2016 Governor General’s Innovation Awards Winners

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April 28, 2016

First Winners of Governor General’s Innovation Awards

OTTAWA—The Office of the Secretary to the Governor General is pleased to announce the inaugural winners of the Governor General’s Innovation Awards (GGIA). These awards recognize and celebrate outstanding Canadian individuals, teams and organizations whose exceptional and transformative work help shape our future and positively impact our quality of life. 

“I’m delighted to present the first six Governor General’s Innovation Awards for groundbreaking work in a variety of spheres,” said His Excellency. “In essence, innovation is about finding new and better ways to create value, to foster a more compassionate, inclusive society and to meaningfully impact our quality of life. Hailing from across the country, the recipients of these awards are demonstrating the power of creativity and collaboration to build a smarter, more caring Canada and a better world.”

Later today, at 2 p.m., the Governor General will answer questions on innovation live on Facebook, a partner of the GGIA, at www.facebook.com/gginnovation. Post your questions in advance in the comment section of the Q&A announcement.

The 2016 winners are:

Christi Belcourt
Espanola, Ontario

Christi Belcourt uses cutting-edge applied arts and design and new technologies in an effort to raise awareness and to create momentum toward innovative societal change while respecting traditional protocols and ancestral cultural traditions. Her initiatives relate to a wide range of social issues and she champions forward-looking collaborations that are models of respectful partnerships and principled adaptation of Indigenous cultural influence.

Nominated by the Canada Council for the Arts

Robert E. Burrell
Edmonton, Alberta 

Robert Burrell’s Acticoat is the first burn dressing to simultaneously kill bacteria and decrease inflammation. This revolutionized approach to wound care increases healing rates, reduces the need for skin grafts and cuts down on long-term scar management issues. With his innovation, he has saved thousands of lives and limbs around the world.

Nominated by Universities Canada  

Jeff Dahn
Halifax, Nova Scotia 

Jeff Dahn and his dedicated team of researchers have pioneered the method of high-precision coulometry to rank the life span of Li-ion cells in a few weeks of testing. Not only has this development allowed researchers worldwide to speed up the R&D process and create a better and longer-lasting Li-ion cell, but it will also contribute to the switch of our energy sources from fossil fuels to renewable resources.

Nominated by Universities Canada

J. Breanne Everett
Calgary, Alberta 

Breanne Everett co-founded Orpyx Medical Technologies to develop her idea for shoe insoles that prompt patients with diabetic foot conditions to move their feet to improve blood flow. This unique, wearable technology has improved users’ quality of life and reduced health care costs by decreasing the risks of sores, infection and amputation caused by diabetes-related nerve damage and poor circulation.

Nominated by Mitacs 

Boisbriand, Quebec

Co-founded by Charles Deguire, Kinova helps people push beyond their physical limitations and offers a more efficient and safer work environment in industrial settings. Kinova’s sleek, energy-efficient robotic arms are lightweight, quiet, unobtrusive and weather-resistant. Since its launch in 2010, the JACO arm has offered more autonomy, control and range of motion—as well as improved mental well-being—to Canadians with upper-body mobility restrictions.

Nominated by the National Research Council Canada

Mark G. Torchia and Richard Tyc
Winnipeg, Manitoba

Mark Torchia and Richard Tyc are the creators of the NeuroBlate System, a medical device that combines a novel laser probe system with real-time image guidance. Using magnetic resonance imaging and sophisticated software, the tool allows neurosurgeons in Canada and abroad to treat brain tumours and other intracranial targets in a minimally invasive way that also reduces post-operative care and health costs.

Nominated by the Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation

The GGIA Selection Committee is composed of distinguished individuals chosen for their expertise in and breadth of understanding of the innovation ecosystem. The members of the 2016 Selection Committee are listed below:

  • Sakchin Bessette, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Moment Factory
  • Jocelyne Bourgon, President of Public Governance International
  • Erin Egan, Chief Privacy Officer, Facebook
  • Naveen Jain, Board of Trustees, XPRIZE foundation
  • Daniel Lamarre, President and CEO, Cirque du Soleil
  • Heather Munroe-Blum, former principal, McGill University

Presentation Ceremony – May 19, 10:30 a.m.
The awards will be presented to the winners by His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada, during a ceremony at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa, on May 19,
at 10:30 a.m.

About the Governor General’s Innovation Awards
The Governor General’s Innovation Awards (GGIA) were created by Governor General David Johnston to foster a culture of innovation by recognizing the outstanding and groundbreaking work taking place in our country. The GGIA are sustained through the efforts of founding and nominating partners. Winners are selected through a two-stage, merit-based selection process. The selection process is managed by the Canada Foundation for Innovation while the execution of all aspects of the program is overseen by the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General.

A fact sheet on the Governor General’s Innovation Awards is attached. For more information, visit innovation.gg.ca. 


Details regarding the awards ceremony will be released at a later date.

Media information:

For details regarding the awards or the ceremony:
Julie Rocheleau
Rideau Hall Press Office

For interview requests with the 2016 winners:
Caroline Bourbonnière

Follow GGDavidJohnston and RideauHall on Facebook and Twitter.



Innovation is one of the primary driving forces behind Canada’s prosperity, standard of living and quality of life. And while Canadians are some of the world’s most accomplished innovators, we seldom recognize ourselves as such or celebrate our outstanding contributions to our society and to humanity as a whole.

