U of G’s Gryphon’s LAAIR Innovation Pitch Competition Moves Online


A laptop showing a speaker before a panel of judges on screenThe University of Guelph’s Dragons’ Den-style pitch contest — the Gryphon’s LAAIR innovation showcase and pitch competition — returns next week, this time in an online, interactive format that will allow audience members to vote for their favourites.

The Gryphon’s LAAIR (Leading to the Accelerated Adoption of Innovative Research) pitch competition began in 2019 with select teams of U of G agri-food innovators presenting their products, ideas and services in five-minute pitches to a panel of industry judges.

The event will be held May 27, 3-4:30 p.m., as a live webcast.

At stake is $20,000 in prize money, which winners can use to further develop and market their innovations into commercially viable products.

Dana McCauley, director of new venture creation at U of G’s Research Innovation Office, said cancelling the event because of the need for physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic was not an option.

“The recent effects of the COVID-19 crisis have made entrepreneurial life even more tumultuous than usual,” she said. “But without these innovators who create unique, globally relevant concepts, Ontario will fall short when it comes time to kick-start Ontario’s economy. That’s why we chose to pivot our pitch competition to an online format.”

John Livernois, interim executive director of the Research Innovation Office, agreed the event is needed more than ever.

“We know startup companies will be important contributors of economic growth once the COVID-19 crisis abates, so we’re moving forward with a new approach to ensure U of G spinoffs don’t lose any momentum.”

The winner of the pitch competition will receive $10,000 to develop and market their product, and another $7,000 will be awarded to a People’s Choice winner selected through online voting by audience members. The remaining competitors will be awarded $1,000 each.

Since its debut in 2014, the larger Gryphon’s LAAIR program has helped promote dozens of U of G-connected innovations, awarding $500,000 annually to develop and bring products to market.

The pitch competition helps share with the public the real-world impact U of G innovators have on the Ontario economy. The event is funded through the University’s Research Innovation Office as part of the Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance, a collaboration between the Government of Ontario and U of G.

Previous winners have included LifeScanner, a DNA identification kit for on-the-spot testing of samples to determine species or even spot food fraud; and We Vitro Inc., which builds plant tissue culture propagation devices for commercial use.

“Having supported more than 70 projects since 2014, Gryphon’s LAAIR funding has turned University knowledge into valuable outputs that have generated new enterprises, enhanced business productivity, created jobs, and improved prosperity and people’s lives,” said Malcolm Campbell, vice president (research).

Here are this year’s competing corporations:

Harvest Genomics develops DNA technologies for farming by combining genetic testing and big data analysis for food production. From plant and animal breeding to rapid testing for herbicide-resistant weeds and invasive pest identification, this team harnesses genomics for the Ontario agriculture industry and beyond.

Green Feet Ecosystem Services uses drone technology and analytics software. An ecosystem service company, Green Feet helps farmers and land stewards to access new markets and appeal to ecology-minded customers.

Neophyto Foods strives to make it easier to choose plant-based foods. When commercially available, plant-based cheese products failed to meet the founders’ cheese-loving standards, they used food science ingenuity to create versions without compromising taste, texture or sustainability.

Psigryph Inc. uses its patent-pending Nanopect deliver system to transport bioactive molecules across cell membranes of plants, animals and humans to make nutrients more bioavailable. The company’s plant-derived nanostructures will soon enter the market.

emendWELL Inc. is a boutique research consultancy that specializes in advancing science faster and more easily, ethically and responsibly. Founder Simone Holligan created a unique online platform called SUBJECTMATTERS that helps academic researchers find suitable participants for studies and clinical trials.

The judges this year will be:

  • Shelley King, CEO, Natural Products Canada
  • Fred Wall, VP of marketing, Farm Credit Canada
  • Joe Dales, co-founder, RH Accelerator

Improv comedian and entrepreneur Jay Reid of The Making Box will host the online show.

The event is free, but interested viewers are asked to register online to receive a video event link by email.