Canadian tech execs strengthening ties here

April 11, 2005


Technology executives from Canada's Atlantic Provinces hit Chicago this week. It's part of a broader trade mission to boost commercial ties with Canada's eastern provinces.

Chicago-headquartered Abridean Corp. is a successful Atlantic Canada-to-Chicago tech collaboration. Abridean develops specialized software used by large companies to manage employee access to computer networks.

The computer identity-management software firm was incubated in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Headquarters migrated to Chicago for better reach to global markets.

Sean Sears, Abridean's 44-year-old CEO is a delegate to this week's trade mission and a proponent of the Atlantic Canada-Chicago connection. Sears sees opportunity for more low-cost software development done near-shore in Halifax, rather than in more-distant Bangalore, India, or more expensive Silicon Valley.

"Chicago is a great choice for Abridean," says Sears, who compared Boston and the Windy City. "Chicago is a better market for reaching the U.S. and global markets. It's less expensive. There's a terrific talent base here."

According to Sears, Halifax boasts five universities and a host of IT and biotech startups. He'd like to see more startup companies incubate in Canada and establish offices here.

Helping build bridges to those startups is David Weinstein, president of the Chicagoland Entrepreneurial Center, who chairs a panel on tech transfer this week for the 45 Atlantic Canada trade delegates.

Other members of the panel include David Gulley, University of Illinois at Chicago assistant vice chancellor for research; Carl Gulbrandsen, managing director of WARF, the University of Wisconsin patent-management arm; Tom Thornton, president Illinois Technology Development Alliance, and Neil Kane, co-founder of venture advisory firm Illinois Partners.

Lavin outlines plan

Gov. Blagojevich's point man on economic development, Jack Lavin, head of the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, outlined a five-point economic development program for 200 people at the City Club of Chicago last week.

In addition to traditional investments in workforce development and transportation, the program pursues technology industries of the future -- biotech and nanotech -- as well as industries related to national security and energy independence. A continued commitment to support entrepreneurship is a cornerstone of the program.

Lavin commissioned the University of Chicago to "survey key leaders in the business community and gauge attitudes on the economy in Illinois."

Lavin pressed hard for passage of the governor's proposed capital budget saying, "The state is at a tipping point where we can either promote aggressive, progressive, forward-thinking strategies to succeed, or we can rest on our laurels and watch our competitors pass us by."

Among the priorities is $57 million in state funding to match $2 billion in federal funding for Argonne National Labs. Also high on the list is support for Northwestern University's Institute for Nanotechnology.

Lavin seeks backing for the $200 million Illinois Opportunity Fund, which would provide venture capital to Illinois entrepreneurs.

Lavin expects the program to ultimately be self funding, and he adds, "The Illinois Opportunity Fund will barely cost the taxpayers a dime." Lavin stressed other Midwestern states are enacting similar legislation, and warns Illinois will fall behind in economic development without passage of the legislation.

Lavin also outlined programs backing biotech and support for alternative energy efforts in wind power, ethanol fuels and clean coal technology.

Bits & bytes

RFID Journal editor Mark Roberti brings the global leaders of RFID technology (radio frequency identification) to Chicago today at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers.

Tom Thornton, president Illinois Technology Development Alliance, and Tom Churchwell, managing partner, ARCH Development, welcome three promising Chicago area startups at today's Monday Morning Meeting at the Evanston Hilton.

Presenters are: Mary Jo Gorman, co-founder Advanced ICU Care, a remote intensive care monitoring services provider; Garnet Steen, founder RelyData which helps identity theft victims, and Steve Gately, president, RND Pharmaceuticals, an early stage biopharma firm exploring cancer treatments.

Michael Krauss is a Chicago area tech writer and consultant. 


 ©2005 Marion Consulting Partners