The New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF) has announced the finalists for its 2015 Breakthru competition and all five people are affiliated with the University of New Brunswick as students, alumni or adjunct faculty. In one of the most anticipated events of the season, Samuel Jesso, Keith Brunt, Josh Ogden, Keelen Gagnon and Elaheh Biglar will compete for $750,000 in investments and professional services.Coady Cameron and his UNB team took the top prize at Breakthru 2013 for their company Total Pave.

The event is on Thursday, March 19, at the Fredericton Convention Center with a reception starting at 5:30 p.m. and dinner at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are available online and include a cocktail reception and dinner, the pitch competition, a live band, and special musical performances by the Calithumpians Theatre Troupe.

About the finalists: 

Samuel Jesso is currently a third year bachelor of science in software engineering student at UNB. The product that he is looking to bring to the market is named Autopulse, which is a piece of technology that is able to communicate vehicle issues and warn the dealership or service center in real time. The service center staff will receive an alert about the vehicle’s issue along with all of the data from the onboard computer. Equipped with this information the service center can reach out to the customer to give a general explanation of the problem, the time it will take to fix, the effort it will take to fix, estimated cost of the repair, and then book an appointment. This device will, in turn, increase customer retention while reducing unsold service capacity. Jesso has worked closely with UNB’s J. Herbert Smith Centre for Technology Management and Entrepreneurship (TME) to bring his product to fruition.   

Josh Ogden, a UNB bachelor of recreation and sport studies alumnus, has brought Castaway Golf to the table for this year’s Breakthru competition. Castaway Golf has developed a new machine that will dredge and clean almost all the golf balls found at the bottom of a bog. Additional technology sorts the balls into the 200 different models so they can be repackaged and resold by brand and kind. Castaway’s system, which finds golf balls, repackages them and resells them, will increase major ball makers’ revenue on resold balls while saving millions dollars per year in manual sorting costs.  So far, Ogden, who graduated from UNB in 2014, has already received funding from the Technology Commercialization Program offered by TME and is looking to capture the Breakthru competition as well.

Keelen Gagnon is a bachelor of science in electrical engineering alumnus who graduated in 2014 with a diploma in technology (D-TME). He has invented a product, SimpTek Technologies, that provides customers with the ability to control and understand how energy is being consumed in their homes by using innovative artificial intelligence technology. As many jurisdictions move towards “Smart Grids” and “Smart Homes”, SimpTek’s solution has the ability to understand consumers’ energy usage behaviors, while making predictions and providing actionable recommendations. At the same time, the system will allow utilities to reduce their peak loads and base loads within a more precise and predictable way. SimpTek has also received funding through TME’s Technology Commercialization Program and is part of the International Business & Entrepreneurship Centre’s Activator program in the UNB Fredericton faculty of business. 

Elaheh Biglar is a masters of computer science student at UNB.  With the support of the Information Security Center of Excellence at UNB, the product that she is developing is a Smart Castle Lab’s product named DrawBridge.  It is a hardware device that, once plugged into a home network, will help protect children by filtering content they receive through their browser or apps. This will include inappropriate content, cyber bullying and child luring while also providing an alert to their caregivers. Today, children are exposed to the Internet at a very early age and play with tablets, smartphones and all sorts of digital devices that allows them to view inappropriate content, but with ‘DrawBridge’ that exposure can be prevented.

Keith Brunt is currently an associate professor at Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick, a partnership between UNB and Dalhousie located on UNB’s Saint John campus. His product, named the BioMatrix, is an easy to use magnetic compound that provides cost effective removal of heavy metals in wastewater. It is non-toxic, non-corrosive and safe to handle. An adsorbent, Naqua-Pure, increases the density and facilitates the drying of post-treatment wastewater sludge to the extent that it can be used in bio, or plasma reactors for energy generation. Finally, the leftover heavy metals, now ultra dense (vitrified) can be forever removed from the environment. 

In the last 25 years, UNB has emerged as a hotbed of innovation and entrepreneurship in Canada by combining experiential education with opportunities for mentorship, skill-development, leadership and commercialization. In 2010, Industry Canada ranked UNB number one in Teaching and Learning, from amongst all Canadian higher education institutions that support entrepreneurial education.

In June 2014, UNB was named Post-Secondary Institution of the Year by Startup Canada

*Contributed to by Sarah Beaney