FedDev Ontario supports expansion of Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation

July 29, 2019 14:12PM

Posted on July 11, 2019 by Julie Greco for Niagara College

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of helping Canadian manufacturers adopt leading-edge technologies so they can grow and compete both at home and abroad.

On July 11, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities, along with Vance Badawey, Member of Parliament for Niagara Centre, announced a FedDev Ontario contribution of $14 million to Niagara College to expand the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI). This announcement was made on behalf of the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario.

Created in 2016 with a $7.3-million contribution from FedDev Ontario, SONAMI is a network of seven post-secondary institutions that pools the resources and expertise of its members and matches them to the needs of smaller manufacturers. This enables them to adopt cutting-edge technologies into their operations to increase productivity and create innovative new products, grow and diversify their businesses into new markets and become more competitive.

With new funding, SONAMI will expand its geographic reach beyond the Niagara region by adding three new post-secondary institutions. Companies will be able to connect to a broader range of expertise and knowledge in areas such as bio-industrial manufacturing, green product manufacturing and “Industry 4.0” technologies, including digitally enabled and intelligent manufacturing.

The expanded network will provide technical knowledge and expertise to another 240 businesses as they work to commercialize up to 240 new products. The project will create and maintain 552 permanent jobs and provide skills training and development for up to 360 students and researchers, preparing young Canadians for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

“The Government of Canada is committed to supporting the advanced manufacturing innovation ecosystem in southern Ontario, a vital manufacturing region in Canada,” said The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for FedDev Ontario. “The SONAMI network offers the linkages and expertise that our smaller manufacturers need to seize new opportunities, develop the workforce of the future and adopt the latest technologies to remain competitive on a global scale.”

“The Government of Canada proudly supports our advanced manufacturing sector, a pillar of the regional ecosystem in southern Ontario. SONAMI’s award-winning partnership model offers a single window for smaller manufacturers to access leading-edge expertise and facilities,” said The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities. “With this FedDev Ontario funding, SONAMI will expand its network, allowing even more businesses to access the support they need to innovate, grow and compete in the economy of the future.”

The news was well received at Niagara College.

“We are thankful to FedDev Ontario for this significant new investment in SONAMI. Niagara College is proud of the network’s tremendous success as a one-stop shop for advanced manufacturing applied research in southern Ontario,” said Dan Patterson, PhD, president, Niagara College. “With this expansion, we will continue to help small- and medium-sized enterprises remain competitive, while enabling our students to gain valuable skills working on cutting-edge solutions for our industry partners. Together, we are stimulating the economy while building essential skills for tomorrow’s workforce.”

“This is an exciting day for research and innovation in Southern Ontario, as we usher in a new era for SONAMI,” noted Marc Nantel, PhD, NC’s vice president of Research, Innovation and Strategic Initiatives; and chair of SONAMI Steering Committee.

“Thanks to the government’s significant new investment, SONAMI will be able to expand its reach, provide skills and training development for even more students and researchers, develop more partnerships and collaborations, enhance our expertise and technology coverage, and broaden the services we offer, which will create more jobs and keep Ontario competitive,” said Nantel. “I look forward to what we, along with our academic and industry partners, will be able to achieve together in the future.”

Computer Programming student Rafael Almeida, who is an international student from Brazil, spoke about how working as a research assistant at NC’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) offers him an opportunity to apply skills he has learned in the classroom to provide solutions to real-world problems. Working at WAMIC has exanded his scope to lasers, 3D printers, IOT, artificial intelligence and more. He is also applying his knowledge about integrated systems and business process to help his team. Almeida is working currently on a project to improve a web application.

“By having this funding at WAMIC, I’ll be able to work on even more projects now, and I’m sure I’ll be able to be more ready to find a good job after I graduate, because I’m working on real solutions for companies and business partners,” said Almeida. ” I’m really proud to be studying at Niagara College and to have this working experience here at WAMIC.”

Industry partner Clint Green, visual effects supervisor/ producer and cofounder of Keyframe Studios, spoke about how the team of staff and students at NC’s Research & Innovation Division helped  his business create a product that would assist with inefficiencies when working with green screen on a film set. He noted how they were unable to find the talent needed to develop their concept, and turned to Niagara College for solutions.

“The question to be solved was, how do we eliminate the effects of motion blur so our software can lock accurately to green screen. The challenge we had was three-fold: how do we build the LED units and the tech needed, write the software to control it, and run a business that doesn’t do any of those things. That is when we decided to approach the innovation centre,” said Green.

Green noted that they plan to enter into a second phase of development with the College with the ultimate goal of creating an on-set tracking system, second to none in the industry today. He also plans to eventually commercialize the idea.

“We are proud to be part of the College’s continued commitment to industry and congratulations to everyone on this tremendous announcement and the opportunities it will support,” said Green. “The centre’s team accepted our challenges with enthusiasm and energy. I was amazed at the level of knowledge and expertise the department assembled. They treated the project as their own and treated us as a partner and that’s what was most important to us.”

Local MPs also attended the announcement and addressed the crowd.

“Niagara College and its SONAMI partners are pushing the limits of what our manufacturers can do,” said Vance Badawey, Member of Parliament for Niagara Centre. “The network has already demonstrated its ability to help companies grow and create jobs for the Niagara Region and well beyond. I look forward to seeing the successes that will come from an expanded network.”

“Today’s announcement is a great example of how the most innovative solutions happen through collaboration,” said Chris Bittle, Member of Parliament for St. Catharines. “FedDev Ontario’s support to expand SONAMI will not only help to create jobs here in the Niagara region, but also help more manufacturers adopt leading-edge technology and access the expertise needed to succeed now, as well as build skills for the jobs of the future.”

Welland Mayor Frank Campion attended the event, along with academic and industry partners.

Quick facts

  • Led by Niagara College, the SONAMI partnership includes Mohawk College, Sheridan College, McMaster University, Conestoga College, Fanshawe College and Lambton College.
  • Through the funding announced today, SONAMI will reach beyond its existing client base of nearly 12,000 manufacturing businesses across southern Ontario.
  • To date, SONAMI has worked with 109 businesses to commercialize more than 140 products.
  • Niagara College received the 2019 Research Partnership Award from the Canadian Association of Research Administrators (CARA) for the significant impact SONAMI has had on the regional economy. The SONAMI project administrator also received CARA’s Walter Hitschfeld Award for her dedication and exceptional impact on research administration.
  • FedDev Ontario’s non-repayable contribution is leveraging over $24 million in funding, including $14 million from industry collaborators and $10.3 million from SONAMI member post-secondary institutions.
  • This year marks 10 years of FedDev Ontario delivering funding and business services to support innovation and growth in southern Ontario.

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