part during this global crisis,” Hepburn said. “It is our hope that this initiative will give SMEs the support needed to provide highly needed solutions at this unprecedented time.”


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