Government of Canada announces funding for research and development to address COVID-19 gaps and challenges

News release

October 30, 2020 – Ottawa, Ontario

The Government of Canada is committed to protecting the health and safety of all Canadians while ensuring economic resilience and contributing to the international response to COVID-19. Since the outbreak of COVID-19, the government has been working closely with industry to understand which areas require urgent investment while building domestic capabilities to fight future pandemics.

Today, the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced $796,000 in funding from the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) through the Pandemic Response Challenge program, as well as challenge winners and new contracts under the Innovative Solutions Canada (ISC) Testing Stream.

The NRC, under the Pandemic Response Challenge program that is aimed at specific COVID-19 gaps and challenges identified by Canadian health experts, is providing research and development funding to the following six collaborative projects:

  • $147,000 to the University of British Columbia for a project to facilitate clinical adoption of contactless sensors for COVID-19 patients;
  • $150,000 to OCAD University to develop guidelines and functionalities for the design of virtual care software for vulnerable populations;
  • $199,000 to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health for the development and validation of mobile application modules to attenuate mental health symptoms related to the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • $100,000 to the University of Toronto to develop latex agglutination tests for rapid, instrument-free COVID-19 diagnostics in saliva;
  • $100,000 to the University of Toronto to develop reagent combinations for the visual detection of SARS-CoV-2; and
  • $100,000 to LFAnt Medical to develop a molecular assay for instrument-less SARS-CoV-2 rapid diagnostic from saliva.

Three new projects were announced under the ISC Testing Stream:

  • Zighra for the Crownshield project—an AI-powered continuous authentication and threat detection solution available as a mobile software development kit for iOS and Android devices;
  • Cubresa Inc. for the world’s first portable positron emission tomography (PET) scanner specially designed for use with highly infectious pathogens; and
  • CryptoMill Cybersecurity Solutions for the Circles of Trust project—a security solution to protect government, health care, defence and commercially sensitive information by restricting access on a need-to-know basis.

The ISC Testing Stream looks to help Canadian companies of all sizes get their products/services to market. It involves buying pre-commercial products/services, trying them in real-life settings and providing the companies with valuable feedback.  

Lastly, the Minister announced the latest Phase 1 recipients under the ISC Challenges program for two COVID-19 challenges launched in May 2020.

The following four companies are receiving Phase 1 funding in response to the Intelligent digital clearing house challenge:

  • 11983393 Canada Inc.—for Project Oasis, a platform that enables government subject matter experts to efficiently share key knowledge;
  • Bulky Inc.—for a rapid response platform that will deliver a digital solution to enable Canadian industry and global communities of researchers, health providers and funders to exchange, share and procure expertise and materials in response to COVID-19;
  • Cole Webber Productions Inc.—for Betterfit Healthcare Club, a platform that matches resources and capacities with need by compiling information on available sessions, facilities and resources; and
  • Optima Analytics Inc.—for its intelligent clearing house, a scalable web application accessible from anywhere using a computer, tablet or mobile phone.

This project proposal is receiving Phase 1 funding in response to the Magnetic reagents for detection of COVID-19 and other RNA based molecular diagnostic kits challenge:

  • Galenvs Sciences Inc.—for a proposed strategy for adapting magnetic-based reagents for efficient RNA extraction.

If accepted into Phase 2, companies could receive up to $1 million to develop a working prototype. 


“Our government is acting quickly to ensure that we are mobilizing our innovation programming and resources to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The successful Made-in-Canada projects and proposals announced today will support the researchers and companies that are contributing to the fight against this pandemic. This has remained a top priority for our government and is all part of our continued commitment to protecting the health and safety of all Canadians”
– The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

Quick facts

  • The Pandemic Response Challenge program brings together the best Canadian and international researchers to fast‑track research and development aimed at specific COVID-19 gaps and challenges identified by Canadian health experts.

  • Innovative Solutions Canada is a key component of the government’s Innovation and Skills Plan, a multi-year plan to make Canada a global innovation leader and prepare Canadians to succeed in tomorrow’s economy.

  • Changes to the ISC program to support immediate COVID-19 challenges include doubling the amount of Phase 1 and Phase 2 challenge awards, awarding challenge grants or contracts to companies that have more than 499 employees, and increasing award amounts under the Testing Stream to up to $5 million per initial and additional sales contract to support a particular COVID-19 innovation test.

  • On March 11, 2020, the Prime Minister announced a $1 billion package to help Canadians cope with the COVID-19 outbreak, including $275 million for research and medical countermeasures.

  • Additional information on measures and supports can be found at

Associated links


John Power
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

Media Relations
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada

Media Relations
National Research Council of Canada
1-855-282-1637 (toll-free)
613-949-3042 (TTY)

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