Precarn announces $2.5 million R&D
OTTAWA – Precarn Inc. has announced
a $2.5 million funding boost to promote the research and development
(R&D) efforts of six Canadian companies using intelligent systems to
solve commercial problems in the manufacturing sector.
Under the program – which is administered and funded by Precarn, a
not-for-profit company representing a national network of corporations,
universities, colleges, research institutes and government partners
engaged in the development of enabling technologies – companies will
commercially develop or advance innovative made-in-Canada intelligent
technologies with a focus on manufacturing. Up to $500,000 is being
provided per project.
“This new program addresses a critical sector of the Canadian economy –
manufacturing,” said Anthony Eyton, President and CEO of Precarn, adding
that Precarn’s collaborative R&D model has proven that strong links
among private, public and academic organizations are critical to
successfully stimulate the country’s economic growth and
competitiveness, and ultimately keep jobs in Canada.
“Given the difficult economic times, what we need in this economy is a
rapid conversion of R&D to jobs and revenues, and this infusion of funds
is intended to help do just that,” Eyton explained. “The projects being
funded have a heavier emphasis on development than research, and have
strong potential for commercialization in the near term.”
Details of the six projects – which were selected from a pool of 38
proposals – follow:
• Unique Device Detects Swallowing Impairment: Ottawa-based
Panacis Medical is developing a portable, non-invasive device to detect
impaired swallowing in patients with neurological disorders. Coined the
“Aspirometer”, the product is expected to provide benefits to the
200,000 people who suffer from swallowing disorders and the clinicians
who treat them.
People with swallowing difficulties are said to exhibit dysphagia: a
symptom that is strongly associated with many neurological diseases and
injuries, including stroke.
Aspiration – the entry or inhalation of foreign substances into the
airway – is a common consequence of dysphagia, and has been linked to
higher incidences of pneumonia and risk of death. The accuracy and ease
of use of the Aspirometer will make it an essential tool for conducting
dysphagia screening in real-time and will significantly increase the
effectiveness of current bedside swallowing tests by providing insight
not observable without an x-ray.
Radiological examinations can be expensive, difficult to access, and
provide only a single snapshot of swallowing function. As a portable,
low-cost tool, the Aspirometer will allow timely and more regular
observation of swallowing recovery or decline. For many patients with
swallowing disorders, the Aspirometer will bring improvements to
healthcare services access, treatment outcomes, and quality of life. The
Aspirometer is being developed in collaboration with Bloorview Kids
Rehab, and the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute.
• DreamWafer Intelligent Rapid Prototyping: Normally, the design
process for a new piece of electronic equipment takes months, or even
years, to complete. But a research team led by Montreal-based Gestion
TechnoCap is aiming to reduce that time to a matter of days with a
radical new concept called the DreamWafer™ WaferBoard™. An intelligent
rapid prototyping system, the WaferBoard™ works like a “waffle iron” for
prototyping electronic printed circuit board (PCB) systems.
Engineers place the electronic components – or dough – into the system
and close the cover. The WaferBoard™ automatically senses the component
contacts, recognizes them and connects them, allowing users to view the
results on a computer screen. From there they can test and make
adjustments, to both the hardware and the software, until the prototype
Typically, engineers have to order components and wait for PCBs to be
built before testing can begin. And, when something goes wrong, they
have to start the entire process over. WaferBoard™’s streamlined rapid
prototyping approach changes that, dramatically speeding the time from
design to product launch. The Precarn funding will be used by Gestion
TechnoCap and its partners - CMC Microsystems Inc. of Kingston, Ontario,
the Research Institute of Hydro-Québec, Hyperchip Inc. of St-Laurent,
Quebec, École Polytechnique de Montreal, Université de Québec à Montréal
and Université de Québec à Gatineau – to develop a working prototype of
the WaferBoard™, which has already been issued 16 patents.
