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Communities of Opportunity: Innovation Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Production

The Innovation Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Production (ICAMP) is located at Canadore College in North Bay.

The Innovation Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Production (ICAMP) is marking five years of assisting Northern Ontario companies in design and innovation.

Established in 2013 on the Canadore College campus in North Bay, ICAMP is a 13,300-square-foot laboratory and design space equipped with cutting-edge technology, which is available year-round to companies across industries.

Its services have been engaged on more than 550 projects, assisting 110 companies and creating or retaining more than 150 jobs in the region.

Brad Gavan, acting director of ICAMP, said the first brainstorming around the facility began about seven years ago.

Looking for ways to assist local mining and manufacturing companies, college president George Burton began canvassing business owners about how the college could help them innovate and accelerate product development.

Hundreds of business owners participated, and the message was clear: they needed lab space with new equipment they could test-drive to make sound, favourable decisions for their companies.

“The centre was designed to help regional businesses grow,” Gavan said. “We’re only as strong as our companies, so let’s make sure our companies have the right tools.”

With its innovative model – locating on a college campus while directly serving private entities – ICAMP became the first facility of its kind in North America.

FedNor and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corp. provided funding, and with demand increasing, the facility underwent an expansion, dubbed ICAMP 2.0, just three years later.

Along the way, ICAMP formed crucial partnerships with organizations like the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, Ontario Centres of Excellence, Innovation Initiatives Ontario North, the Industrial Research Assistance Program, the North Bay and District Chamber of Commerce, and the Business Centre Nipissing Parry Sound.

Walk into the centre today and you’ll find precision 3-D scanners, design and simulation software, CNC waterjet cutters, machining and fabrication equipment, and sophisticated robotics on hand.

ICAMP has worked on major R&D programs including design and prototyping of new products; product light-weighting through design optimization and material selection; reverse engineering; development of a custom robotic automation solution; and process development for industrial packaging and processing.

Gavan said ICAMP will undertake feasibility studies, and can liaise with other organizations to help companies tap into funding and other resources.

“We want to make it easy on the companies to access grants and execute projects to get their project to market,” he said.

Canadore students can also benefit from these partnerships, as there are often opportunities for them to work on applied research projects, Gavan noted. In some cases, their contributions have landed students full-time work with companies in the mining and manufacturing sectors.

“It gives our students a unique opportunity to see some of this technology that might not be in the classroom, but is in the centre,” Gavan said. “When there’s a research project, we work with our deans and our faculty to see how we can get them involved in the project.”

With technology evolving at a rapid pace, ICAMP’s research into innovative ideas and new equipment continues. Gavan encourages companies to get in touch to see how the centre can help them get started.

“We don’t do it by ourselves,” Gavan said. “Canadore has great partners, and we work with them to make sure that their goals come through. Success is there and we’ll keep on growing.”

Communities of Opportunity is an annual advertising feature allowing Northern Ontario municipalities to showcase their unique social attributes and economic assets to the investment world, and demonstrate why they are open for business.