Design Engineering

NRC looks to expand Canadian medical devices sector

By Design Engineering staff   

General Medical design government funding

The National Research Council (NRC) is planning to help Canadian companies capture a larger share of the multibillion-dollar medical devices industry, now poised for rapid growth.

According to the organization’s monthly online NRC Highlights, it is scanning the industry to find where it can have the greatest national impact.

“Using information garnered from industry consultations, we’re aiming to complete a medical devices strategy by the end of this year,” says Paul Wiebe, director of business development at the NRC Institute for Biodiagnostics (NRC-IBD) in Winnipeg, and co-chair of the NRC medical devices key sector working committee. This initiative is led jointly by NRC-IBD and the NRC Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences (NRC-SIMS).


According to Industry Canada, the Canadian medical devices industry comprised 998 firms in 2005, which collectively employed 26,000 people, generated more than $4 billion in sales, and exported $2.4 billion worth of goods. Two of the fastest growing markets within this industry are medical imaging (a US$14.5 billion global industry in 2003-’04) and non-invasive diagnostics (a US$21 billion global industry in 2003-’04).

NRC president Pierre Coulombe, in a recent online column, has highlighted the medical devices industry as a key sector to focus R&D efforts.

“NRC has much to offer medical devices companies through the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program and our state-of-the-art research facilities,” he says. “Across NRC, we boast expertise in biosensors, implantable biomaterials and magnetic resonance imaging as well as microfluidics, spectroscopy and surgical robotics. We also offer business and market intelligence services, a wealth of information resources, intellectual property/knowledge management, and support for small and medium-sized enterprises.”

Additionally, NRC has a history in this field, dating back more than half a century when NRC researchers designed the world’s first practical electric wheelchair to help injured veterans of World War II. Other NRC inventions include the world’s first cardiac pacemaker as well as the first pacemaker to be powered by the human body.

“More recently, we’ve seen a lot of commercialization activity out of NRC labs,” says Wiebe in March 2009’s NRC Highlights. NRC spin-offs include Ottawa-based Ionalytics (now Thermo Scientific), which developed a technology that improves the performance of mass spectrometers used for medical applications; Winnipeg-based IMRIS, which produces advanced surgical imaging systems; and Mississauga, Ont.-based Novadaq, which specializes in cardiovascular imaging devices.


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