New program supports innovation for manufacturers in Ontario

Friday January 13, 2012
Written by Manufacturing AUTOMATION
Eight organizations have partnered to support innovation amongst advanced manufacturers in Ontario.

Dubbed Innovate Forward, the program is designed to kick-start ideas, nurture innovation and help companies uncover ideas to transform what they're doing now into something different or suited to a different market.

The eight partner organizations include: The ABB Group; The Research, Innovation, Commercialization (RIC) Centre; Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters; Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium; Ontario Centres of Excellence; Sheridan College; Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC); IRAP; and the City of Brampton.

"The first step was to bring together a group of program partners and identify the top 10 pain points for manufacturers," says Pam Banks, executive director at RIC, one of the two program sponsors. RIC is a not-for-profit organization supporting the development of innovation and entrepreneurship in Mississauga, Brampton and Caledon.

"We then created a program around the solutions, making sure that the techniques and tools provided are practical and based on industry experience," explains Banks. "With eight program partners, we're collaborating all our marketing efforts to spread the word within our networks."

Casey DiBattista, general manager at ABB, the other program sponsor, has no doubts as to why his company is sponsoring Innovate Forward, particularly since two leading academic institutions — Sheridan College and the University of Toronto at Mississauga — are participating in the program.

"It's the young graduates trained at our colleges that will lead innovation in our companies," says DiBattista. "They are a new generation that can focus on the technology; get them when they're trained, then let them innovate."

Under the tag line, "Why didn't I think of that," Innovate Forward features industry speakers as well as tips, tools and face-to-face mentor support. There's one session each month — January to June, from 7:30 to 9:30 am to accommodate the busy entrepreneur. Admission is free with pre-registration, and all sessions are held at the Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies, Sheridan College.

"So many businesses get caught up in their day to day work that they don't take the time to see if there's a better way of doing things, to think about what they are good at and where they've been successful," says John Brison, consulting partner at the BDC's branch in Mississauga. "The BDC mandate is to accelerate the success of entrepreneurs, not just utilizing the resources within the walls of the BDC, but with other organizations holding similar interests."

Each of Innovate Forward's six sessions are designed around a specific topic, addressed first by Andrew Maxwell, professor at the University of Toronto at Mississauga, then discussed in practical terms by an industry expert. Tim Scott, entrepreneur in residence at RIC, is on hand as host.

The first session is “Understanding what you have and how to turn it into a new product or service.” Held on Tuesday, January 17, attendees will hear from industry guest speaker, Larry Fitzgerald, site leader and general manager at Honeywell, Canada. A product and process operations champion with a track record for turning around companies, Fitzgerald has been hands-on leading innovations inside the companies where he's work.

Titles for the other sessions include: How new ideas are formed and where to find them (February 23); How to evaluate your new ideas (March 22); Piloting innovation (April 17); Channel development: Leveraging your upstream and downstream partners (May 15); and Innovation collaboration: Working with like-minded people (June 19).

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0 #1 Austen Barnes 2012-01-16 13:52
Hopefully this is a beginning of an aggressive trend to recover manufactoring in Canada by supporting innovative initiatives. Many inventive teams lack the funding and infrastructure to globally market genuine technology breakthroughs. Banks and investors avoid the new, yet history shows most developments arise from "grass roots" inventors rather than big industries. We need a national program assisting innovators with capital and if necessary, government equity. BDC advertises this but they are only a broker for private capital, and the radically new is avoided. Meanwhile, new venture loan capital is loaned at 9% and when the time reqd. to number crunch is factored in, it is cheaper to use credit cards. We should be considering a national innovation program for encouraging new technologies in consumer and industrial durables, transportation, energy, and the rapidly advancing field of integrative complementary medicine which could solve our healthcare cost problems.

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