Program opens doors to Technology Access

After developing an innovative dental tool, equipped with LED lighting to increase visibility for dental professionals, Kerber Applied Research hit a roadblock. The company needed to have prototypes printed for trial, but their in-house technology was not capable of 3D printing high-quality plastics using high temperature – a requisite in order to withstand a disinfection autoclave.

Through project funding, president Tom Kerber enlisted the help of the engineering experts at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) at Niagara College. The WAMIC team used CAD-based software to design the device for injection molding, while maintaining important geometry found in the original model.

“It would not have been possible for me to run the initial trials without a very nice-looking plastic part that can withstand the disinfection process,” said Kerber.

The project funding that Kerber utilized was through the Technology Access Centre (TAC) at WAMIC, located at the Welland campus. WAMIC is one of two TACs at the College – the other is at the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, located at the Daniel J. Patterson campus in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The two TACs are part of a larger, national network called Tech-Access Canada, which links 60 TACs housed at colleges or cégeps and funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). 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.

Tech-Access Canada has been overseeing the offering of funding to TACs, through the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), for Interactive Visits (IVs). These IVs provide up to 20 hours of access to equipment, facilities and expertise of a TAC to solve a specific business or technical challenge for a qualifying SME.

At WAMIC, this includes access to leading-edge 3D and metrology technologies and expertise in product design and development, reverse engineering and process improvement.

“It would not have been possible for me to run the initial trials without a very nice-looking part that can withstand the disinfection process.”

~ Tom Kerber, president, Kerber Applied Research

Kerber Applied Research is one of 22 companies who in 2020 leveraged the benefits of NRC-IRAP’s Interactive Visits program at WAMIC’s TAC.

And there’s positive news for SMEs this year after the federal government announced support in its Budget 2021, providing for $5.7 million over two years for more businesses to access funding for Interactive Visits at TACs across the country.

The increased funding investment is also exciting for SMEs seeking food and beverage assistance at NC’s TAC at the CFWI Innovation Centre, also home to the Beverage Centre of Excellence.

Innovators in the food and beverage sector have access to the state-of-the-market technology and equipment, as well as a multi-disciplinary expert team to help advance their products, processes and service at the Centre – at the same time offer experiential learning opportunities for students.

Within the NRC-IRAP Interactive Visits program, the research team at the CFWI Innovation Centre has expertise for everything from initial business/competitive intelligence, to risk assessment, regulatory assistance, formulation and product development, food safety and analytics, productivity improvement and shelf-life testing.

Family-run Entomo Farms has grown to become North America’s largest farm raising crickets for human consumption. While they had a thriving cricket product line, the company had a challenge with the production of their popular line of flavoured whole roasted crickets.

Entomo Farms partnered with the food scientists at the CFWI Innovation Centre to help with methodology and to develop a more effective process to adhere seasoning blends to the roasted crickets that would not impede the absorption of flavours. The project received funding through the NRC-IRAP Interactive Visits program.

~ These Interactive Visits provide up to 20 hours of access to equipment, facilities and expertise of a TAC to solve a specific business or technical challenge for a qualifying SME. ~

“Crickets are still very new as a food, so there aren’t many professionals who have worked with them. We look for research partners who aren’t afraid to take on something unknown and who love to think creatively when the usual approaches don’t work,” said Kelly Hagen, Entomo Farms’ chief operating officer.

 “The team definitely proved themselves with this project, finding a superior solution that no one had thought of at the beginning. They took the time to understand our needs and our constraints and worked closely with us to find a great answer,” she added.

Companies that work with the TACs benefit from flexible intellectual property (IP) and receive assistance in de-risking the financial investment required when taking on applied research projects.

For information on the full suite of services at the CFWI Innovation Centre, visit their website. And to discover the manufacturing solutions at WAMIC, visit their website.

To discuss funding opportunities and how you can partner with the Research & Innovation division, contact Elizabeth Best, business development coordinator at [email protected].