• Intelligent Rights of Way (ROW) Management: In response to a
heightened need to accurately and quickly inspect power lines and
insulators for vegetation infringement or other types of damage – which
can ultimately cause unplanned power outages like the one that hit
Ontario in 2004 – GeoDigital International of Burlington, Ontario, has
created a remote sensing solution that is currently gaining the
attention of utility companies as a faster, less expensive way to manage
rights of way.
Based on new stabilization technology and advanced image processing, the
GeoDigital system is capable of near real-time results, producing
reports within a couple of days as opposed to the weeks and/or months
required by existing monitoring processes that rely on manual
inspection. At 250 pounds and with multiple software applications on
board, the current system – which operates automatically – has proven
the technical viability of the company’s solution and is in use today on
a service basis.
With the Precarn funding, the project managers are now aiming to develop
a lighter, easier-to-operate version of the system that will be more
commercially viable and designed for use by utility employees
themselves. Additional project participants include York University,
GeoICT Lab of Toronto, and Arizona Public Services of Phoenix.
• Laser Range Finder for Micro-Satellites: Neptec Design Group
Ltd. of Kanata, Ontario, is helping to make micro satellites a viable
platform for the future by developing the Laser Range Finder, a
proximity sensor used to help satellites “see” as they travel through
space. The goal of the project is to design a long range, lightweight
sensor that will operate in geostationary orbit. Geostationary orbits
are useful because they cause a satellite to appear stationary with
respect to a fixed point on the rotating Earth.
The Laser Range Finder unique design will be used aboard microsatellites
which are cheaper and easier to deploy, but where space is at a premium.
The proximity sensor will help them to navigate and avoid collisions,
ultimately increasing their performance. Participanting in the project
is Algonquin College in Ottawa.
• Mobile Robots for Civilians: Following the events of 9/11,
there has been a greater demand for robotic platforms designed for use
in urban environments. Whereas existing suppliers of robotics platforms
typically concentrate on military applications, there hasn’t been an
emphasis on the needs of civilian agencies such as police forces.
Engineering Services Inc. (ESI) of Toronto, in conjunction with the
Royal Canadian Mounted Police of Ottawa and Ryerson University of
Toronto, is aiming to fill this gap by developing a highly configurable
commercial robot platform that will provide greater flexibility at a
much lower cost. ESI mobile robots are designed for use in surveillance,
reconnaissance, inspection and handling of hazardous items, manipulation
of suspected packages and neutralization of explosive devices by
civilian, police, and military forces. The new, low-cost platform will
be ideally suited for emergency response and SWAT teams, fire
departments, hazardous goods response units and emergency measures
• DecisionExpress – Automatic Semantic Processing of Legal Judgments:
NLP Technologies is changing the way legal judgments are reviewed and
distributed with Decision Express, an automatic translation system for
legal documents that provides electronic access to summaries of more
than 200,000 new judgments passed down in Canadian federal and
provincial courts each year. With the funding infusion from Precarn, NLP
will be enhancing its existing Internet-based service to include
additional types of legal documents, including U.S.-based judgments, and
will be adding an English-to-French, and French-to-English translation
Normally, a certified translation takes nine months to complete. NLP is
aiming to shorten this time significantly using a unique statistical
machine translation system – the first in the world to be ‘trained’ to
understand legal documents – which has gained the attention of the
federal courts in Canada for its accuracy and speed. As an added
benefit, DecisionExpress is greatly reducing the huge amount of paper
used in the legal profession each year. Additional project participants
include The University of Montréal and Palomino System Innovations Inc.
Precarn, based in Ottawa, is an independent not-for-profit company that
supports the pre-commercial development of leading-edge technologies.
Precarn works with Canadian companies who are seeking to commercialize
their new ideas to get an edge in global markets. Unlike other research
funding programs, Precarn uses a collaborative model that includes a
developer, a customer and an academic research partner in every project.
This collaboration accelerates development, reduces risk and shares the
cost of R&D. Precarn provides access to an extensive national network of
world-class researchers, innovative companies and sources of funding.
Precarn receives support from Industry Canada, other federal departments
and provincial government agencies, as well as private sources. For more
information on Precarn, please visit