With one of only three bioreactors in Canada, Sydney’s Verschuren Centre, which helps cleantech companies develop sustainable technologies and bring them to market, has received funds to expand its lab facility and increase its bioreactor capacity by 10 times.  

The centre, which  is working with more than 40 companies to develop new bioeconomy and green energy ideas, has received a grant of $2 million through the Canada Coal Transition Initiative (CCTI) Infrastructure Fund, via the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.  

With this expansion, the Verschuren Centre will create a first-of-its-kind facility in Canada, ACOA said in a statement.

“Biomanufacturing has been cited as the internet of the future in relation to speed of development and impact on sustainable procurement,” said Beth Mason, President of the Verschuren Centre.

“As such, companies in this field need to scale rapidly in a capital intensive and unencumbered environment. The Verschuren Centre’s new business model was created to provide just that, development speed, capital efficiency and open access technical capacity not readily available elsewhere.”

A spin-off from Cape Breton University, and working in partnership with Innovacorp and ACOA, the centre is becoming a go-to destination for companies that need fermentation facilities to scale up from their lab-bench prototypes.

The centre’s infrastructure allows startups to ferment chemical compounds for their products. Its fermentation facilities are the right size to bridge the gap between laboratory prototypes and industrial production, with equipment that lets companies create batches of chemicals as large as 70 to 100 litres.

That ability to make larger product batches is crucial for companies seeking funding for mass production and still needing more proof-of-concept to attract investors.

“In order to get to that 1,000 litres, you’ve got to raise the million dollars,” Mason told Entrevestor in a previous interview. “So that’s the chicken and egg. And that’s what the Verschuren Centre does.”

Companies that want access to the centre’s facilities apply for the AscendBio accelerator program, run jointly by Innovacorp and the Veschuren Centre. They must have a viable prototype, validated product-market fit and usually have already raised at least one funding round.

Launched on August 20, 2020, the CCTI Fund is a $150 million fund, delivered by Canada’s regional development agencies, that aims to help communities move away from coal by investing in infrastructure. The initiative is set to end on March 31, 2025.

Additional funding for the expansion includes $2.5 million from the Province of Nova Scotia’s Department of Economic Development, $2.3 million from NGen, $1.3 million from the Verschuren Centre and $500,000 from Halifax-based startup DeNova.