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2018 Governor General’s Innovation Award Winners

May 14, 2018

OTTAWA—The Office of the Secretary to the Governor General is pleased to announce the winners of the 2018 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.

Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, will present the awards to the winners during a ceremony on May 23, 2018, at 10:30 a.m., at Rideau Hall, in Ottawa.

Listed below are the winners and their citations:

Tom Chau

Toronto, Ontario

Dr. Tom Chau has developed pioneering access technologies to help non-verbal individuals overcome communication obstacles. Working with a multidisciplinary team, Dr. Chau has examined how hemodynamic signal features and facial thermography can be employed in emerging methods of electrical engineering and machine learning. The result is a range of personalized, life-changing assistive technologies that give voice to the voiceless. From virtual musical instruments and vocal cord transmitters to an ultrasonic brain-computer interface, these innovations have had a profound impact on families, caregivers and health care providers by boldly reimagining the way we communicate.

Nominated by MaRS Discovery District

First Nations Finance Authority

Westbank, British Columbia

The First Nations Finance Authority (FNFA) developed an innovative funding regime that cuts borrowing costs and provides interest rate certainty for First Nations communities. FNFA developed partnerships with the National Bank of Canada and financial markets, and promoted new voluntary standards for internal fiscal management in First Nations communities. This unorthodox approach to loans involves leading-edge financial techniques that calculate individual First Nations’ borrowing capacities based on existing revenue-generating activities. In this way, First Nations are empowered to develop long-term community plans and to better manage their own economic development.

Nominated by the Business Council of Canada

Mary Gordon

Toronto, Ontario

Roots of Empathy was created by Mary Gordon as a means of reducing aggression and bullying among school-aged children. At the heart of the program are a parent and baby who visit a classroom over the course of a school year. A Roots of Empathy instructor, using an accredited curriculum, coaches the students to observe the baby’s development and to label the baby’s feelings. In this experiential learning, the baby is the “teacher” and a catalyst to help children identify and reflect on their own feelings and the feelings of others. Research from three continents confirms the impact of this unprecedented program and its success in fostering greater kindness, cooperation and sharing among students.

Nominated by Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation

Kamran Khan

Toronto, Ontario

The worldwide health, economic and social impacts of the SARS epidemic in 2003 inspired Dr. Kamran Khan to develop a global early warning system for dangerous infectious diseases. He spent the next decade working to create a big data platform to drive scientific research on outbreaks and pandemics, and founded BlueDot in 2013 to accelerate that goal. Using geographic information systems, natural language processing and artificial intelligence, the multidisciplinary team at BlueDot has been able to predict the worldwide spread of influenza, and track the spread of recent outbreaks, including Ebola and the Zika virus.

Nominated by MaRS Discovery District

Gary Kobinger and Xiangguo Qiu

Winnipeg, Manitoba

Drs. Kobinger and Qiu created ZMapp to treat patients with the Ebola virus. ZMapp comprises a cocktail of monoclonal antibody therapies that act like missiles targeting the outer shell of the Ebola virus, preventing it from replicating. Its first human applications resulted in the full recovery of two medical missionaries and 25 first responders and residents during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in Liberia. Since then, ZMapp has been driving studies into the efficacy of monoclonal antibody therapies against HIV, Lassa, Marburg and other infectious illnesses.

Nominated by Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation

Terry-Lynn Young, Sean Connors, Kathleen Hodgkinson and Daryl Pullman

(Memorial University of Newfoundland Research Team)
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador

The research team at Memorial University of Newfoundland identified a lethal gene mutation known to have caused sudden cardiac death in 25 Newfoundland and Labrador families. The multidisciplinary team not only uncovered the disease-causing gene TMEM43, but also spearheaded research to establish life-saving screening methods and preventative treatments. Physicians worldwide now have the information to successfully treat hundreds of gene carriers with life-saving implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD) therapy based on a mutation test alone, significantly lengthening the lifespan of those affected. This has resulted in a paradigm shift in clinical management and ethical oversight.

Nominated by Universities Canada

2018 Selection Committee

The GGIA Selection Committee is composed of distinguished individuals chosen for their expertise in and breadth of understanding of the innovation ecosystem. The 2018 Selection Committee comprises the following individuals:

  • Sakchin Bessette, Co-Founder and Executive Creative Director, Moment Factory
  • Peter Dinsdale, President and CEO, YMCA Canada
  • Chaviva Hošek, President & CEO Emeritus, Canadian Institute for Advanced Research
  • Daniel Lamarre, President and CEO, Cirque du Soleil
  • Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal Emerita, McGill University and Chair, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board
  • Sue Riddell Rose, President and Chief Executive Officer, Perpetual Energy Inc.

About the Governor General’s Innovation Awards (GGIA)

The GGIA were created 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 administered 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, working in close collaboration with the Rideau Hall Foundation.

A fact sheet on the GGIA is attached. For more information, visit

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

Media information:

Julie Rocheleau
Rideau Hall Press Office
613-302-0249 (cell)

Follow GGJuliePayette 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.

The Governor General’s Innovation Awards (GGIA) 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 adjudication process is administered by the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

The GGIA are given to individuals, teams and/or organizations whose innovations are truly exceptional, transformative and have a positive impact on quality of life in Canada.

The Office of the Secretary to the Governor General (OSGG) and the Rideau Hall Foundation oversees the execution of all aspects of the program working with nominating partners.


The GGIA is an ongoing national awards program, sustained through both public and private financial contributions and through the efforts of numerous organizations across Canada.

Nominating Partners

Drawn from all sectors of society, and authorized by the OSGG, 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.

List of Nominating Partners

Apathy is Boring
Arctic Inspiration Prize
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 Academy of Engineering
Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business
Canadian Digital Media Network
Canadian Institutes of Health Research
Centre for Social Innovation
Chantier de l’économie sociale
Colleges and Institutes Canada
Community Foundations of Canada
Engineers Canada
Entertainment Software Association of Canada
Ernest C. Manning Awards Foundation
Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of The Year
Excellence Canada
Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences
Federation of Canadian Municipalities
Futurpreneur Canada
Grand Challenges Canada
Institut du Nouveau Monde
Information Technology Association of Canada
MaRS Discovery District
National Association of Friendship Centres
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 Conference Board of Canada
The Institute of Public Administration of Canada
The J.W. McConnell Family Foundation
The Royal Society of Canada
TRICO evolution
Universities Canada
U15 – Group of Canadian Research Universities

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