NSERC announces $1.75 million renewal for Niagara College Technology Access Centre

Grant to enhance food and beverage innovation excellence at Research & Innovation

Thanks to continued investment from the federal government, Niagara College’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre will further advance its state-of-the-art services to food and beverage companies wishing to innovate, grow and compete in the global marketplace.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has awarded a $1.75 million renewal of Technology Access Centre (TAC) funding for the NC Research & Innovation division’s CFWI Innovation Centre for another five years, at $350,000 per year. The renewal grant is through NSERC’s College and Community Innovation (CCI) program.

The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, this summer announced funding of more than $38 million to colleges, CEGEPs and polytechnics across the country. The investment will allow these academic institutions to partner with local companies to provide them with unique technological or process solutions, laboratories and equipment, and highly trained students who are career-ready.

“We proudly support our outstanding research talent as well as our small- and medium-sized businesses, which are the engines of our economy. This will help Canada’s colleges to work collaboratively with local companies by bringing researchers, students and industry partners together to address local challenges and create jobs and growth here in Canada,” said Champagne.

Housed at colleges or cégeps across Canada, and supported by the Tech-Access Canada network, Canada’s 60 TACs provide access to specialized technology, equipment, and expertise to local industry – particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) – with the goal of enhancing their productivity and innovation.

The CFWI Innovation Centre TAC, located at NC’s Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake, has positioned itself as a leading-edge food and beverage accelerator able to solve complex industry challenges. The team of experts in food and beverage science and safety work alongside students to offer SMEs innovative solutions from concept to shelf.

“This is exciting news, as it allows us to further our delivery of high-quality services to local and domestic food and beverage SMEs, in order to enhance their global competitiveness,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, vice-president, Research & External Relations at NC. “We are able to better serve the innovation needs of these food and beverage companies who may have had difficulty developing new products and services for lack of affordable research expertise, equipment and facilities.”

“This renewal also means our student research assistants, who work alongside our experts and industry partners, will continue to access and participate in trailblazing research and development at Niagara College – an opportunity that provides unparalleled career-ready advantages,” said NC president Sean Kennedy.

During its first five-year grant operating as a TAC, the CFWI Innovation Centre served approximately 340 food and beverage businesses, with more than 490 technical services and 93 applied research projects.

More than 100 students – from NC programs including Culinary Innovation and Food Technology (Co-op), Culinary Management (Co-op), Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management, Winery and Viticulture Technician, and Commercial Beekeeping – have gained hands-on research experience at the Centre to provide a wealth of innovative solutions to industry partners.

Thanks to the opportunities for such research project collaborations, Miski Organics, a dry goods superfoods company, partnered with the CFWI Innovation Centre research team to help formulate and release two natural peanut-free butters into the market last year, with great acceptance.

“There are many challenges that prohibit small food and beverage businesses like ours from conducting research and launching innovative products, mainly due to lack of food safety and food science expertise, analytical testing, and the difficulty we face finding co-packers who are willing to work with small-test product runs,” said Ricardo Irivarren, president, Miski Organics.

For industry partner DistillX Beverages Inc., the TAC at the CFWI Innovation Centre provided the needed product development assistance to create Canada’s first distilled non-alcoholic gin, under the brand label SobriiØ-Gin(zero gin), which has been receiving national media attention since it was released in 2019.

“Their expertise was instrumental in terms of me being able to sell a product that was not only superior tasting but something I can commercially scale and replicate safely,” said DistillX founder and president Bob Huitema.

The CFWI Innovation Centre team offers a full suite of services to support industry innovation and the commercialization of new products and processes. From new recipe development to shelf-life testing and nutritional labelling, the CFWI Innovation Centre pairs industry partners with faculty, recent graduates and students with the right expertise and equipment to meet industry needs. In all cases, the intellectual property developed during the project belongs to the industry partner.

NC’s award-winning Research & Innovation division provides real-world solutions for business, key industry sectors, and the community through applied research and knowledge transfer activities. Researchers conduct projects that provide innovative solutions, such as producing and testing prototypes, evaluating new technologies, and developing new or improved products or processes for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, distilling, horticulture and esthetics. Visit niagaracollege.ca.


“There is no doubt that COVID-19 has affected us all, and this award has afforded us the security needed to pivot our services in the directions needed most by the companies we serve. Now, more than ever, innovation in product development and packaging, along with a heightened focus on health and wellness and food safety are key areas of support we can continue to provide to further strengthen the food and beverage sector in Niagara, Ontario, and Canada.” ~ Lyndon Ashton, centre manager, CFWI Innovation Centre 

“The Technology Access Centre at Niagara College’s CFWI Innovation Centre is a vital part of the innovation ecosystem in the Niagara region and beyond, delivering unparalleled research and commercialization services. By having access to state-of-the-market expertise and equipment, food and beverage SMEs are further empowered to enhance their global competitiveness.” ~ Brock Dickinson, chair, Industry Advisory Committee, CFWI Innovation Centre

Quick Facts

  • NC is home to two Technology Access Centres (TACS). The TAC at the CFWI Innovation Centre at the Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake was established in 2016 thanks to a grant from In 2019, NSERC renewed for another five-year term the TAC at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at the Welland Campus to help de-risk new advanced manufacturing technologies for the industry in the Niagara region.
  • NC recently opened the 49,500-square-foot Marotta Family Innovation Complex, at the Daniel J. Patterson Campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake, with an entire floor dedicated space for the CFWI Innovation Centre. The NSERC-funded Beverage Centre of Excellence is housed here, and includes a beverage analytical cluster, product development labs, and a beverage and liquids R&D pilot processing facility.
  • There is an additional 1,300 square feet of existing food science labs (microbiology, chemistry, food quality, and shelf-life labs) that have been retrofitted for a dedicated, licensed cannabis food and beverage edibles research unit.
  • The research team at the CFWI Innovation Centre TAC works with faculty experts and students from several NC programs – including Culinary Innovation and Food Technology (Co-op), Culinary Management (Co-op), Brewmaster and Brewery Operations Management, Winery and Viticulture Technician and Commercial Beekeeping.