Niagara College awarded $266,000 investment from Intellectual Property Ontario

ParemTech Products Chief Developer Mike VandeBeld visiting Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Welland, Ontario.

ParemTech Products Chief Developer Mike VandeBeld visiting Niagara College’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre in Welland, Ontario.

Partnership supports innovators in developing, managing, and commercializing their intellectual property

The Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), led by Niagara College, has been awarded $266,000 from Intellectual Property Ontario (IPON) for year two of its pilot program, further augmenting the capacity of Ontario postsecondary institutions’ innovation and commercialization efforts. This program is part of the Commercialization Mandate Policy Framework, which was first introduced by the Government of Ontario in January 2022 to help colleges and universities advance the shared goal of ensuring that “made-in-Ontario” research and innovation benefit Ontarians.

This second year of funding allows SONAMI to continue building on the most recent strides made in connecting with past industry partners by integrating dedicated staff resources into its operations, augmenting the SONAMI toolkit for industry, and increasing Intellectual Property (IP) education to all its partners, while highlighting commercialization services and IP protection for those in IPON’s priority sectors. In addition, to maximize these efforts, SONAMI will hire a dedicated staff member to connect with industry partners at the beginning and end of projects to help acclimate them to the IP protection possibilities.

“By extending Niagara College’s funding into year two of the IPON pilot, we get the privileged opportunity to continue to lead in supporting manufacturing companies to successfully commercialize their research and associated IP,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, Niagara College’s Vice-President, Research, Innovation & Strategic Enterprises. “The magic of the industry-applied research projects that are conducted with SONAMI is that the IP developed belongs to the industry partner at the end of the day. We now have the mandate to continue providing IP-related consultations for industry partners and support them as they move forward in their commercialization journey.”

Outcomes from year one of the pilot program funding included: completing 31 IP-related consultations for small-and medium-sized businesses, with many receiving direct IP services and financial support and completing a survey of industry partners to learn more about barriers to commercialization, alongside ways to address them. In addition, SONAMI members and IP experts came together to deliver a combination of 13 in-person and online events, reaching 186 participants.

This funding has made an impact on many industry partners, including Dan Atkinson, Founder of Eden Aeroponics. “The prompt assistance from Niagara College has been instrumental in our endeavours to establish and fortify our brand’s presence within our market strategy. The quick support provided by SONAMI has not only facilitated our exploration of IP protection strategies but has also significantly contributed to our ability to navigate the challenges of being a startup, where funding is often limited,” Atkinson said.

ParemTech Products Chief Developer, Mike VandeBeld is another industry partner who has seen the value of this funding program. “Thanks to the consultations we received from SONAMI, ParemTech Products is now pursuing various other tax and funding programs. We’re also hoping to move forward with the design patenting of our base design. It is very helpful to have someone knowledgeable in these areas who can point us in the right direction,” he said.

The April 8 announcement included a total investment of $4.6 million to build and enhance intellectual property (IP) capacity across Ontario’s postsecondary sector. The investment includes $2.9 million allocated to 10 new program recipients and an additional $1.7 million to expand its existing pilot funding program. With this announcement, IPON’s total funding amounts to $6.6 million since April 2023, supporting eight colleges and 12 universities to date.

SONAMI was originally awarded $290,000 from IPON in April 2023. SONAMI’s established collaborative network structure means commercialization support will be offered across southern Ontario, through the award-winning collaboration of 11 post-secondary institutions (PSEs) supporting SMEs with their manufacturing-related challenges, through their research centres.

“In today’s global knowledge-based economy, Ontario’s postsecondary institutions are critical, not just as centres of learning, but as incubators for innovation and commercialization,” said Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities. “Through the province’s support of IPON, our government is ensuring the social and economic benefits of publicly funded research stay in our province, so that Ontarians and the Ontario economy benefit from these new discoveries and innovations.”

SONAMI leverages faculty, students, and state-of-the-market equipment, together with federal funding through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, to conduct projects that provide innovative solutions. Network research centres partner with SMEs to design and test prototypes, evaluate new technologies, and develop and commercialize new or improved products, in many sectors, including transportation, medical devices, food processing, and energy systems.

Since its inception in 2016, SONAMI partnerships have resulted in 374 completed projects (as of Dec. 31, 2023).

Quick facts:

  • • IPON will provide $4.6 million to build and enhance IP capacity across Ontario’s postsecondary sector.
  • • The investment includes $2.9 million allocated to 10 new program recipients and an additional $1.7 million to expand its existing pilot funding program.
  • • With this announcement, IPON’s total funding amounts to $6.6 million since April 2023, supporting eight colleges and 12 universities to date.
  • • Postsecondary institutions in IPON’s pilot funding program are Collège La Cité, Conestoga College, Durham College, Lambton College, Niagara College, York University, and a joint initiative led by Laurentian University with Trent University, Lakehead University and Nipissing University.

SONAMI was established in 2016 – led by Niagara College, in partnership with McMaster University, Mohawk College and Sheridan College – with an initial $7.3-million Government of Canada investment through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario), which provided funding through March 2019. The network expanded to include seven additional academic institutions: Centennial, Conestoga, Fanshawe, Lambton, and George Brown, Fleming colleges, and Queen’s University.

Intellectual Property Ontario (IPON) is a provincial agency that provides trusted IP support and services to enable Ontario businesses and researchers to innovate and grow. IPON works directly with innovators and postsecondary institutions to help them better understand how to protect and maximize the value of their IP, strengthen their capacity to grow and compete in the market, and advance the province’s economic growth. For more information, visit www.ip-ontario.ca.

For 14 years, the Government of Canada, through FedDev Ontario, has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation, growth and job creation in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving productivity, growing revenues, creating jobs, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. Learn more about the impacts the Agency is having in southern Ontario by exploring our pivotal projects, our Southern Ontario Spotlight, and FedDev Ontario’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

The Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) is a Niagara College-led network of post-secondary institutions, who, through their respective Research and Innovation Centres, collaborate with small- and medium-sized companies to tackle their manufacturing-related challenges. SONAMI leverages faculty, students, and state-of-the-market equipment, together with funding from the federal government, to support manufacturing in Canada.

Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of more than 11,000 students from over 95 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate, and bachelor’s degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at niagaracollege.ca.

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(Original article published on InsideNC here)