A modern microscope in a sterile, bright laboratory room analyzing cell samples

#15: Ontario-based businesses and the innovation born as a result of COVID-19

The Spark: Tell us about EnvisionSQ.  What do you do?

Scott Shayko, President and CEO of EnvisionSQ: Based in Guelph, Ont., EnvisionSQ Inc. is a research and development company that tackles some of the world’s greatest health issues. Our innovative technologies create cleaner, safer environments for families and communities around the world.

EnvisionSQ’s photocatalytic and nanotechnology-based coatings have many applications. Our pollution-eating SmogStop Barrier cuts traffic emissions in half, while our SmogStop Filter breaks down air pollutants indoors.

Most recently, we developed GermStopSQ. This liquid disinfectant is designed to kill disease-causing microorganisms like coronaviruses on contact. When it dries, it creates a self-sanitizing coating that provides long-term sanitization. Independent tests show that it is more than 99.9999 percent effective at killing a broad range of microbes. Its unique polymer structure bonds to both hard and soft surfaces and can be applied using a variety of delivery modes — spraying, rolling or wiping.

Illustration of doctor holding petri dish with Covid-19 icon

Founded in 2014, EnvisionSQ now has 12 employees and leverages strong relationships with the clean-tech research community. This includes a longstanding collaboration with Dr. Bill Van Heyst at the University of Guelph’s School of Engineering, our academic partner, who provides expertise and resources to help us develop and test our products.

“Independent tests show that it is more than 99.9999 percent effective at killing a broad range of microbes.” 
Covid icon illustration
The Spark: What were you working on before March 2020?

SS: Prior to the pandemic, our research and development was focused on creating cost-feasible innovative air-pollution control technologies to help solve one of the world’s greatest health issues. Air pollution, both indoor and outdoor, has effects on human lungs and cardiovascular systems, and recently has also shown significant impact on cognitive function. Another study warned of a significant increase in premature deaths due to air pollution — nearly 9,700 in 2018 in the US alone.

The company’s SmogStop photocatalytic technology breaks down NOx and VOCs, which are responsible for poor air quality indoors, locally and regionally. The company’s first product is the SmogStop Barrier, a highway pollution barrier that lets local residents breathe easier. Our world-leading technology cuts traffic emissions in half while breaking down the key pollutants that create regional smog. Over the course of a year, a single kilometre of SmogStop Barrier can remove 16 tonnes of NOx — equivalent to taking 200,000 vehicles off that stretch of road every day. It also blocks noise, while the translucent acrylic walls let the sun shine through. And best of all, this beautifully designed technology involves no electricity and no moving parts. Instead, it’s powered entirely by sunlight and the natural flow of air.

The company’s second product is the SmogStop Filter, an energy-efficient, cost-effective pollution control technology that creates healthier environments indoors and out. SmogStop Filter cuts NOx and VOC (including formaldehyde) levels up to 99 percent. We’ve created a design that virtually eliminates airflow resistance, keeping your operating costs low. Installation is easy, and with the occasional cleaning, you can count on your SmogStop Filter to last for years.


The Spark: When did you decide your business could make an impact in the fight against COVID? How did you pivot?

SS: We always knew that our SmogStop coating could kill bacteria and viruses in addition to breaking down air pollution, but the formula wasn’t optimized for that purpose. When the pandemic struck, we set to work on revamping the coating to boost its germ-fighting power. We also made it transparent to maximize its applications, and we adjusted the bonding agent to ensure it could adhere to a wide variety of surfaces. The result, a highly-effective disinfectant solution that dries to form a self-sanitizing coating effective against a broad spectrum of microorganisms, including COVID-19.


The Spark: What have you learned from changing focus to COVID? How did your day-to-day change?

SS: As an entrepreneur, pivots and adaptation is a natural part of the process. And perhaps unlike a lot of other changes which are more of a gradual change, COVID essentially happened overnight. We had to adapt quickly and think about our product in a new way. Sanitation is a new area for us, so I went from talking to my transportation contacts to speaking with biological labs and Health Canada. The systems to get these products to market are completely different so my colleagues and I spent a lot of time navigating this new realm. Luckily, we have great partners at the University of Guelph, as well as testing labs, and consultants who allowed us to move quickly. Their support and expertise have been invaluable.


The Spark: What has business been like since COVID? Ontario isn’t through the pandemic yet. What do the next several months look like for your business?

SS: To say that that business has been going really well since COVID is probably an understatement. The next few months look extremely busy, but that’s a good thing for our rapidly growing business. The process is coming along as we wait for the government to work through all of the applications for new products. They need to make sure what they allow onto the market works well and is safe for consumers. As a result, we have a lot of partnerships established, but until Health Canada approval is received, our partners are not able to sell the product. I’m excited for the day that our product can be used to start making a difference for Canadians in the combat against COVID-19. I think it is important to note that the funding from NGen enabled us to scale this product quickly. Without this funding, we would not be where we are at today. NGen is part of the federal government’s Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster strategy.

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