Sept. 27, 2022
Innovation not limited to STEM fields: e2i program supports transdisciplinary research
Launched in 2021 in partnership between the university’s Office of the Vice-President (Research) and Innovate Calgary, the e2i program prepares researchers from all disciplines to develop the skills required to make an impact by evolving their research to solve compelling real-world problems.
After inviting 94 e2i teams to participate in the first offering of the experiential innovation curriculum, the e2i program is currently seeking applications for a new cohort of postdocs, research associates, or senior graduate students with their principal investigators to understand the pathway of translating their research into practical solutions.
Social sciences and humanities e2i teams
Dr. Craig Ginn, PhD, associate professor (teaching), Department of Classics and Religion, Faculty of Arts, was looking for entertaining ways to bring challenging concepts like colonialism to people through music. He released the Songs of Justice Project in 2021, a multimedia teaching resource that informs current and historical relations between Canada and Indigenous Peoples in Canada.
“When I heard about e2i, and what I thought was a STEM emphasis, I didn’t think I would be much of an applicant,” says Ginn. The short e2i application asks to describe what problem you are trying to solve and your solution. As an educator, Ginn was motivated to apply to create social impact by Indigenizing curriculum through the development of open-access resources that would be useful for students and educators.
He was inspired by several songs from his initial project that included references to the eagle and bison. He applied to e2i to develop a new multimedia resource on animal kinship that portrays the presence and impact of animals informed by Indigenous understandings of relationality.
Speakers and mentors in the e2i program provided teaching sessions, including sessions on validation of product in the market. Evaluating validation for his own project, Ginn realized that there was a larger audience for his content outside of the classroom as he continues to produce his new resource on animal kinship.
As an Eyes High postdoctoral scholar in the Faculty of Social Work, Dr. Evalyna Bogdan, PhD, applied to e2i with a focus on facilitating household and community preparedness when faced with disasters. Bogdan was developing the idea for the Digital Disaster Documents project, to prepare people in the event of a disaster from losing important physical documents, such as their passport and social insurance number. Bogdan’s innovation journey led her to present at the 2022 Inventures conference and she continues to develop her service in the disaster and emergency management program as an assistant professor at York University.
STEM e2i teams
As a 2021 Innovation Postdoctoral Fellow in the Faculty Science, Dr. Ali Pormohammad, PhD, had developed a new antimicrobial that was more effective than currently available antibiotics in the global fight against antimicrobial resistance. After patenting his discovery, his supervisor, Dr. Ray J. Turner, PhD, faculty professor, professor emeritus of biological sciences, encouraged him to explore commercialization.
“As a basic scientist, I didn’t have any idea about innovation and entrepreneurship,” says Pormohammad. He then came across e2i, where the curriculum provided him with an understanding of innovation and the ecosystem, and how he needed to target his product to commercialize.
Since completing e2i, Pormohammad established his company, MHCombiotic Inc., was a finalist in the 2022 TENET i2c pitch competition, and he is currently undergoing regulatory approvals to start clinical trials. “If you are feeling that now is the right time for your science, and it has the potential to move to market, this is the right program for you.”
The BCI 4 Kids Calgary Program in the Department of Pediatrics, Cumming School of Medicine (CSM), provides access to cutting-edge brain-computer interface (BCI) technology to help children with severe neurological disabilities achieve greater independence and quality of life. With COVID restrictions preventing patients from accessing the lab, the team, under the direction of Dr. Adam Kirton, MD, professor, CSM, started to explore how they could apply BCI in a home setting. Erica Floreani, a research technologist with the program and biomedical engineer in training, had been developing a usable home package including software, documentation, and guides. e2i seemed like a good opportunity to learn the fundamentals of how to grow and commercialize.
“The e2i curriculum provided a comprehensive introduction to innovation, showed where you could go to keep structuring your path on your innovation journey, and shared available innovation resources,” said Floreani.
e2i has been a launchpad for BCI4kids: since completing the program they are now members of the Life Sciences Innovation Hub; were accepted into SPARK Calgary, a program for early-stage digital health innovations at the W21C Research and Innovation Centre; and are taking the steps to incorporate as a company.
If you are looking at e2i and are not sure if it’s right for you, “definitely try it out, the time commitment was manageable, and there are no drawbacks to taking it,” said Floreani. “I didn’t have to give up anything to participate, I could just learn. It was approachable and useful.”
Applications close on Sept. 29
Applications are open for the second e2i cohort until Sept. 29. Current postdocs, research associates, and senior graduate students can apply to become e2i trainees and engage in an eight-month experiential innovation curriculum, including mentorship from Academic Entrepreneur in Residence, hands-on workshops, guidance, and a cash allowance. Learn more and apply.
Opportunities for undergrads through Experience Ventures
Ghada Eldib is a fourth-year chemical engineering student in the Schulich School of Engineering completing a minor in biomedical engineering and entrepreneurship and enterprise development. As she progressed through her courses, she wanted to find a way to apply what she was learning to a startup company.
She applied for a paid Experience Ventures placement with Innovate Calgary and was matched to support e2i team Fluidome. Over the winter semester, Eldib was able to provide business development support, and learned so much from the company. In September, she began as a biotech startup digital content creation intern at Fluidome, and strongly recommends any current undergraduate students interested in getting involved with startups or research to apply for an Experience Ventures internship to support an incoming e2i team.
UCalgary is a leading destination for researchers to take action and move ideas toward implementation and community impact. The Innovation@UCalgary ecosystem supports these efforts through a culture of entrepreneurial thinking and determination.
Innovate Calgary is the innovation transfer and business incubator centre for the University of Calgary. As part of the Office of the Vice-President (Research) portfolio, and as a member of the UCalgary innovation ecosystem, we work closely with researchers, faculty, and students to help bridge the gap between discovery and creating economic and societal impact.
Adam Kirton is a professor in the departments of Paediatrics, Radiology, and Clinical Neurosciences, and a member of the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute and the Hotchkiss Brain Institute at the Cumming School of Medicine. He is the director of the Calgary Paediatric Stroke Program and a paediatric neurologist at the Alberta Children’s Hospital.