A new artificial intelligence centre at Memorial University, an expansion of Cape Breton’s Verschuren Centre bioprocessing hub and millions of dollars for two New Brunswick universities’ computer science programs are some of the innovation-related projects funded this year by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
ACOA spent about $316 million on 1,500 projects in 2022, according to its year-end results, including backing for innovation-related infrastructure and educational development initiatives across the region.
Of the organization’s total spend, $173 million was for its usual suite of programs, with the rest going to COVID-19 recovery measurers with little relationship to the innovation community. That figure is down slightly from last year's $174 million of regular program spending. ACOA said it focused on backing companies working in automation and digitalization, food and beverage production, oceans, cleantech and the start-up economy in general.
“For 35 years, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency has been there to help businesses, communities, and organizations build a strong, innovative, and inclusive economy in Atlantic Canada,” said the organization in a statement.
“In 2022, amid global uncertainty, ACOA continued to take actions to position Atlantic Canadian businesses to grow, innovate and continue to export.”
ACOA spent $94.8 million on 492 projects in New Brunswick, $40.1 million on 191 projects in Prince Edward Island, $102 million on 585 projects in Nova Scotia and $79.5 million on 493 projects in Newfoundland and Labrador.
In New Brunswick, the agency gave Saint John Energy a $620,000 grant to improve the IT infrastructure and communications systems of its smart grid, which has made headlines for its high-tech approach to reducing energy consumption. And the Université de Moncton and University of New Brunswick received about a combined $4 million to expand their computer science faculties.
In P.E.I., ACOA spent $2 million to back the creation of a new incubator and scale-up facility for food startups called Food Works, which is owned by the Central Development Corporation — the economic development agency for the town of Central Bedeque.
In Nova Scotia, Cape Breton’s Verschuren Centre took home a similar $2 million grant to increase its operating capacity by a factor of 10. The Verschuren Centre is a not-for-profit facility that provides contracted services for startups working in bio-processing, marine processing, carbon transformation, bioplastics, energy storage and sustainable resource use.
The expansion plans come in the wake of a life sciences cluster springing up around the centre, with companies like fertilizer coating specialist CoteX Technologies relocating from as far away as India and citing the rarity of the centre’s specialized industrial fermentation equipment as a key reason.
And in Newfoundland, ACOA paid $995,000 of the $1.9 million total cost for creating the Centre for Artificial Intelligence, a research institute that will collaborate with the private sector and train graduate-level students. The provincial government and Memorial are paying the remaining $432,000 and $498,000, respectively.
Disclosure: ACOA is a client of Entrevestor.