A new e-bicycle company in Hubbards, Lunenburg Co., is receiving $50,000 in funding and business guidance through Innovacorp’s Spark Innovation Challenge. The business, SURU, is one of five winners selected in the Spark West region of the province. SURU’s co-founders, Michael Uhlarik and Kevin O’Neil, are developing zero-emission, electric-powered bicycles that can travel up to 50 kilometres without fuel or pedalling. The bikes are made without tools or special moulds and manufactured entirely in Nova Scotia. “Participating in the Spark Innovation Challenge has guided the trajectory of our business,” said Mr. Uhlarik. “The coaching we received through Spark and the funds being awarded will help us build better products and win in the marketplace.” The challenge expanded across the province this year, with winners in each of the four competition regions receiving up to $50,000 in funding and mentorship from seasoned business professionals. The four regions were Spark West, Spark North, Spark Halifax and Spark Cape Breton. The first provincewide Spark Innovation Challenge attracted 136 submissions. Eleven finalists in the Spark West region pitched their ideas to a panel of judges. Finalists also participated in several business workshops and were mentored by seasoned business professionals. The other winners in the Spark West region are: Alias Earth, a set database company founded by Jim Dorey of Morden, Kings Co., $50,000 Electric Puppets, a virtual reality company founded by Ryan Cameron of Chester, Mahone Bay, $50,000 Finleaf, an aquaponics company founded by Myrna Gillis of Brooklyn, Queens Co., $25,000 Nexus Robotics, an autonomous farming robotics company founded by Teric Greenan, Jad Tawil and Thomas Trappenberg of Barss Corner, Lunenburg Co., $25,000 Winners must use the prize money to build prototypes or take new products and services to market. Innovacorp and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency each contributed $400,000 towards this year’s Spark Challenge. “Spark is a great program that’s helping new technology companies across Nova Scotia get started,” said Geoff MacLellan, Minister of Business and Minister responsible for Innovacorp. “The winners of this year’s challenge will build stronger products and create jobs for other Nova Scotians, particularly young Nova Scotians.” “Congratulations to all of the finalists in the first ever provincewide Spark competition,” said Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development and Minister responsible for ACOA. “This competition has been an excellent showcase of talented entrepreneurs from across Nova Scotia whose spark of innovative ideas have real potential to be commercialized and grown into thriving businesses. I look forward to seeing how the winners advance their ventures and bring their ideas to fruition.” For the full list of winners, visit www.innovacorp.ca/news/spark-winners-2017.