Sept. 11, 2023

Innovation Fair offers a playground for startups

First Faculty of Science event brings together entrepreneurs and industry partners
Kathryn Wolfe, a PhD Candidate in chemistry and part of Chromasense Technologies Inc., along with the Welch Group, take a selfie at the Innovation Fair.
Kathryn Wolfe, a PhD candidate and part of Chromasense Technologies Inc., along with the Welch Group, take a selfie at the Innovation Fair. Kathryn Wolfe

The heart of the University of Calgary is innovation. It drives what we do, who we are and how big we dream.

Innovate Calgary’s first-ever Innovation Fair is a prime example. Held at the end of August, the event showcased 14 UCalgary startups from the Faculty of Science. More than 120 people attended the open-door event, including startups, industry partners and others interested in learning about the cutting-edge innovation the faculty has to offer.

While the big-picture goal of Innovate Calgary is to bridge the gap between academia and industry, the event was about so much more than that.

Anderson Hoff

Anderson Hoff, postdoctoral associate in chemistry from DME Tech Inc., explains his work at the Innovation Fair.

Chantal Palmer

“The networking was by far the best part of the event,” said Marian Danko, senior venture manager, New Ventures, with Innovate Calgary and one of the event organizers. “It’s such a great opportunity for the companies in their very early stages to talk about their business to strangers. That sort of practice is so helpful.

“When you talk to each other, that’s one thing. But, when you talk to strangers, they’re going to ask you so many questions that you couldn’t even imagine. That’s the playground for these startups.” 

Participants agreed.

"It was excellent connecting with innovators from diverse areas in the Faculty of Science and learning about their engrossing inventions,” said Dr. Sourabh Kumar, PhD'20, a physics and astronomy postdoctoral associate.

Kumar’s startup, Quverse Innovations Inc., aims to develop and commercialize novel quantum technologies. The company’s overarching vision is the realization of the quantum internet, which would be comparable to the classical internet, but much more secure and powerful.

Another startup, TactTongue, has created a novel tongue-worn device that renders tactile and taste stimulations on the tongue. The device can render tastes like saltiness, bitter and sour without the presence of any food in the mouth. This can be used in AR/VR for rendering virtual tastes. It can also be used as an input device, especially useful for users with motor impairments.

Akpeko Gasonoo, postdoctoral associate in chemistry from PrintedSUN Inc. chats to Dr. Qasim Khan at the Innovation Fair.

Akpeko Gasonoo, postdoctoral associate in chemistry from PrintedSUN Inc., chats to Qasim Khan at the Innovation Fair.

Chantal Palmer

The event also included a panel discussion during which budding entrepreneurs and industry experts shared their real-world experiences, offering practical insights and actionable steps for launching a successful startup.

“In early stages of commercialization, there’s always these questions, like I’m not sure if it’s the right time. Maybe next year. Maybe I need more money,” said Danko during the panel. “You need to essentially brainwash yourself as an entrepreneur. There are so many books about how you need to not give up, how you need to fail over and over. If you keep reading these types of books, you start believing that you can do it.

"It’s a mindset shift. You need to understand that you’re on stage, you need to talk to a lot of people, and you need to get comfortable with the uncomfortable.”

Danko explained that there’s a common saying in the world of innovation: the No. 1 reason startups fail is because they don’t have a big enough network.

“They don’t have enough people supporting them or enough resources around them," Danko said. "This event is about giving people the connections they need to succeed.”

Going forward, Innovate Calgary and the Faculty of Science plan to host the Innovation Fair as an ongoing series.

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