FREDERICTON – The government of New Brunswick is investing an additional $10-million over five years to support venture capital investments and applied research projects, a much-needed cash infusion says the CEO of the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF).
“With increasing demand and lots of new opportunities that exist we find ourselves short on capital to develop those opportunities so the province is stepping up with an additional investment to support increased activities at NBIF,” said Calvin Milbury in a phone interview Wednesday morning.
Milbury said NBIF invests around $12-million a year – roughly half in the form of capital investments in firms growing through innovation, and the other half going to applied research projects that involve university or college researchers and private-sector partners.
In May, the government invested $45.6-million over four years in the foundation, but the demand for capital investment and research support has continued to rise, said Milbury.
“Since then, we’ve been in discussions with the provincial government that the demands continue to grow,” he said. “So they’ve stepped up with additional monies to support that activity.”
Premier Brian Gallant, who is also the minister responsible for innovation, said startups and innovators help grow the economy which in turn supports core services for New Brunswickers.
“To grow our economy we must foster innovation so New Brunswick businesses can compete on an international stage,” said Gallant in a release. “To strengthen education and health care in New Brunswick, we must also foster innovation so we can deliver these vital services and opportunities to New Brunswickers.”
The NBIF is a private, not-for-profit corporation that supports start-up businesses in New Brunswick and fosters research and development.
Milbury said the NBIF supports 20 – 25 companies per year, with capital investments that can be as low as $100,000 per company to ones as large as $500,000. They also provide business support services, doing things like helping them set up a board of directors or finding additional sources of investment.
“We really get involved in the business to improve their odds of success,” said Milbury.
The NBIF also supports 20 – 30 applied research projects, generally later-stage ones that are close to commercialization and have industry partners.
Milbury is pleased to have the additional funds to support more companies and research projects, but he envisions even greater demands going forward.
“There’s a demand there we’re anxious to meet,” he said. “It helps us to support more companies and research across the province, which is critically important. However, [we’ll have] continuous dialogue around what else we can do to grow the economy and spur on innovation here in New Brunswick. We’re hopeful to take on a greater role in the coming years. There will be more demand, so it’s something we continue to work on.”
Since its inception in 2003, the foundation says it has helped launch more than 100 businesses and fund 470 applied research projects. It has a current portfolio of 47 businesses.