Five up-and-coming entrepreneurs recognized for breakthrough innovations

Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards laud start-ups poised to boost economy, improve lives of Canadians

Vancouver, BC — Five up-and-coming researchers-turned-entrepreneurs are being recognized at the sixth annual Mitacs Entrepreneur Awards ceremony today for their groundbreaking discoveries that are helping to propel Canada’s economy forward — and ultimately improve the lives of Canadians. Even the challenges of the COVID-19 global pandemic haven’t stopped these innovators from advancing their first-of-a-kind technologies.

The awards, presented by Mitacs — a national innovation organization that fosters growth by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions — celebrate start-up companies founded by outstanding former Mitacs interns, postdoctoral fellows and training participants, who have gone on to lead their respective fields as business owners.

“On behalf of the Government of Canada, I am thrilled to congratulate this year’s Mitacs Entrepreneur Award winners,” said The Honourable Mary Ng, Minister of Small Business, Export Promotion and International Trade. “The energy, creativity and spirit of Canada’s entrepreneurs are truly an inspiration and are key to driving innovation and economic growth right across the country. Mitacs’s commitment to supporting young people by giving them opportunities to gain experience in innovation and entrepreneurship is making a real difference, especially at this difficult time. Our government is proud to join you in supporting some of Canada’s best and brightest entrepreneurs.”

According to Mitacs CEO and Scientific Director John Hepburn, “Supporting innovation is essential to help Canada rebound from the repercussions of the global pandemic, and Mitacs is extremely proud of the remarkable accomplishments achieved by our network of talented entrepreneurs. We are thrilled that our continued investment in talent, research and development is translating into more and more Mitacs interns successfully turning their groundbreaking research into dynamic start-ups, helping to boost both Canada’s economy and our country’s position on the global innovation stage.”

The five 2021 Mitacs Entrepreneur Award winners are:


Global Impact Entrepreneur: Jason Deglint, 32, a Mitacs postdoctoral researcher in Engineering at Waterloo University, and Co-founder and CEO of Waterloo-based Blue Lion Labs. Deglint is being honoured for helping fish farms keep their operations safe from harmful algae blooms. His revolutionary smart monitoring platform uses machine learning software and a custom digital microscope to automatically identify harmful algae in water.

Outstanding Entrepreneur: Hossein Kamali, 32, a Mitacs postdoctoral researcher in Mechatronic Systems Engineering at Simon Fraser University, and Co-founder and CTO of Vancouver-based Autonopia. Kamali’s company has invented a first-of-its-kind robot that mimics the behaviour of human window washers — including getting into the nooks and crannies of all types of building facades. The disruptive, patent-pending robot combines artificial intelligence, robotics, mechatronics and motion control technology in an effort to bring the high-rise window cleaning business into the 21st century and keep people safe in the process.

Change Agent Entrepreneur: Negin Ashouri, 28, a Mitacs intern and master’s student in the Computer Science department at Concordia University, and Co-founder and Interim CEO of Montréal-based FemTherapeutics. With support from the Montreal-based Centech incubator, Ashouri is disrupting the healthcare industry with a groundbreaking medical device aimed at elevating women’s quality of life. Her company is the first to develop a made-to-measure, biodegradable and disposable intravaginal prosthetic for women suffering from pelvic organ prolapse (POP), incorporating the same 3D printing process used for custom-fit orthodontics.

Environmental Entrepreneur: Ulrich Legrand, 30, a former Mitacs postdoctoral researcher in the Chemical Engineering department at McGill University, and Co-founder and CTO of Montréal-based Electro Carbon. Legrand is being recognized for his company’s breakthrough system, which converts captured CO2 gas into commercial-grade formic acid — a high-value chemical used as a preservative in livestock feed, as well as in the leather tanning and rubber industries. The disruptive technology reduces global greenhouse gas emissions, while bringing to market an industrial-scale system capable of repurposing carbon after it is successfully removed from the atmosphere.

Environmental Entrepreneur: Marciel Gaier, 29, a former Mitacs intern and PhD graduate in Advanced Materials Science at Dalhousie University, and Co-founder and CTO of Halifax-based Graphite Innovation and Technologies. Gaier is transforming the global shipping industry with the launch of a disruptive paint, which is the first patented technology to use nanoparticles of graphite — called graphene — to achieve a high-performance, sustainable marine coating. The innovative coating system provides a low volatile organic compounds (VOC), non-toxic alternative that reduces the amount of greenhouse gases emitted per shipping journey.

Quick facts:

  • Mitacs is a not-for-profit organization that fosters growth and innovation in Canada by solving business challenges with research solutions from academic institutions.
  • Mitacs is funded by the Government of Canada along with the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and the Government of Yukon.

Learn more:

Visit Mitacs for more information.