BCIC Town Hall with CEO Danny Robinson

How are we going to make BC the best place in the world to start and grow technology companies? Well, BC Innovation Council’s CEO, Danny Robinson, has a plan. And we all have to help.

Yesterday at the BCIC Town Hall, to a packed room at SFU Segal Graduate School of Business, Danny shared BCIC’s mission, strategies and guiding principles that will help to fortify BC’s technology ecosystem, and support the creation of thousands of new technology jobs in BC.

Prior to the Town Hall meeting, Danny wrote a blog post outlining these strategies and principles. At the meeting, which was also viewable via webcast, Danny explained BCIC’s plan in further detail, ensuring us that are to be no holes whatsoever in the technology entrepreneurial ecosystem. Danny further stated that this new mission can not be completed by one person, or one organization alone – that in order for BC to become be THE technology hub of North America, the startup community has to work together.

BCIC’s intention is to actively monitor the quality and availability of the support programs available to BC entrepreneurs, and ensure that there is always somewhere, in every region, for entrepreneurs to go for help in every stage or technology sector. Whether companies anchor, exit, or fail, BC will still benefit from the knowledge and experience gained. As Danny stated, “Never believe anyone that says they did it right the first time.” Those failures mean that they might get it right the next time. Or even the next time.

BCIC is also currently developing software to be able to track and help entrepreneurs as they progress through the stages with their startup companies.

An important item to mention, is that everything BCIC does, or plans to do, is going to be fully transparent. All of their plans will go up on their VOTE site, for the public to give feedback on, before they happen. And every year, program ideas available to entrepreneurs will go back up on VOTE, to re-evaluate them, and see if anyone has any suggestions to improve on them.

Entrepreneurs have already been pitching program ideas on the site, and voting and commenting on them. BCIC is reviewing all suggestions and will be responding to each of them. An entrepreneur added Bootup Garage to the list of Programs on Vote.BCIC.ca and it is the top Voted suggestion on the site.  Thanks so much to everyone who voted and commented.

Lastly, Danny reminded the crowd that we, the entrepreneurs in BC, need to start telling our stories “loudly and proudly.” Not enough people know that major startups like Flickr and HootSuite were started in Vancouver, BC.

At the end of the presentation, Danny opened up the floor to questions, and those watching via webcast could also contribute via twitter throught the hashtag: #BCICTownHall.

The webcast and Danny’s presentation slides are now available online, or below, for those that missed the first Town Hall, but if you already have ideas or suggestions on how to improve BC’s entrepreneurial ecosystem, make sure to drop by http://vote.bcic.ca/ to contribute them.


NSERC Scholarship Program Overview

Most startups are short on cash and human resources.  Usually, we have more projects on our Wish lists then people to execute them.  Is it worth it to hire an engineering student for only 16 wks to complete one of your projects?   Sarah Antonakos from NSERC dropped by Bootup last Monday to answer our questions and go over the NSERC Industrial Scholarship & Fellowship Programs in more detail:

1.  Undergraduate Program: Industrial Undergraduate Student Research Award (I-USRA)

  • 12-16 week FT placement program
  • For Undergraduate students studying Natural Sciences or Engineering
  • Students must have a minimum of a B average and be a Canadian Citizen or Permanent Resident
  • Co-op students are eligible
  • NSERC will pay $4500 for a 16 wk placement and Organizations must contribute a minimum of $1125 on top of that  (the top-up salary is negotiated by the Organization and the student)
  • Students can hold up to 3 awards throughout their undergraduate career
  • Each organization can hire up to 15 students per year (April 1-March 31st)
  • Application reviewed in-house by NSERC
  • Program Officer: Claire Saumure – claire.saumure@nserc-orsng.gc.ca

2.   Post-Graduate Program: Industrial Post Graduate Scholarship (IPS)

  • Students must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada; applications will also be accepted from qualified foreign candidates and had a first-class academic standing (a grade of “A-“) for the last two years of study
  • Students must spend a minimum of 20 percent of their time (at least 50 days per year) at the sponsoring organization on activities related to their thesis project
  • IP Agreement applies to this program, which can be the biggest barrier and delay process. Note: It usually works out for the best interest of both parties.
  • NSERC will pay up to $15,000 per year for a full-time Award and Organization must contribute a minimum of $6000.
  • Application reviewed in-house by NSERC
  • Program Officer: Klara Konya – klara.konya@nserc-crsng.gc.ca

3.   Post Doctoral Program: Industrial R & D Fellowship (IRDF)

  • It’s a 2 year program.
  • Candidates must be a Canadian citizen or permanent resident of Canada at the time of their nomination
  • Must have received a Ph.D within the last 5 years and cannot have worked in the Industry for more than 6 months.
  • NSERC will contribute $30,000 per year/$60,000 total  to the salary and Organization must contribute a minimum of $10,000 per year for a 2 year program (the top-up salary and fringe benefits are negotiated by the Organization and the post-doc)
  • The average salary in 2008 was approx. $55,500.
  • Organizations should offer comparable salary for a similar position not eligible for the Award.
  • Reviewed by Federal Government Employees, not in-house.
  • Program Officer: Sarah Antonakos – sarah.antonakos@nserc-crsng.gc.ca

Before a company can apply for an award, they should complete Form 183B – Application for Organization Eligibility.  You must be approved before you hold any awards and once approved,  eligibility is valid for 6 years.  Organizations can apply for several awards during that time. It takes 6-8wks on average to be approved but it can be even faster than that.  Just make sure your application is complete before submitting.

Award evaluation times vary, from 4 weeks for the undergraduate award to 8 weeks for the post-doc, so make sure you submit your application enough in advance of when you want the student to start. When you are applying for an award, fill out the appropriate Award Forms and include a copy of your latest Balance Sheet.  NSERC wants to make sure that you are financially viable and can support the student for the life of the Award.

Students cannot work from home.  You must have an office or research facility.

If you are not sure whether these awards are right for you or worth the time, send an email to the NSERC program officer to find out if your project and organization would be a good fit!  You can also contact Vancouver’s Regional Officer, Megan Griffith – megan.griffith@nserc-crsng.gc.ca

If you are a startup, who has experience applying for and receiving NSERC awards, we would love to hear your thoughts.  Was the investment of time filling out the application and working with the student (s) worth it?