Canadian nanomaterials – funding at the forefront of innovation

Innovation in nanomaterials is rapidly progressing across the globe, but with increased funding and lucrative collaboration opportunities, Canadian nanomaterials are set to lead the market.

Paul Glover, President of Shared Services and former Associate Deputy Minister of Health, Canada, once said that Canadian nanomaterials are one of the priorities of the government. This is reflected by that nation’s approach to funding and international collaboration.

Each year the Canadian Government invests up to $50m into nanotechnology research. In order to meet their development goals, the government has fostered a multidisciplinary approach. The government no longer funds single lab working in isolation and favours a multi-faculty approach.

For regulatory and funding purposes, Canada have classified the different types of nanomaterials depending on their physical-chemical and system-dependent properties:

  • Soluble nanomaterials – soluble nanomaterials are not expected to exhibit unique nanomaterial properties, and their toxicity will be largely dependent on their chemical composition.
  • Passive nanomaterials – passive nanomaterials are biopersistent and non-fibrous, but do not have surface reactivity and do not elicit cellular effects.
  • Active nanomaterials – active nanomaterials are biopersistent and non-fibrous but are considered to have a hazard potential due to factors such as chemical composition, dissolution rate, surface reactivity, dispersibility or cellular effects.
  • Fibrous nanomaterials – these nanomaterials are biopersistent and fibrous. It is recognised that, once inhaled, these nanomaterials may deposit deep in the lungs and may be difficult to remove.

Funding opportunities for Canadian nanomaterials

Canadian federal research funding is provided by three agencies: Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), and Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC). The Canadian Government have developed a new Innovation Canada digital service platform which helps guide users through federal innovation programs and services.

Innovate Canada’s Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) supports innovative business activities such as R&D projects, firm expansion, attraction of large-scale investments to Canada and collaborative technology demonstration projects. The SIF has offered a share of $2.3bn to innovator working in myriad of sectors, creating over 67,000 jobs.

The challenge of regulating nanomaterials

In Canada, any substance, including a nanomaterial, that is not listed on the Domestic Substances List is considered to be new to Canada and is subject to the notification requirements under the New Substances Notification Regulations. These regulations ensure that new materials do not cause adverse effects on the local environment and the health of Canada’s citizens. Environment and Climate Change Canada and Health Canada are currently developing an approach to address certain nanomaterials under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, 1999 (CEPA).

In Spring 2015 Canada and the US completed work under the Canada-US RCC nanotechnology work plan. This work plan aims to improve co-operation between Canada and the United States, in addition to influencing consistency when regulating nanomaterials.

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