Five Ws with the TIAs Finalists: Excellence in Global Export

AbCellera, Corvus Energy, Delta-Q Technologies, and Vancouver International Airport’s Innovative Travel Solutions at the 2020 Technology Impact Awards Finalist Announcement on April 28th, 2020.

In the lead-up to the 2020 Technology Impact Awards, BC Tech is profiling all 38 finalists in 11 award categories. This week, we look at four companies that are making waves on the world stage through the export of technology developed in British Columbia.


Who: The TIAs nomination “is a reflection of all the work our growing 140-member team has been doing since our inception,” says COO Véronique Lecault, who co-founded the biotech company with CEO Carl Hansen in 2012. Built on technology originally developed at UBC, AbCellera’s platform has become a world-leading discovery engine for biologics. “When COVID-19 hit, we were ready. The entire team stepped up to execute and rapidly find antibodies that can be used for treatment and prevention,” says Véronique. (Visit the AbCellera careers page here.)

What: The privately-held biotech’s drug discovery platform searches and analyzes natural immune systems to find antibodies that can be used to prevent and treat disease. By combining high-throughput microfluidics, big data, machine learning, bioinformatics, and genomics, AbCellera is able to identify new drugs and reduce the time it takes to begin clinical testing.

No wonder AbCellera is playing an innovative role in the fight against COVID-19. In March, it entered into an agreement with global pharma Eli Lilly to create antibody therapeutics for the possible prevention and treatment of COVID-19. “By working together seamlessly, our teams have moved with unprecedented speed, and have advanced from antibody discovery to a lead candidate for human testing in months instead of years,” says CEO Carl Hansen.

When: AbCellera has forged multi-target, long-term partnerships with many leading biotechnology and biopharmaceutical companies, such as Denali Therapeutics in 2018,

Novartis in 2019, and Eli Lilly in 2020. In 2018, the company received a $4.8 million USD grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to accelerate global health research, and closed a $10 million USD Series A round of funding. That same year, AbCellera received $30 million USD funding from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) as part of the Pandemic Prevention Platform (P3) program to establish a rapid pandemic response platform capable of going from an isolated virus to a field-ready medical countermeasure in 60 days.  The Government of Canada followed with a commitment of up to $175.6 million CAD under Innovation, Science and Economic Development’s (ISED) Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) to expand efforts related to the discovery of antibodies for use in drugs to treat COVID-19, and to build technology and manufacturing infrastructure for antibody therapies against future pandemic threats. Last but certainly not least: the company recently announced a $105 million USD Series B financing from top-tier healthcare and tech investors to further advance its AI-powered, drug discovery platform and bring therapies to patients faster across a wide range of diseases.

Where: The TIAs nomination “is particularly important because it highlights the great things we can do in Canada,” Véronique says. “We have great talent. We have great universities. We have great technologies. And we’re in a position to impact the biotech industry at the global level.”

Why: “We believe the best ideas deserve the best technologies. It all starts with strong collaborations and teams working together on challenging problems to bring better therapies to patients,” Véronique says. “We’ve built a place where people feel they are part of something bigger than themselves. A place that exists to push the limits of science, accelerate drug development and enhance lives. This brings meaning to everything we do.”

Corvus Energy

Who: Sean Puchalski, Executive Vice-President of Strategy and Business Planning, describes Corvus’ 150-member team as a group of “hardy veterans” who are “totally committed to the goal of changing energy use and helping the planet. We’ve had a huge uptick in revenue, which means we need a huge uptick in factory capacity and bodies.” (Visit the Corvus careers page here.)

What: Corvus’ large-scale energy storage systems (ESS) use advanced lithium-ion technology to provide economical, safe, and reliable battery systems for hybrid and electric marine vessels such as ferries, cruise ships, offshore supply vessels, and tugboats, as well as in hybrid port cranes and offshore equipment. “It’s pretty amazing that we’ve been able to stay in a leadership position for 10 years now,” Sean says proudly, adding that Corvus is moving forward with plans to expand its Richmond, B.C., facility and increase manufacturing capacity in Bergen, Norway, and in Richmond. 

When: Founded in 2009, quickly became the first company to provide a maritime battery with the capacity, cost and safety levels the market demanded. Its pioneering products have led to a host of awards, funding deals and lucrative contracts, including up to $6 million in funding from the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program; a 2020 partnership with Damen Shipyards to supply the ESS for four new battery-hybrid ferries for BC Ferries; and has won “Supplier of the Year” at the Electric & Marine Awards every year since 2014.

