Scitech  E-Innovation bridges academia and industry

Startup aims to profit from analytical chemistry lab research

What do you get when you combine the minds of three postdoctoral fellows, a PhD student, a professor, and recent, potentially profitable, research? A cutting-edge startup, of course.

E-Innovation, a Montreal-based company, was co-founded this year by Janine Mauzeroll, a McGill Chemistry Professor and her research team: Laurence Danis, Tomer Noyhouzer, Michael E. Snowden, and Ushula M. Tefashe. The startup is invested in developing the next generation of chemical sensors and online monitors to provide highly sensitive and reliable analytical instruments, all to satisfy the needs of academia and industry.

Prior to the official incorporation of E-Innovation in August, the SizeControlled Ultramicroelectrodes (UMEs) were featured in a paper by Danis, and the Chemistry team was awarded second place at the 2015 McGill Dobson Cup. By the time E-Innovation’s team launched their startup, they were already on the map. The launch led to a rapid cascade of opportunities for the team to showcase their startup, for which they have received both local and international recognition.

In September, E-Innovation pitched at the McGill X-1 Demo Day, and competed in the first ever MTL Blog Startup Challenge, where they placed third behind Evive, a pet food service that provides handmade meals for cats and dogs, and UVolt, a charging system that uses body heat, movement and solar energy for your phone. E-Innovation was also invited to the 8th International Workshop on Scanning Electrochemical Microscopy (SECM-8) in Xiamen, China, and is currently still in the running for the worldwide 1776 Startup Challenge Cup.

“If you’re confident in your product then follow it through so your dream can become a reality.” – Michael E. Snowden, co-founder of E-Innovation

So far, their products include SizeControlled UMEs and OptECHEM – a new type of electrochemical flow cell – both of which they hope to commercialize and apply to industrial settings.

Startups are known for their high failure rates, with estimates at 90 per cent according to Forbes, largely due to a lack of monetary resources. Since E-Innovation is still in the early stages of development, it still has many challenges to overcome if it wishes to stabilize its presence in the market. Snowden told The Daily, “If we manage to get successful market traction with the company, then we can envision going full-time into manufacturing and producing the products and delivering to the market, and, maybe, further refining the existing product […] or bringing in an additional product.”

So what are these products exactly, and more importantly, why have they been praised in the research domain? To put it simply, E-Innovation’s SizeControlled UMEs are ideal for high-resolution surface imaging, electrochemical mapping, and analytical measurements. This wide array of detection applications makes these electrodes of very high academic interest in the chemical, biological and physical frontiers of science.

OptECHEM, on the other hand, is a new type of electrochemical flow cell that can simultaneously record electrochemical and spectroscopic measurements. This product can be easily altered to suit the environment of its use, a perfect tool for both research and industrial applications.

Learning from E-Innovation is not limited to its applications in science. Snowdon says partnering with someone who has more connections and experience than a typical student, such as a professor like Mauzeroll, can be extremely helpful in becoming established as a company.  Even so, as for any startup, the future of E-Innovation is uncertain. For those just entering the world of startups, however, Snowden’s advice is clear: “If you’re confident in your product then follow it through so your dream can become a reality,” he said.

—With files from Jill Bachelder