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OCE may see its funding cut by as much as half, while Ontario is reducing its funding to MaRS, the Toronto-based incubator, by $2 million, or 30 per cent of the province’s contribution. (Globe and Mail)

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Talking point: In a statement to The Logic, MaRS spokesperson Corey Black said that the unplanned funding reduction represents less than 10 per cent of the organization’s operating budget. “We are expecting to retain most staff by covering vacancies internally; however, as we restructure departments in upcoming weeks, there may be a small staff reduction,” he said. Following publication, MaRS CEO Yung Wu contacted The Logic and said potential job losses would not be a result of the funding cuts, but he did not answer a question about what might cause the layoffs. These reported funding cuts come a week after The Logic first broke the news that Communitech laid off 15 staff in the face of a 30 per cent funding reduction from the province.

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Waterloo-based Communitech will get $18 million, MaRS Discovery District will get $17.5 million and Invest Ottawa will get $16.9 million as part of a new Scale-Up Program meant to help 30 Ontario firms reach annual revenues of $100 million by 2024. The prime minister said the program will create 18,000 “high-paying middle-class” jobs and attract more than $4 billion in investments. Meanwhile, Innovation Minister Navdeep Bains announced $500,000 for the Northwestern Ontario Innovation Centre in Kenora. (The Logic)

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Talking point: In October 2018, The Logic published an internal government report that outlined a proposed scale-up program seeking to build 25 companies with annual revenues of over $100 million in the next 10 years. Tuesday’s announcement proposes a shorter timeline and more high-growth firms, but is short on specifics on how to hit those goals. The October report, by contrast, had plenty of specifics on how to create $100-million firms. It suggested a “lifetime limit” for companies receiving government funding. It also suggests dramatically reforming the Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax-credit program and changing the behaviour of the Business Development Bank of Canada and Export Development Canada to stop being what the report describes as risk-averse.

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The Toronto-based innovation hub has hired John Duffy, Conal Slobodin and Conor Coles of StrategyCorp to lobby the PMO, the finance department and Innovation, Science and Economic Development. Dr. Raphael Hofstein, MaRS Innovation CEO, told The Logic he’s looking for funding in the “tens of millions” to help promising Canadian biomedical startups stay in Canada, and bridge the gap between seed-stage funding and being established enough to attract venture capital investment. “People start things in Canada but they can’t get funding so they go south and it helps the U.S. economy. That makes no sense,” said Hofstein. (The Logic)

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Talking point: The appeal for funding is new. In October 2018, MaRS Innovation hired a lobbyist tasked with introducing the hub to key players in the federal government. Duffy himself is a noteworthy hire. The StrategyCorp founder currently represents a series of other powerful companies, including Sidewalk Labs, the e-cigarette company Juul Labs and the construction giant EllisDon. MaRS Innovation focuses on early-stage seed investments for life-science companies. The hub mostly helps Toronto’s major research universities and hospitals package and commercialize the intellectual property they generate.

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The rover was made to operate for just three months, but survived on the planet for 15 years. (The day it launched, the NASDAQ closed at 1,720.71). Opportunity met its untimely end by dust storm eight months ago; flight controllers have been trying to make contact since then. They sent their last set of recovery commands Tuesday night, but were met with silence. (Associated Press)

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Talking point: Along with its twin rover, Spirit—which it outlived by several years—Opportunity found critical proof that ancient Mars may have been hospitable to life. Opportunity travelled a record 45 kilometres around the planet, working longer than any other lander in history. After being unable to make contact—and with costs reaching around US$500,000 a month—NASA decided to terminate the project. Now that both Opportunity and Spirit are gone, scientists consider this the end of an era. This won’t be NASA’s last Mars rover, however: it plans to launch Mars 2020 next year, which will test the planet’s soil for signs of past microbial life.

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Waterfront Toronto has commissioned MaRS Solutions Lab to develop a primer on the issue of data trusts, a potential approach to the governance of data within the Quayside development proposed by Sidewalk Labs. Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk Labs are splitting the funding for this initiative, and the contract is under the $50,000 threshold dictated by Waterfront Toronto’s procurement policy to publicly release awarded contracts. (The Logic)

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Talking point: Waterfront Toronto has had a Memorandum of Understanding with MaRS dating back to 2015 for this type of work in innovation and solution assessments. The goal is to “create a public Primer document that can serve as a source of accessible information in order to inform and enable subsequent public consultation and dialogue,” according to a presentation given to Waterfront Toronto’s Digital Strategy Advisory Panel on Thursday. The primer will be publicly released on January 14 and will be discussed at the next Civic Labs meeting specifically focused on the issue of a data trust, which takes place soon after.

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The cancellation came just 17 minutes before blast-off. The launch is now scheduled for Saturday at 3:22 p.m. ET. (The New York Times)

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Talking point: NASA believes the future of space is chartered flights on private spacecraft, with the emergence of players like Jeff Bezos’s Blue Origin and Boeing’s Starliner, which SpaceX beat in the race to the launch pad. Countless companies were hoping today would be a watershed moment for the future of space exploration, moving it from a government enterprise to a commercial industry that could be worth US$1 trillion by 2040. Prior to the postponement, Dylan Taylor, CEO of Voyager Space Holdings, which is gunning to compete with SpaceX, told Protocol that the launch’s failure “would call into question everything about private enterprise, commercial crew, all of that stuff.” Onlookers noted there were no technical failures in the lead-up to today’s launch. If successful could accelerate ambitions touted by Silicon Valley billionaires of building lunar bases or sending people to Mars. Actor Tom Cruise has even expressed interest in using the International Space Station for a film.