The TEC Innovation District is a 24-hour community workspace designed to help tech entrepreneurs and companies grow their business. (Illustration: TEC Edmonton)
There comes a point where the only thing standing between someone in need of an organ transplant and a matching organ is time.
In an effort to buy the organ transplant delivery system more time, Darren Freed, a cardiac surgery professor at the University of Alberta, invented a portable device that keeps critical organs like hearts and lungs viable for transplant at least twice as long as the six or so hours they have now.
The Ex-Vivo Organ Support System, as the device is known, goes against the convention of packing organs in ice. Instead, it keeps the organs warm and supplied with oxygen as if still in the donor’s body. The technology also enables better resuscitation of dysfunctional organs, potentially doubling or tripling the number of donor organs available worldwide.
While their product is still in development, the technology could potentially save thousands of lives. And yet, were it not for U of A-led business accelerator TEC Edmonton, the idea for the product may have remained just that: an idea.
“We received CEO services at the start, and that was just what we needed when we needed it,” said Nels Freed, director of engineering and co-founder of Tevosol, the U of A spinoff company that owns the device. “None of us had started a business before. You have this idea and then you start thinking, ‘We need to have a business, but how?’
“I don’t see how we could have done this without TEC Edmonton.”
That was the consensus among TEC Edmonton clients on hand to unveil the TEC Innovation District, a new community workspace located on the ground floor of Enterprise Square in the heart of Edmonton’s downtown.
“This accelerator space is more than just 24-hour physical workspace for tech entrepreneurs and companies; it’s also access to programs and resources that help entrepreneurs and companies grow and succeed,” said Larry Kostiuk, U of A assistant vice-president of research.
Chris Lumb, CEO of TEC Edmonton, says the main-floor Enterprise Square location was chosen because of its street-front appeal as a touchpoint for technology entrepreneurs to get mentorship and coaching from TEC Edmonton's in-house team of entrepreneurs and experts.
“Everything that takes place in an innovation space happens because there is a community that is committed to make it happen, is prepared to put resources into it and comes together and recognizes the strength of the various players in the system,” said Lumb.
The new space will allow TEC Edmonton to do more of what it does best—grow companies. Deron Bilous, Alberta’s minister of economic development and trade, said TEC Edmonton companies have an annual growth rate of 25 per cent, compared with a rate of less than five per cent nationally.
However, he noted that those U of A-driven discoveries and innovations don’t happen in a vacuum—they require strong support, funding and collaboration.
“We need Alberta to be the place where great ideas begin and where they succeed,” said Bilous. “More than ever we need to build a strong base for innovation, which includes excellence in basic and applied research programs, a business climate encouraging and supporting innovation, and targeted supports for innovators through commercialization hubs.”