Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division is set to offer small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) a way to advance their product development, improve their performance or take an innovative leap forward, through the province’s College Voucher for Technology Adoption (CVTA) program.
Thanks to a $210,000 grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE), the College will provide vouchers to 25 companies to help solve their innovation challenges related to technology adoption, in the sectors of advanced manufacturing, food and beverage, and agriculture environmental technologies.
Businesses will work with expert faculty, students, and researchers from NC’s three Innovation Centres to access resources to address technology and innovation challenges. As a result of this opportunity, industry partners will acquire new prototypes, products, processes, and test results that validate their products and services, bringing them closer to market. Companies accessing these resources at Niagara College will be required to match OCE funds, at least 1:1, with a combination of cash and in-kind.
Niagara College has a proven track record managing these project partnerships with SMEs.
Over the past two years, the R&I division has successfully completed 23 technology-adoption projects, where both SMEs and NC students benefitted. This was demonstrated last year when the research team at the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre helped sugar-conscious dessert company Bald Baker to extend the shelf life, and optimize and scale-up their two cookie products in order to commercialize them into a larger market.
Since the project, Bald Baker is now on the shelves of Ontario health food markets, with Sobey’s grocery chain on the horizon. The company was also able to “significantly improve” their understanding of product development and production processes.
“Business has been really good this year so far,” says owner Dan Sennet. “Lots of growth and lots of interest from larger, more national retailers.”
Other examples of previous CVTA industry partnerships include enhancing renewable energy research, strategic marketing analysis, advancing horticultural practices, and food safety and quality assurance.
“By working with Niagara College, and thanks to funding by the OCE, we were able to receive excellent marketing information that would have taken our in-house staff six months to compile. We appreciate the ability to move forward with this project in an accelerated fashion.”
– Jane Lockard, National Records Management
Within the CVTA program, some technology adoption projects can be incorporated into existing college programs such as Culinary Innovation Food Technology; Electronics or Mechanical Engineering; Greenhouse Technician; Industrial Automation; and Renewable Energies Technician, where students will work with their course faculty and industry partner to address the specialized challenge.
Others will require the facilities and researcher expertise of NC’s three Innovation Centres, such as the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre, where the focus is on developing remote and real-time sensing and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) data-processing technologies to support precision agriculture. The centre is also home to a 20,000 sq. ft. on-campus greenhouse accessible to companies looking to work on horticultural or greenhouse management projects.
The CFWI Innovation Centre houses a suite of food technology labs to support culinary industry innovation from recipe development to shelf-life testing, and nutritional labelling. The centre also works collaboratively with the College’s craft brewery, winery, 40-acre on-campus vineyard, and the new artisan distillery.
Specializing in engineering design, 3D technologies, lean manufacturing processes, and additive manufacturing, the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre is home to Canada’s first 2nd generation Fortus 900 3D printer. The applied manufacturing research space also houses a full suite of 3D scanning, designing, and printing technologies.
For more information about the funding program, including details for companies interested in partnering with the Research & Innovation team, contact Elizabeth Best at [email protected] or 905-641-2252, ext. 4287.