Canum Nanomaterials, which aims to disrupt the market for fullerenes, is one step closer to financing its pilot facility after it won awards worth $446,000 in the Breakthru competition last night.

The Fredericton company won the top prize at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation’s biennial startup competition, and also captured the CBC Viewers’ Choice award, which allows it to appear on Dragons’ Den in the coming season. The prizes comprise cash and in-kind services. 

The $175,000 second prize was captured by R I D D L, which is developing a platform that will help impact investors determine whether their money is making a meaningful change in society or the environment.

Canum’s prizes include a $375,000 cash investment from NBIF and Opportunities New Brunswick, and the young company has already flagged what it will use the money for. Canum plans next year to build a $600,000 pilot facility for the production of fullerenes, which are carbon-based nanoparticles that have a number of commercial applications.

“This is a huge, huge boost,” said Canum CEO Kyle Woods after the awards ceremony. “We need $600,000 and we’re more than half way there, and this gives us a lot of confidence.”

Canum has grown out of Professor Felipe Chibante’s research at University of New Brunswick, which has resulted in a new, cost-effective way of making fullerenes. These nanoparticles are spherical structures of carbon atoms that have a range of commercial uses, including in healthcare and solar energy. Canum believes it can cut the price of making fullerenes by half in five years.

R I D D L has developed a platform that will help impact investors assess the social or environmental effects of their investments., as well as their financial return.  It has arranged pilot tests with impact investment houses in Amsterdam, New York and Atlanta, which will help prepare the platform for a general launch. As the runner up, the company will receive $150,000 in cash investment.

R I D D L and Canum will both receive a range of in-kind services to round out the value of their prize packages.

One interesting note is that the win by Canum continues the University of New Brunswick’s streak in producing winners of the Brekathru award. The top prize two years ago went to Phera, led by UNB student Lisa Phister, and two years before that the winner was Castaway Golf, again founded by UNB students.

The dinner Thursday night, attended by about 500 people, was the culmination of a competition that began last autumn, when 34 companies applied. The organizers narrowed the pool down to five finalists, who competed for the top prize.

“From the initial batch of 34 startups that began the competition through our semi-finalists and finalists, we were consistently impressed with the quality of the ideas coming from this province’s entrepreneurs,” said NBIF Chief Executive Jeff White in a statement. “New Brunswick always punches above its weight. From virtual reality to bioscience to neural networks, New Brunswick researchers and startups are at the forefront of some of the world’s most promising industries. We’re thrilled to offer them a platform and support network through the Breakthru competition.”


Disclosure: NBIF, ONB and UNB are clients of Entrevestor.