There’s never been a better time to live – and scale your start-up – in Nova Scotia. And Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, is attracting agtech and industrial biotech start-ups from around the world.

While it may be best known for its high tides, lobster and apples, Nova Scotia, Canada, also has every advantage your business needs.

An abundance of talent. A thriving technology sector and entrepreneurial community. A perfect combination of universities, government programs and capital. A location on Canada’s breathtaking East Coast – halfway between the Pacific Coast and Europe. Plus, low business costs and an unmatched quality of life.

It’s always a great time to grow your technology company in Nova Scotia, and now there’s something extra on offer – AscendBio in Cape Breton.

AscendBio enables companies in the agtech and industrial biotech sectors to scale up their technologies and business operations, thanks to the Verschuren Centre’s scientific and technical expertise and infrastructure, along with Innovacorp’s sector expertise, business support and international networks. Together, the partners, along with other supporters like ACOA (Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency), help companies achieve investor-readiness through the pre-seed to Series A funding stages.

The AscendBio Advantage: Velocity, Capital Efficiency, Supportive Ecosystem

Companies are attracted to the AscendBio program by the ability to grow faster, access capital efficiencies, and join a supportive ecosystem. Specifically, they are coming for:

  • Specialized equipment suitable for commercial-scale development and demonstrations
    Most academic research institutions do not have equipment suited for commercial-scale work. A company can develop an 80-100 L sample in a lab, for example, but often needs to send about 1000 L to test a product with a potential buyer. The Verschuren Centre has a lengthy list of analytical tools, a BSL 2 lab, bench to pilot fermentation, materials characterization and bench top extrusion. In addition, the centre houses a full pilot commercialization lab, featuring 100L and 1000L bioreactors, and associated pilot scale downstream processing equipment for separation, membrane purification, and drying. (pilot facility highlights)
  • Scientific and technical expertise in fields such as chemical engineering, microbiology, pilot design, process engineering, biochemistry, fermentation, polymer science and organic chemistry
    Meet the Verschuren Centre team.
  • Collaborative and agile approach to product and process development
    Unlike with many toll-processing facilities, AscendBio clients can be on site with the Verschuren Centre team during testing and production, letting them learn and iterate in real-time and build their own team’s skills.
  • Ability to maintain full ownership of their intellectual property
    AscendBio clients fully retain and protect their IP through their work with the Verschuren Centre and Innovacorp.
  • Non-dilutive capital from provincial and federal government
  • Feedstock (i.e., marine, forestry and industrial inputs)
  • Network of strategic partners, customers, research collaborators, investors
    You’ll be connected to the people and resources you need to grow your company.
    Innovacorp manages a pre-seed and seed investment fund for deep technology start-ups in Nova Scotia. It is also a limited partner in two funds targeting Atlantic Canadian start-ups and has a solid network of angel and institution investors.
  • Land and industrial space to grow
    Once you’ve finished developing your product at the Verschuren Centre, Nova Scotia has plenty of space for you to build out your own facilities.
  • Ability to attract talent
    Nova Scotia is Canada’s university capital, boasting most highly educated, skilled and reliable workforces.
  • Start-Up Visa Program
    Innovacorp is a designated organization under the federal government’s Start-Up Visa Program, able to recommend entrepreneurs to receive a start-up visa from Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada under the program’s business incubation stream.
  • Nova Scotia’s low business costs and quality of life
    In addition to cost savings from the AscendBio program itself, Nova Scotia’s overall business costs are very competitive with other locations. Further, we have one of the most generous R&D tax incentives in the industrialized world. As for quality of life, where should we start! Public healthcare, safety, clean air… we can go on and on.

AscendBio Sectors, Stage and Clients

The Sectors
Companies at AscendBio are helping address two of the world’s biggest sustainability challenges: mitigating climate change and feeding the world’s growing population. Clients from across Canada, the United States and Europe are piloting innovations related to disease detection, crop biostimulation and protection, and sustainable ingredients for industry to replace petroleum-based products.

The Stage
AscendBio clients are developing technologies that have the potential to solve large global problems. The companies are beyond the early stage; they have strong customer validation of the problem and the potential solution and have hit early technical milestones. Most have solid start-up experience or have graduated from an accelerator, raised some early financing, and are focused on scaling the business.

AscendBio Clients
Further below are the first eight AscendBio clients. Together they raised $7.7 million in the last year, with a combined valuation of $43 million.

AscendBio Partners

About the Verschuren Centre
The Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment is facilitating the transition to a green and circular economy through supporting innovative clean technology commercialization. The centre has established teams of expertise in key areas to assist companies advance IP and accelerate uptake in manufacturing and primary production industries. Areas of specialty include industrial and agtech bioprocessing, carbon and polymer materials, thermal energy transitioning and storage and climate mitigation in aquaculture.

About Innovacorp
Innovacorp is Nova Scotia’s early stage venture capital organization. It finds, funds and fosters innovative Nova Scotia start-ups that strive to change the world. The organization provides entrepreneurs with access to venture capital, incubation facilities, expert advice and other support to help them commercialize their technologies, accelerate their companies, and succeed in the global marketplace. Target industries include information technology, life sciences, clean technology and ocean technology.


Paul Richards & Beth Mason

Bio-graphene additives to increase the strength of concrete and reduce its environmental footprint

Natural ingredients for the food and cosmetics industries using fermentation of renewable raw materials such as sugar and agriculture biomass

Low-cost controlled-release fertilizers for farmers

Technology to convert biological waste from fish and other animals into fertilizer

Lab-on-a-chip technology to detect pathogens such as ecoli and salmonella

Emission-negative process that uses dead cell fermentation ("zombie cells") to convert toxic waste into high value materials

Fermentation technology to produce biobased glycolic acid for cosmetics and personal care products

Organic replacements for agrochemicals that protect plants against disease and increase plant yield