In today’s globally competitive and interconnected world, increasing productivity through the creation of new products and services, improving public sector performance, and building an inclusive, compassionate society will be the keys to Canada’s success as a caring, efficient and prosperous nation.

Announced in June 2015, the Governor General’s Innovation Awards inspire Canadians to embrace innovation and to emulate innovative, entrepreneurial risk-takers who have developed new or better ways of creating value and who are having a meaningful impact on our quality of life.

As innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit are fundamentally important to all Canadians and can have a transformative, positive impact—regardless of whether it is in the private, public or not-for-profit realms—the awards encompass all sectors of Canadian society and will:

  • Celebrate excellence in innovation across all sectors of Canadian society;
  • Inspire Canadians, particularly Canadian youth, to be entrepreneurial innovators; and
  • Foster an active culture of innovation that has a meaningful impact on our lives.

Each year, up to six award winners are identified through a two-stage, merit-based selection process. This process is managed by the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

The Governor General’s Innovation Awards are given to individuals, teams and/or organizations whose innovations are:

  • Truly exceptional;
  • Transformative; and,
  • Positive in their impact on quality of life in Canada.

The program operates on an annual cycle, with an awards ceremony held each spring. The Office of the Secretary to the Governor General oversees the execution of all aspects of the program in conjunction with founding partners and nominating partners.

Selection Process and Criteria
The awards are given for current or recent innovations that have a positive impact on quality of life in Canada, whether it is in the private, public or not-for-profit realms. They are not intended for lifetime achievement or for innovations that have not yet demonstrated impact. Nominees can be at any stage in their life or career. In addition to being assessed on whether they are truly exceptional, transformative and are having a positive impact on society, nominees will be assessed on the basis of the following four specific selection criteria:

  • Extent to which the individual, team or organization has shown initiative and leadership to be agents of change in addressing a current issue about which they are passionate.
  • Creative use of new knowledge and/or technology to develop ideas aimed at addressing contemporary social, economic or cultural challenges and solving real-world problems.
  • Evidence of the successful implementation of these ideas, resulting in a positive impact beyond the nominee’s own community or organization.
  • The degree to which the nominee and the activities undertaken have demonstrated inspiration, creativity, collaboration, risk-taking and problem solving.

All eligible nominations are received by the Canada Foundation for Innovation and undergo a two-stage, merit-based selection process involving an Assessment Committee and a Selection Committee. The Assessment Committee members are recruited for their knowledge in private, public and social innovation. The Assessment Committee members identify up to 20 top nominations from all those submitted by the nominating partners. This group of nominees is recommended to the Selection Committee as finalists for the Governor General’s Innovation Awards.

The GGIA Selection Committee is composed of distinguished individuals chosen for their expertise in and breadth of understanding of the innovation ecosystem. The committee members examine the list of finalists and select up to six award winners whose work exemplifies innovations that are truly exceptional, transformative and are having a positive impact on society, and who best meet the selection criteria.

The board of directors of the Canada Foundation for Innovation confirms the recommendations made by the Selection Committee. The list of award winners is then transmitted to the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General.

The Governor General’s Innovation Awards is an ongoing national awards program, sustained through both public and private financial contributions and through the efforts of numerous organizations across Canada. 

Founding Partners

  • The Office of the Secretary to the Governor General oversees all aspects of the awards.
  • The Canada Foundation for Innovation manages the selection process, drawing on the knowledge and expertise of highly accomplished individuals from all sectors of society.
  • The Canadian Science and Technology Museums Corporation supports the initiative through public education and outreach by showcasing and promoting Canada’s outstanding innovation success stories.
  • The Rideau Hall Foundation gathers and aligns contributions from philanthropic and corporate sectors.

Nominating Partners 
Drawn from all sectors of society, and authorized by the Office of the Secretary to the Governor General, nominating partners seek out, gather and submit nominations on behalf of their members, clients, partners and associates. Nominating partners include organizations that currently deliver innovation-related awards programs and other organizations that work to support and promote innovation across Canada. In addition to providing a consistent and sustainable flow of nominations on an annual basis, partners assist in promoting the program and generating visibility across the country. The nominating partners have been selected on the basis of the following considerations:

  • Reputation: publicly recognized as well-respected and credible
  • National significance: by their nature, pre-eminent, high-profile and “top of their field”
  • Sustainability: in their institutional, financial and operational activities
  • Non-partisan
  • Integrity of governance and decision-making processes (and, if currently bestowing awards, integrity and neutrality in the nominations and selection processes.) 

List of Nominating Partners (as of April 2016)
Association francophone pour le savoir
Business Council of Canada
Business Development Bank of Canada
Canada Council for the Arts
Canada Gairdner Awards
Canada’s Public Policy Forum
Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Centre for Social Innovation
Chantier de l’économie Sociale
Colleges and Institutes Canada
Community Foundations of Canada
Entertainment Software Association of Canada
Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation
Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of The Year
Excellence Canada
Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Imagine Canada
Institut du Nouveau Monde
Information Technology Association of Canada
MaRS Discovery District
National Research Council of Canada
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation
Polytechnics Canada
Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
Startup Canada
Sustainable Development Technology Canada
The Institute of Public Administration of Canada
The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation
TRICO evolution
Universities Canada