NRC-IRAP taps BC innovation leaders for advisory board

Three Vancouver innovators have been tapped to provide perspective and advice on NRC-IRAP’s strategic direction and management.

The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) is a federal program that provides advice, connections and funding to help Canadian small and medium-sized businesses increase their innovation capacity and take ideas to market.

Companies across Canada leverage the organization’s resources to fuel business growth. It’s played such a critical role in scaling businesses that the federal government recently expanded its funding in the 2021 budget. $500 million was announced over five years, starting in 2021-22, and $100 million per year ongoing to support up to 2,500 additional small and medium-sized firms.

Support in British Columbia

In fiscal year 2020–21, NRC IRAP assisted more than 9,340 firms, funded over 3,800 projects and provided more than 14,340 advisory services to unfunded firms.

Over the last two years, NRC IRAP has provided advisory services and over $115.2 million in research and development funding to BC-based SMEs, including Aspect Biosystems, AbCellera, MineSense and Semios.

New advisory board members

A key part of the organization is its Advisory Board, which ensures that the advice and support the organization provides matches with the needs of the innovation economy it's meant to support. To do this, the board must reflect the diversity of Canada’s people, businesses and communities.

To share BC’s perspective and provide advice on the NRC-IRAP’s strategic direction and management, three Vancouver innovators have been tapped for the Advisory Board.

David Helliwell, Co-founder and CEO, Thrive Health

David Helliwell is a software entrepreneur who has spent his career dedicated to enabling energy efficiency and improving access to health care. A fourth generation Vancouverite, David has lived and worked in several countries during his 10 years away from Vancouver. After studying geophysics at UBC and Harvard, he started his career as a part-time exploration geophysicist and part-time professional windsurfing racer from 1994-1999. After an MBA at the Ecole Nationale des Ponts et Chausées in Paris, David became a strategy consultant for two years.

Fast-forward to 2016, and Helliwell founded Thrive Health with a mission to improve the efficiency of the Canadian healthcare system by empowering patients to be more informed and engaged in their journey through specialist care.

Natalie Cartwright, Co-Founder and COO, Finn AI

As Co-Founder and COO of Finn AI, Natalie works alongside some of the world's top financial institutions to build better consumer relationships by providing AI-powered personal banking assistants. These include ATB Financial, Banpro Grupo Promerica, Fidor Bank, Truist and UFCU as well as partnerships with companies like Auth0, Genesys and Glia. Natalie is a leader in voicing the ethical impacts of artificial intelligence, as well as the potential of technology to improve financial well-being.

Prior to founding Finn AI, Natalie worked at the Global Fund in Geneva, managing a USD $250 million health investment portfolio. Natalie received her MBA at IE Business School in Spain. She is a member of Canada's AI Advisory Council, sits on the IE International Women's Board and is a Director of AInBC.

Raghwa Gopal, President and CEO, Innovate BC

Raghwa Gopal joined Innovate BC from Accelerate Okanagan (AO), where he was Chief Executive Officer. At AO, Raghwa was instrumental in the creation and management of successful programs for technology companies at all stages of growth, and he has been a driving force in the development of the Okanagan's tech sector into a $1.6 billion economic contributor. A graduate of New Zealand's Central Institute of Technology in information technology, Raghwa has also received diplomas in computer science from Australia's Collier MacMillan School and the University of the South Pacific.

In addition to his corporate experience, Raghwa has lectured in the Faculty of Management (Business) at UBC Okanagan and the School of Arts and Sciences (Computer Science); has been an Entrepreneur‑in‑Residence at Okanagan College School of Business; and serves on the boards of multiple organizations including the University of British Columbia, India Canada Innovation Council, Women's Enterprise Centre, Central Okanagan Economic Development, and the Province of B.C.'s Emerging Economy Task Force.

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