Canada’s Intellectual Property Firm

Commercialization of innovation and IP from Canada-California university collaborations: a Canadian Government project

In today’s ever-increasing knowledge-based economy, both the private and public sectors face the challenge of successfully commercializing innovations to maintain their competitive edge. To ensure Canadian competitiveness and sustained economic growth in a global partnering environment, and as one example of an initiative arising from the 2007 federal strategic document entitled “Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage”, the Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) has taken an active role to improve upon the commercialization success flowing from cross-border university collaborations between leading Canadian and California universities.

The Canada-California Strategic Innovation Partnership (CCSIP) initiative began in 2005 to build upon the existing strengths and synergies of Canada and California. Both are leaders in R&D and generate in excess of $30 billion in bilateral trade whereby California is a significant export market and trading partner for Canada. As importantly, on the research and venture capital fronts, California is viewed globally as a benchmark innovation cluster due to its leading university research and top-class VC ecosystem, having created world-class venture-backed companies such as Google, Cisco, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, HP and Genentech to name a few.

At the first Summit in January 2006 in Los Angeles, Dr. Robert Dynes, then President of the University of California (and Canadian of origin) addressed academia, government agencies, industry and investment sectors. He emphasized the importance of research, development and delivery (R&D&D) and advocated that research and the sharing of knowledge are central to collaboration. The key to successful partnerships is the development of leading-edge technology / innovation and timely commercialization of valuable goods and services whereby academia, government and the private sector are the three necessary partners to achieve such successful commercialization.

A bilateral Steering Committee for CCSIP identified areas of interest for joint research in key R&D areas for both parties, such as sustainable energy, information communications technology, nanotechnology, stem-cells / regenerative medicine and infectious diseases. These are viewed as priority R&D areas for both countries for eventual commercialization and, more importantly, to sustain economic growth by building innovative and world-class companies together in the future.

For example, one of the partnership projects being developed jointly is the high-speed research Internet infrastructure of Canada (CANARIE) and California (CENIC) that have already been implemented, creating a dynamic platform for research collaboration. Also, in June 2008 at BIO in San Diego, the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Working Group of CCSIP produced an historic agreement whereby Canadians and Californians will join forces to gain a better understanding of the role cancer stem cells play in the development of the disease and learn how to prevent and treat cancer. Mr. Tony Clement, Canadian Minister of Health, announced a grant of over $100M dollars from Canada to the Cancer Stem Cell Consortium (CSCC) to work with the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). The two organizations signed a three-year agreement that lays the foundation for CIRM and CSCC to explore collaborative approaches to evaluate, fund and monitor cancer stem cell research projects leading to therapies or diagnostics.

On the commercialization front, the CCSIP aims to establish effective interfaces between public and private sectors, implement appropriate funding mechanisms and set best practices and legal guidance for managing cross-border IP and tax issues, which are viewed as key impediments presently for attracting cross-border early stage investors or venture capital.

Smart & Biggar is pleased to have been involved since 2006 as a founding partner of CCSIP and to have participated in one of the two horizontal working groups, namely the Venture Capital / Cross-border IP Working Group that will provide guidance to the key vertical areas of research. In this Group, Smart & Biggar is pleased to be working with Dr. Angus Livingstone of the UBC Technology Transfer Office and Mr. Tom Sweeney, Chair of this Working Group and partner of Garage Technologies Ventures Canada.

The Venture Capital / IP Working Group is presently working on a cross-border joint IP protocol that would provide guidelines for universities participating in CCSIP projects. This Working Group, among the other working groups, will be presenting update reports at the third Summit of CCSIP which will take place in October 2008 in Montreal, Canada.