Canadian Government Funding to Support Open Data Enterprises

ODX Ventures Supports Open Data Businesses

Can you create an open data retrieval platform that accesses non-standardized data sets? How can the thousands of parameters affecting watercourses be used to help a sport angler? Is there a way to apply machine learning to the process of interpreting satellite imagery?

Enterprises are increasingly using open data sets to create or improve their products and services, however sourcing this data and understanding how to use it can be challenging. Luckily, collaborative support services such as ODX Ventures can help bridge the gap and help small businesses use open data.

ODX Ventures, administered by Canada’s Open Data Exchange (ODX), offers startups and SMEs up to $50,000 to select Ontario-based companies that use open data to build their enterprises.

ODX Ventures’ Cohort 2 application period is open until September 22, 2017. Interested companies should apply as soon as possible to access this business expansion funding opportunity.

What is ODX Ventures?

ODX Ventures is a program supporting Ontario-based businesses using open data in their product or service. The program provides up to $50,000 in support to startups and SMEs for developing products, gaining market traction, and scaling their company to become investment ready. The contribution is provided in resources and professional services to help product and company development.

Although the program is open to all eligible companies, ODX Ventures looks for applications that show proof of market traction in industries such as:

  • Agriculture;
  • Education;
  • Finance & insurance;
  • Healthcare; and
  • Transportation & Logistics.

Please Note: Successful applicants must be willing to provide an in-kind match to the amount awarded.

How Open Data Supports Product/Service Development

The doors have been opened to a vast trove of open data, thanks to the Canadian government’s pledge to openness, by making data sets available to the public and academics, and to businesses that see opportunities in the commercialization of open data.

In the 2016 cohort of ODX Ventures, eight companies were selected to receive open data support services. This includes:

Open Data to Support Information Extraction: ThinkData Works

Getting at all that data is what powered ThinkData Works, a member of the 2016 ODX Ventures cohort.

The Toronto-based company helps other companies overcome barriers to extracting high-value data from a multiplicity of open data sources, through, its combined dataset catalogue and open data search engine. Namara’s data pool is huge, topping one billion rows of open data.

ThinkData Works CEO Bryan Smith says that the clean and standardized data produced by ThinkData’s engineers is a valuable commodity as computing embraces machine learning and artificial intelligence, and it’s a commodity that has attracted such clients as IBM and Thomson Reuters.

Smith says the ODX Ventures program helped develop the company’s prototype, even deploying it from the ODX website.

“The ODX Ventures program enabled us to invest in the development of a piece of technology that we knew the market needed, but wasn’t willing to purchase until a working prototype was deployed. . . ODX Ventures funding allowed us to build out what we knew was needed to get large corporate clients to start ingesting public data.”

Open Data to Support Sport Fishermen: FISHBUOY

You might guess that IBM and Thomson Reuters would want a portal to open data, but how can open data help a sports fisherman? Another member of the 2016 ODX Ventures cohort, Waterloo-based ENVionX Inc., is deploying an application called FISHBUOY. The platform uses historical and open data sets pulled from more than 17,000 real-time monitoring stations reporting to such agencies as Environment Canada and the U.S. Geological Survey, to help anglers leverage the link between environmental conditions and fish feeding behaviour.

Company founder Martin Draeger says FISHBUOY needed scripts and APIs to pull the open data at a high frequency and volume, and to integrate the elements necessary “for fishermen to learn from their fish catches, plan better for the next trips, and catch more fish.”

Being a part of the 2016 ODX Ventures cohort “has been instrumental in moving FISHBUOY to the next level in product enhancement.”

Draeger says that the program gave his company access to funding to develop the “APIs, scripts and code that make accessing and manipulating open data easier and more reliable. . .  Without ODX [Ventures], FISHBUOY would not have progressed as quickly to the current state of the product which is scheduled to be released fully to the public later this year.”

Open Data to Support Satellite Imagery: Ecopia Tech

Creating artificial intelligence algorithms to interpret satellite imagery the way humans would, is the goal of Ecopia Tech, a third member of the 2016 cohort.

Founded in 2013, Ecopia has teams in its Waterloo and Toronto offices who mine geospatial big data to create maps for enterprise decision-makers in five countries.

Jon Lipinski, Co-Founder, Business Development, points to Ecopia’s recently mapping of building footprints of the 20 million structures across 7.6 million square kilometres of Australia as an example of the high-value results from satellite imagery. The building footprints have been fundamental for a platform that can be used for anything from fire and flood risk assessment, to property value analysis.

Lipinski says that ODX Ventures helped Ecopia connect with various local municipalities, potential partners and funding opportunities, and provided funding to accelerate the company’s use of open data.

“ODX Ventures provided foundational support to the commercialization of Ecopia’s artificial intelligence engine, propelling our ability to mine geospatial big data,” Lipinski says.

Get Started with ODX Ventures

There are many uses for open data that are waiting for a creative approach to unlock. ODX Ventures supports exploration of that creative approach.

ODX Ventures’ Cohort 2 application period is open until September 22, 2017. Interested companies should apply as soon as possible to access this business expansion funding opportunity.

Applicants should note that ODX Ventures isn’t a program to get “free money.” The program supports enterprises that increase the overall adoption of open data, therefore serving the needs of their clients through application of open data-driven solutions. The requirements to join the program are considerable; but so are the rewards to companies bringing open data-empowered products or services to the marketplace.

See additional requirements on ODX Ventures’ website. Accessing ODX Ventures begins now: the 2017 call for applications is open.

AUTHOR PROFILE: Engineer and entrepreneur Kevin Tuer, Managing Director of Canada’s Open Data Exchange, has years of experience in the fields of research commercialization and enterprise development. He believes the nation can profit as the public and private sectors collaborate to realize the potential of open data.


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