You’ve heard the phrase before, “It takes a village.”
Well, in the case of the newly announced Business & Commercialization Innovation Centre (BCIC), it takes a team, consisting of Paula Reile, Research Program Manager; Helen Duffy, Research Lead; Garrett Zimmer, Research Lead, and several students to help small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) succeed.
After several years of offering business and commercialization solutions through the Research & Innovation division, this talented group is now officially an Innovation Centre. And that means something to them.
“When I first started in the Research Program Manager role, I had to be a jack-of-all-trades, really doing everything from business development to policies and processes, and mentoring students. It was a small but mighty team, but the division has really grown. We used to have two students and work on two or three projects at a time. And now, we have a team of five to seven students, plus two research leads, which is opening so many new opportunities for us and allowing us to take on more exciting projects,” says Paula.
“Supporting small businesses is really why I focused in on what I do and why it’s been so important for me to grow business and commercialization solutions into its own innovation centre, to be able to support more businesses and have the resources to do so.”
“Diagnosing the problem is just as important as getting the work done. Everything we (BCIC) do is rooted in research and we bring so much diversity in terms of our students and that’s really what makes us unique.” – Paula Reile, Research Program Manager
As they’ve evolved into BCIC, the team has found there are three key pillars that are at the core of their work.
First is supporting small businesses, which is at the heart of what they do.
Second, and maybe most importantly, is the student experience.
Whether students are hired for a co-op or filling a part-time role, they’re able to take what they learn in the classroom and apply that to real businesses. When they do this, the BCIC team has seen rapid growth in the students, as professionals.
Helen Duffy, Research Lead with BCIC, emphasized that a key part of her role is helping students connect the dots between academic research and practical application. Now, there will be even more opportunities to provide real-world experiences and have them ‘job-ready’. “It’s all about helping them get to the stage that they understand client needs clearly and can execute well-informed plans,” says Helen.
For fellow colleague Garrett Zimmer, another Research Lead with the team, he narrows in on what industry partners can expect to receive when they work with BCIC: “When industry partners work with us, they will get perspective and a well-rounded body of research that can be actionable and that really is the trick with Niagara College. We provide data and research that is practical and applicable and can be used almost immediately,” he emphasized.
Services and areas of expertise
BCIC’s main goal is to offer a full suite of solutions to assist industry partners and SMEs. The team pairs industry partners with faculty, recent grads and students with the expertise to meet applied research and innovation needs in a variety of areas.
They can support the core strategy of your business plan and share critical information you need to operate a successful business.
“We can help you understand the market you’re operating in, growth factors, consumer behaviour and more. We’re an option for businesses to connect all these dots, leverage our expertise, technology and support us in giving students hands-on practical experience. I would encourage any SMEs to reach out to us to see how we can help catapult their business to the next level,” says Reile.
“When industry partners work with us, they will get perspective and a well-rounded body of research that can be actionable and that really is the trick with Niagara College. We provide data and research that is practical and applicable and can be used almost immediately.” – Garrett Zimmer, Research Lead
Once the core business strategy is complete, BCIC can help with services including:
• Entering a new market, whether it be a new business entering the markets for the first time, or an existing business looking diversify their revenue streams by entering a new market, understanding the market you are entering is key to success. Understanding everything from market size, growth factors, trends and consumers trends can be achieved by working with BCIC. This information helps to understand the viability of a business and aids in understanding how to position the firm in the marketplace.
• Being successful in the marketplace needs a clearly defined target market, a comprehensive understanding of competitors, pricing, distribution, and marketing efforts needed. Our team can support the development of these core elements of a business strategy.
• There are many options for where to put promotional efforts; our team will clearly outline where to focus promotional efforts, messaging, and tone to use in promotional pieces; including social media plans.
• We can develop and execute surveys and focus groups to gain insights from your customer base.
• Our team of designers and content creators can create content packages that support your promotional plans. From developing marketing imagery to short- and long-form video, these services are specifically designed for those needing these services to ‘level up’ their business.
• The BCIC team can create the branding for your business, including names, logos, and brand collateral.
Many times, businesses think they have things figured out when it comes to their target market. After a few meetings with Paula and the BCIC team, they quickly realize that they may have a totally different set of needs.
Strategies are great, but a small business is still a small business, and they may be low on resources and staffing and implementation can be the next hurdle. But we’ve got the solution for that.
Collaboration with Niagara College’s School of Media
Enter the partnership of NC’s School of Media and BCIC, creating a game-changing option for SMEs.
The School of Media is going to have opportunities to let students in a variety of programs (including Social Media Management, Public Relations, Graphic Design, Broadcasting, Photography and much more) work with BCIC on real-world client projects. They will bring their expertise to the table and this partnership will create a dynamic cross-functional level-up program for clients who just need help in creating that media collateral to allow them to grow to the next level.
And since BCIC has already done the strategies for these clients, there’s an intimate knowledge of next steps, so it’s a truly informed approach. These students will be able work with the clients to deliver executed strategies.
The goal is to support industry as well, because when these students go out into the workforce, they are going to have practical resume-ready experience that will help wow media agencies and get them hired faster.
On average, a project with the BCIC team takes about 12-16 weeks from start to finish, not including the few months you may work with Paula from the first inquiry.
“Supporting small businesses is really why I focused in on what I do and why it’s been so important for me to grow business and commercialization solutions into its own Innovation Centre, to be able to support more businesses and have the resources to do so.” – Paula Reile, Research Program Manager
“Diagnosing the problem is just as important as getting the work done,” notes Paula. “Everything we do is rooted in research and we bring so much diversity in terms of our students and that’s really what makes us unique.”
At present, the BCIC team has students from four different countries, bringing a wealth of ideas and fresh perspectives that become valuable when conducting research.
“For example, Google is only as big as what’s English to me, but when I have a student who can speak Spanish, they can look up things in both languages and find research that I would have never been able to access. Right now, we have students from Bangladesh, the Philippines, Brazil and Ecuador.”
With more culture and diversity comes the ability to challenge bias and stronger project outcomes.
“Many companies are looking for market research outside of the Canadian market, and that’s where our team’s diversity comes in as one of our strengths, allowing us to have a global lens on every project we work on,” says Paula.
And just because your project ends, doesn’t mean your relationship with the BCIC team does. Clients can expect follow-up emails and phone chats with Helen, Garrett or Paula from time to time, and even one or two years down the road, a touch-base meeting to see how far the client has taken their strategies.
The move from solutions support to full innovation centre has been made possible by funding through the Mobilize program of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).
To find out more about the BCIC team, and its resources and capabilities, visit the website.
If you’d like to partner with Research & Innovation to meet your innovation needs in this or other areas, contact David DiPietro, Manager, Business Development, at [email protected]
And any business that works with BCIC will be able to see, it really does take a village.