Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and thank you to the committee members for allowing me to address the topic of disruptive technologies.
This is a very familiar subject. My life is focused on disruptive technologies. Today I would like to introduce myself, discuss the current efforts of Isowater Corporation in developing disruptive technology solutions, and provide some remarks regarding the importance of the role of government, including Industry Canada, to create a flourishing ecosystem for disruptive technologies.
First, on my background, I'm a graduate of McGill University and have a master's in applied science from the University of Toronto. In regard to my career, I am a listed inventor on seven patents. I've developed and sold products in five continents based on disruptive technologies, raised nearly $200 million to support the development of private sector capital to support the development of disruptive technologies, and have served on the board of three public companies engaged in technologies like these. I am currently part of the member council of Sustainable Development Technology Canada. As well, I'm on the board of directors of Learning for a Sustainable Future.
Prior to my work at Isowater, I led a team at Stuart Energy Systems to develop and commercialize water electrolysis-based hydrogen fuel systems for hydrogen-fuelled vehicles. This was a disruptive distributed generation approach to fuel supply that supplemented the conventional centralized generation supply of fuels.
Today I speak to you from the perspective of my involvement with another major disruptive technology. Isowater's mission is to change the nature of production and supply of deuterium oxide, probably better known to you as heavy water. Heavy water is the moderator and coolant of certain types of nuclear reactors, such as the CANDU system that we have here in Canada and deployed in various countries around the world.
In the past 50 years, heavy water has been produced in large chemical plants based on energy policy choices of governments and funded directly or indirectly through governments. As a consequence of heavy water being available to make nuclear-generated electricity, non-nuclear uses have emerged. Entities operating in these non-nuclear fields are Isowater's customers. The applications vary from the manufacture of better semiconductors and fibre optic cables to diverse life-science applications, such as new pharmaceuticals that last longer with fewer side effects, non-radioactive tracers for medical tests, and special research chemicals.
The disruptive feature that Isowater brings to the table is a novel, scalable technical approach to the production of heavy water that can be implemented based on private sector demand and private sector funding, instead of reliance on government policies in energy and on government funding.
Isowater's strategy builds on Canadian expertise in heavy water technology. We collaborate closely with Canada's premier science and technology laboratory at Chalk River, now operated by Canadian Nuclear Laboratories as part of the restructuring of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. Together, we are transferring technology and products made for the nuclear industry into technology and products for the non-nuclear industry.
The Chalk River laboratory is one of Canada's pillars of disruptive technology development. We await with optimism the transformation of Canadian Nuclear Laboratories towards a government-owned and corporately operated, or GOCO, business model. This transformation is expected to start this summer and be completed by the fall.
A key message for this committee is the type of collaboration Isowater has with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories. We're kind of like a canary in a coal mine, as I like to think of this. Isowater's efforts are considered as pioneering and leading the process of the engagement of small and medium-sized businesses with the lab. Key learnings are that patience is required. Business arrangements need to be made in ways that allow private sector capital to be invested, and government programs need to include support of innovative commercialization of the laboratory's know-how and assets.
I urge the standing committee to encourage Industry Canada and its programs to be used to ensure the new private operator expands business opportunities with small and medium-sized businesses. Canada and companies like Isowater need this laboratory and successful collaborations.
Finally, I would like to leave the committee with a few thoughts on an industry, science and technology agenda in Canada and what it will take to make successful Canadian entities operating in Canada thrive for the benefit of Canadians.
Last week I read an article which said:
America is blessed with an entrepreneurial culture that celebrates not what has been accomplished, but what's next. It has deep and efficient capital markets, the lifeblood of a dynamic economy, and no country has a greater capacity for technological innovation. That's a crucial source of future strength.
I contrast that with what my mother, Mary Alice Stuart, who was an accomplished business lady and an Order of Canada recipient, said to me when I was young, “Americans like to make money; Canadians like to count it”. Until that changes, America is destined for greater prosperity than Canada. By reference, I suggest the committee review former BlackBerry chairman Jim Balsillie's May 8, 2015 article in The Globe and Mail entitled “Canadians can innovate, but we’re not equipped to win”. He touches on the U.S. strengths and Canada's weakness with regard to intellectual property, protection, international trade agreements, university-industry collaboration, raising venture capital, and weaknesses in Industry Canada's 2008 report “Compete to Win”.
However, I'd also like to add some specific recommendations for pursuit of disruptive technologies. First, keep building the ecosystem in Canada for disruptive technologies. The references above are very helpful starting points for this. Programs like the industrial research assistance program, IRAP, NSERC student programs, scientific research and experimental development tax credits, foundations like Sustainable Development Technology Canada, and the FedDev program are a few of the key Canadian capacity-building tools for disruptive technology.
No company can develop world-class disruptive technology without export markets being the dominant marketplace. Our trade commissioners are a great resource for small and medium-size business. Export Development Canada has made tremendous efforts over the past 20 years to address the needs of small to medium-sized businesses. Their accounts receivable program opened doors for us in markets such as China and the U.S.
Our conventional banks and the BDC need further structural help to address the working capital requirements for businesses with intangible assets developing disruptive technologies.
The highest priority of Industry Canada with regard to disruptive technology should be to ensure the ecosystem for Canadian entities' full life cycle exists in Canada. The good news is that we have many of these in place, but they need help, and the ones not in place need to be put in place. Fortunately, Industry Canada works with other federal ministries such as Finance, Natural Resources Canada, International Trade, as well as the provinces, to form a Canadian strategy.
Capital markets, intellectual property arrangements, universities, industrial partners, and entrepreneurs add to this complete ecosystem that will support disruptive technologies in Canada and their global success for the benefit of Canada and Canadian prosperity.