Where: While Corvus has operations in Norway and Singapore, it is “especially proud to be part of the B.C. tech ecosystem,” Sean says. “It’s an ever-strengthening community and there’s tons we can do to strengthen it still.”

Why: “What’s kept us working long hours is that we make technology to enable zero-emission transportation,” Sean says. “We are changing the way energy is used and improving the planet.”  

Delta-Q Technologies

Who: “We’ve been attending the TIAs for some time and enjoy seeing local companies receive recognition for their impact on the global economy; it would be an honor to win,” says Co-CEO Sarah MacKinnon, who co-leads Delta-Q’s 110 member team. “We’re proud to be a finalist and to share our story with the rest of the B.C. community.” (Visit Delta-Q’s page here.)

What: More than three million vehicles and industrial machines already use Delta-Q’s battery charging solutions to meet the evolving needs of electric vehicles and industrial equipment manufacturers. Delta-Q’s battery charger portfolio satisfies their global customers’ requirements for high reliability, charge quality and ease of integration, enabling the transition from internal combustion to electrification across multiple market applications. The company’s values of perseverance, and “do the right thing”, have earned them international respect as a global company, and enabled them to make an exponential impact worldwide. Although their products are not in the public forefront, they are a critical component of electric vehicles.

When: As well as being recognized as one of Canada’s top technology companies on the 2018 Branham300 Top 250 list, Delta-Q has already made a trip to the TIAs as a 2015 finalist for Excellence in Product Innovation. “Winning now, however, would be especially meaningful,” Sarah says. “Last year was our 20th anniversary, so to win an award as part of our celebrations would really validate all our hard work.”

Where: Headquartered in Burnaby and with satellite offices globally, Delta-Q is a textbook example of a B.C.-based tech company making waves overseas. “We haven’t been out broadcasting who we are to the BC Tech community, and we think it’s time,” Sarah says. “Our international business success shows how a small company started right here in B.C. can have a global impact.” 

Why: Delta-Q’s purpose has always been “Electric Vehicles Everywhere”, summarizing their passion since day one for having an impact on sustainability globally, while building a B.C. based anchor company. By reducing carbon emissions on millions of vehicles and machines worldwide, Delta-Q aligns directly with Clean BC’s plan to reduce greenhouse gases, making them proud and excited to play an active role in reaching the province’s sustainability goals.   

The company has also created programs to foster the next generation of software and product engineers in B.C. by collaborating with students from local universities on research products. This is not only paramount to Delta-Q’s progress, but helps further their education and strengthens B.C. with new perspectives.

Vancouver International Airport

Who: “Our success is absolutely a team effort,” says Lynette DuJohn, Vice President of Innovation and Chief Technology Officer, of Vancouver International Airport and its Innovative Travel Solutions by YVR (ITS) unit. “Like many in the tech industry, our biggest challenge is competing against large, multinational companies. We’re a bit like the little engine that could – continuing to move uphill by staying committed to our purpose of solving problems at the Vancouver International Airport (YVR) and then exporting this expertise to other airports around the world.” 

What: Vancouver International Airport’s ITS is the airport industry’s largest provider of kiosk-based border control solutions. To date, it has helped more than 250 million passengers safely clear borders. “We are setting our sights on the next innovation in the evolution of the passenger experience at airports and seaports,” said Lynette. “We seek to unite security, efficiency and innovation to keep pace with passenger growth in the travel industry. We are always looking around and looking ahead, anticipating issues before they happen.”

When: Since first implementing its kiosks at YVR in 2009, the airport has helped reduce passenger wait times by more than 60 per cent and ITS has sold more than 1,700 of its BorderXpress kiosks at 43 airports, seaports and onboard sites around the world. This includes a recently completed six-month pilot programme at Iceland’s Keflavik International Airport, where BorderXpress self-service biometric-enabled kiosks safely processed more than 9,500 passengers in accordance with the new security and data collection requirements outlined by the European Union. No wonder it won CAPA’s 2015 “Airport Innovation of the Year” award, and PwC Canada’s 2019 “Vision to Reality” award in the “Builder” category.

Where: “It’s no secret that B.C. has a strong and innovative tech community. But what makes ours unique is the depth of talent, dedication and ingenuity from people and companies across the province,” said Lynette. “For YVR’s ITS, drawing on this local talent has played a critical role in our success in modernizing border management and meeting the needs of tomorrow’s traveler.” 

Why: “At its core, innovation is about purpose and solving problems,” said Lynette. “For us, the problem is how can we make the border control process better for passengers, airports, and border authorities. Innovating for a purpose is how we as a technology community keep our province moving forward and well-positioned to keep attracting the most talented people in the industry.”