David Shepherd
At TEC, one of our most central philosophies has always been “entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs,” meaning, our in-house experts help innovators and entrepreneurs grow their companies by drawing from a wealth of real-world experience.

This is why we’re thrilled that the Alberta Entrepreneurship Incubator Program recently announced $1.5 million in funding to support increased program offerings from our region’s business service providers (TEC Edmonton, Startup Edmonton, NABI and NAIT).

“We are investing in these incubators with the confidence that present and future entrepreneurs in this city and area will build great companies and create jobs,” said MLA David Shepherd at the announcement.

A new way we’re helping entrepreneurs is through our Innovation Ecosystem Navigator, who is available to help Edmonton’s entrepreneurs navigate the region’s service offerings for entrepreneurs. Finding the right kind of help for your unique situation can be confusing. We’re here to do the legwork so you don’t have to. And if we can’t help you, we’ll find someone who can.

Tiffany Linke-Boyko, CEO of Startup Edmonton said it best: “As incubators, we see daily the potential this city and province have to create more diversity in our economy – especially when we empower people with innovative ideas.”

We’re looking forward to rolling up our sleeves and working with our counterparts to provide top-notch services to entrepreneurs while continuing to move the needle on innovation outcomes.

So who can access our services? Maybe you’re new to entrepreneurship – as a recent graduate, finding yourself unemployed, or simply looking to strike out on your own. Connect with us and let us know how we can help you.

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Injuries that interfere with an individual’s quality of life, such as stroke, introduce numerous challenges in the road to recovery. Through its line of technology-based rehabilitation products, Rehabtronics is making recovery a little bit easier.

A longtime TEC Centre tenant, Rehabtronics was originally born out of Professor Arthur Prochazka’s lab at the University of Alberta, focusing on the rehabilitation of the upper limb after injury. Inspiration for the first product came out of the fact that existing rehabilitation treatments for patients don’t always provide adequate treatment.

“The evidence is that they don’t provide meaningful improvement to people’s lives,” explains Rehabtronics CEO Dr. Rahul Samant.

Rehabtronics’ method of engaging patients through games incentivises patients to become more involved in their therapy, and to work harder and longer. The products also promote recovery by introducing realistic, everyday tasks into treatment. For example, instead of traditional therapy methods where the patient may squeeze a sponge, the ReJoyce device simulates real activities of daily life (ADLs) like turning a doorknob, opening a jar lid, or holding a pen.

“By interacting with the games, the patient gets better at the same activities that they need to do every day,” says Rahul.

A feature of the ReJoyce is the ReJoyce Automated Hand Function Test, or RAHFT. The RAHFT allows a therapist to quickly and quantitatively assess a patient’s hand and arm function, and track a patient’s progress over time. The test can be done in less than 10 minutes compared to current assessments that can take upwards of 45 minutes to complete. Because the RAHFT measures a number of activities, therapy can be personalized according to the patient’s needs.

Another product, the ReTouch, employs a large touch screen and proprietary software developed at the Glenrose Rehabilitation Hospital. The screen adjusts in horizontal and vertical planes and exercises a host of physical and cognitive tasks.

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“It’s excellent for training cognitive function, memory, focus, as well as range of motion, strength, endurance, speed, and accuracy of motion,” says Rahul.

Finally, the ReGrasp, worn on the wrist and arm, rehabilitates and restores fine motor function using electronic stimulation activated either by tapping or simple head nods.

“We’ve put it on stroke patients who have tried everything,” says Rahul. “We’ve put it on the patient, run through the exercise mode, and the patient can open and close their hand after a 20-minute session. The reactions are unbelievable; they’ve given up after using everything available.”

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The devices are globally distributed to over 25 countries by 17 distributors, and are marketed to clinics and hospitals, where patients access the devices through a clinician. Rehabtronics’ product line is both manufactured and sold from its location at TEC Centre in Enterprise Square.

As Rehabtronics starts to move into a growth phase, the team is looking at expanding into areas beyond the rehabilitation market.

“It’s been an interesting market for us to start out in and build a highly versatile team,” says Rahul. “To leverage our potential, we’re now looking at opportunities that are more direct-to-consumer.”

Learn more about Rehabtronics here.

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Business incubators land $1.5 million to help entrepreneurs More…

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Imagine a world in which vehicles, public transit, and traffic infrastructure communicated with one another to reduce congestion and seamlessly control the flow of traffic. It sounds like something from a science fiction movie, but one company with a close connection to a research lab at the University of Alberta is making it a reality.

iSmartways was founded in 2014 by University of Alberta Transportation Engineering Professor Dr. Tony Qiu, and is using high-tech data to change the way we move around our cities. Dr. Qiu developed a number of technologies and algorithms that extract anonymous data from roadside equipment and vehicles, as well as speed and congestion information.

“Our technology uses anonymous data and high-level artificial intelligence methods to estimate how many people move from one zone to another zone every day, through the whole city and province,” explains Dr. Qiu. “It’s very valuable information for infrastructure and planning.”

The technology is integrated in two ways: to provide real-time traffic information to citizens through 511 services, and for long-term planning by municipalities to optimize winter maintenance budgets, regional and provincial transportation planning and modelling, and transportation systems operations to support high-traffic times like big events.

For governments, the benefits are many: better planning for transportation budgets, improving public ridership and service level for public transit, and optimizing transit networks. Individuals can better plan their routes with real-time speed and congestion information.

The second technology that iSmartways has developed is the digitization of infrastructure to support changes in vehicle technology. “Our vehicles are connected through WiFi and Bluetooth, and in the future, our vehicles will be able to ‘talk’ to infrastructure,” says Dr. Qiu.

Through iSmartways, Dr. Qiu is working with all levels of government to help decision-makers better prepare our infrastructure for smart vehicles. For example, the City of Edmonton is currently exploring the potential for the technology to help improve the efficiency of transit operation and emergency response vehicles to coordinate their movement with signal lights. If travel time for an ambulance is decreased by only seconds, it can make a big difference while reducing confusion for drivers and improving road safety.

As a part of TEC Edmonton’s T-Squared Accelerator Program, iSmartways has partnered with TELUS to provide big data and analytics to support smart city initiatives in Edmonton and across Alberta. The challenge now lies with identifying potential clients in the commercial vehicle industry and municipalities.

As T-Squared participants, iSmartways has been getting assistance with business planning and strategy, as well as market research from TEC Edmonton’s Executives in Residence.

“It allows us to focus on technology development, and how we can convert research into a service, and market a product,” explains Dr. Qiu. “TEC Edmonton provided a very good platform, and played an important role in connecting us with TELUS.”

With the help of TEC Edmonton and TELUS, iSmartways is making its products available in Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario. Beyond this, it’s trying to expand into other regions as quickly as possible. Next on the agenda is building a bigger team to help the company grow beyond its current size of four full-time and two part-time employees.

Dr. Qiu is looking to the future with iSmartways, and is producing new data products to meet the clients’ increasing needs. He has also built strategic partnerships with international players, and is expanding his products into the Asian market, including China.

“If a research is only in the lab, we don’t know what is needed,” says Dr. Qiu. “Commercialization is a very good way to make our research more accountable, and to understand the real needs of society.”

 

 

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