SURREY — Brain tests and virtual reality simulations were just two technologies showcased during a tour of Surrey’s Innovation Boulevard on Thursday (June 15).
Hosted by the Downtown Surrey BIA, the event aimed to highlight a number of “major milestones” of the health and technology district, as well as the next phase of “nation-leading” projects set to begin.
Conquer Mobile showed off its virtual reality simulation software that helps health authorities train neurosurgery residents or nurses.
Conquer Mobile CEO Angela Robert demonstrated the VR Thursday.
“I’m transported down into the operating room so you can look around and you can see the full operating room,” she explained, “and you can walk around quite a bit.
“It’s an instrumentation learner or simulation,” Robert added. “So they would do this many times over and over and know the instrument. So you can tell I’ve done this a bunch of times, so I should know the instruments but if I select a wrong one, you can see I get a wrong mark there.”
Neurocheck’s soon-to-be-launched technology calculates a person’s “brain power score” via a two-minute test, which helps people understand the impacts of daily habits to maximize functioning.
The company is also developing a medical grade headset, in partnership with HealthTech Connex, aimed at finding “brain vital sign information.”
“This would essentially be at your doctor or naturopath and they would check annually or regularly, how your brain health is doing. We think this gives you a good snap shot of your brain health,” explained Pamela Tannouri, technology and development manager with HealthTech Connex.
It’s like a blood pressure monitor for your brain, she added.
In the same buliding just one day earlier, Canada’s first Medtronic Resource Centre for patients with diabetes held its grand opening in the health tech district, at 13737 96th Ave.
Surrey diabetes specialist Dr. Chris Mahony said the centre has been “much anticipated as a real-world solution to a real-world problem, offering post-marketing care of our clients on an intensive insulin regimen using Medtronic insulin pump technology.”
He said the centre will “raise the bar” to a new level of support.
Before the tour began on Thursday, Mayor Linda Hepner told the crowd that Innovation Boulevard has received $45 million in grant funding, $36 million to create a national centre of excellence and $14 million in infrastructure investment.
“And earlier this year, we were identified as British Columbia’s only accelerator for health technology as part of the BC Accelerator Network,” said Hepner. “What that fundamentally means is anyone who comes forward with a health tech proposition is referred by the network to this hub here in Surrey.
“I can tell you right now that we’re working with more than 42 companies,” she added.
Peter Payne is president and CEO of Innovation Boulevard.
Asked to highlight one company along the Thursday afternoon tour, Payne said he really likes Biomark Diagnostics.
He explained the company “examines panels of diagnostics to give a better final diagnosis for predicting what treatments would work best with various cancer patients.”
Payne said companies like Biomark are attracted to Surrey’s health tech district for a number of reasons.
“I think the advantage that Surrey has is that we have space,” Payne told the Now-Leader. “And we have a decent cost of living here and there is a lot of talent here with Simon Fraser University and KPU and a number of other groups here.
“So that’s one of the things the company have really been attracted to is the talent that’s available here,” he added. “That’s a big deal because everybody else is struggling to find the talent. The other opportunity we have here is attracting talent from south of the border who are willing to come up here. This is the first stop when you come across the border.”
And those behind Innovation Boulevard have their eyes on businesses south of the border.
During the tour on June 15, Innovation Boulevard announced its partnership with TrueNorth, a Vancouver-based company that provides organizations with a “turnkey backup plan” for foreign visa holders working for an American company.
TrueNorth co-founder Michael Tippett explained the company was created to help companies affected by new U.S. and Canadian immigration rules.
“What is not widely known is that almost half of the companies based in Silicon Valley are founded by immigrants, and a large portion of their workforce are made up of foreign workers,” said Tippett. “With the upcoming changes to immigration policies in the U.S., this will have huge implications for businesses based in the U.S.”
Rowena Rizzotti, vice-president of health care and innovation at Surrey’s health and tech district said: “In light of the immigration uncertainties in the U.S., many American companies are looking at alternative locations to set up their operations.
“Our partnership with TrueNorth will help us reach out to these companies to promote the Health and Technology District and BC’s Lower Mainland as an attractive and viable option, especially given BC’s focus on the Cascadia Innovation Corridor,” she added.
Innovation Boulevard is “an agile partnership of health, business, higher education and government creating new health technologies to improve peoples’ lives.”
It currently focuses on three areas of technology, which are medical devices, independent living and digital health.