Niagara College building innovative partnerships with industry thanks to provincial grant

Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division is set to offer small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) a way to advance their products, improve their performance, or take an innovative leap forward, through the College Voucher for Technology Adoption (CVTA) program. CVTA is delivered by Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) in partnership with Colleges Ontario.

Thanks to a $210,000 grant, 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 Niagara College’s three Innovation Centres – including the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation CentreCanadian Food and Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, and Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre – 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.

Over the past two years, the College’s 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 CFWI Innovation Centre helped sugar-conscious dessert company Bald Baker to extend the shelf life, 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 Sobeys 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,” said Bald Baker 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.

“We’re grateful to OCE for this grant, which will help SMEs gain a competitive edge in their field,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, NC’s vice-president, Research, Innovation & Strategic Initiatives. “At the same time, it allows students the opportunity to translate the skills they’ve learned in the classroom into real-world partnerships with industry.”

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 data-processing technologies to support precision agriculture. The centre is also home to a 20,000-sqare-foot on-campus greenhouse and aquaponics system 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 Teaching Brewery, Teaching Winery, 40-acre on-campus vineyard, and its new artisan Teaching Distillery.

The Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team specializes in engineering design, 3D technologies, lean manufacturing processes and additive manufacturing. The centre works with Ontario businesses to bring ideas to life, from concept through to developing working prototypes, utilizing leading-edge technology, including equipment and software.

For more information about the funding program, including details for companies interested in partnering with the Research & Innovation team, contact Elizabeth Best at ebest@niagaracollege.ca, or 905-641-2252 Ext. 4287.

ABOUT CVTA

The College Voucher for Technology Adoption (CVTA) stream of the Colleges Applied Research and Development Fund (CARDF) will support Ontario colleges to assess industry needs by enabling college faculty and students to engage with companies to identify their business and innovation challenges. Through the CVTA program, student teams guided by college faculty will act as consultants to companies and will apply their skills and training to solve business challenges. Click here for more information.

ABOUT RESEARCH & INNOVATION

Celebrating 20 years of research excellence, Niagara College’s Research & Innovation Division provides real-world solutions for business, key industry sectors and the community through applied research and knowledge transfer activities. They 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. With funding support from various regional, provincial and federal agencies, students and graduates are hired to work alongside faculty researchers to assist industry partners leap forward in the marketplace. For more information, visit ncinnovation.ca

ABOUT ONTARIO CENTRES OF EXCELLENCE (OCE)

OCE drives the creation of high-quality jobs by accelerating the commercialization of cutting-edge research across key market sectors to build and develop the economy of tomorrow and secure Ontario's global competitiveness. In doing this, OCE fosters the training and development of the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs and is a key partner with Ontario's industry, universities, colleges, research hospitals, investors and governments. A champion of leading-edge technologies, best practices and research, OCE invests in sectors such as advanced manufacturing, digital media and information communications, advanced health, cleantech, automotive and ag-tech to drive economic growth and foster made-in-Ontario solutions.

INDUSTRY PARTNER QUOTES

“Through the CFWI IC research and thanks to funding by the OCE, this important data for the different hop varietals allows us to harvest much smarter and with better quality.”

Roger Vail, Vailmont Vineyards

“Niagara College staff researchers were keen to have their students work in and be challenged by real-world problems and conditions and to help us start down the path towards an off-grid island.”

~ Colin Yates, Eagle Landing

“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

“By receiving expert consultation regarding the food safety systems ... from the staff and student researchers at Niagara College has allowed us to ensure compliance and grow our business.”

~ Wilma Olive-Mills, Chocolate F/X

Photo: Vailmont Vineyards: Roger Vail of Vailmont Vineyards received CVTA funding to collaborate with expert staff and student researchers at the CFWI Innovation Centre who conducted studies of a dozen different hop varietals to better predict potential harvest dates. The research benefited both hop growers and craft brewers across the province.