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Canadore’s innovation centre tied to economic development

Canadore College gave a sneak peek recently at its high-tech innovation centre focused on helping regional businesses grow.
Shawn Alyman, welding professor at North Bay's Canadore College, demonstrates a virtual welder at a recent technology conference.

Canadore College gave a sneak peek recently at its high-tech innovation centre focused on helping regional businesses grow.

The Innovation Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Production (ICAMP), which will open in September at its Commerce Court Campus, is a first in Canada.

“They don’t exist in North America for manufacturing,” said Charles Gagnon, Canadore's manager of corporate relations. “There is one in England, and two in Germany that we are aware of. It’s an historical moment for businesses in North Bay.”

The centre’s main priority is business development and expansion. Through unique partnerships, companies will be able to conceptualize, design, prototype and improve or test new products for the commercial marketplace. The centre will be an incubator facility to assist in technology transfer, act as a retention tool and stimulate business growth.

“ICAMP is not a college resource. It is a regional resource for business, industry and the college to support advanced manufacturing, production and design. It is an unconventional approach, but it is the right approach,” said college president and CEO George Burton.

With three partners on board, and funding partners, Gagnon expects four more in the near future.

“We are continuing to develop these relationships,” he said. “We really are the catalyst here and it will lead to new programs, new students, and new business for the companies.”

Canadore hosted a two-day conference in February – Advanced Manufacturing to Enhance Your Bottom Line – to introduce the centre and the technology that will be available.

ABB Robotics gave an overview of industrial robots, Proto3000 demonstrated 3D laser scanning and Javelin showed how 3D designs can be printed into actual models. Canadore also displayed a virtual welder, which was operated throughout the conference.

“Why ICAMP at Canadore?,” said Burton. “It is a basic philosophy. Unless we are creating something and making things, we lose our impetus to research and develop. Is it a risk? Absolutely. But it fits well with our strategic vision as a college.

“Innovation through creative ways is a mechanism for economic development in the region we serve. We have embarked on a bold vision.”

Javelin's Doug Angus-Lee said bringing the kind of technology the company offers to the centre is a wise move.

“I can see in the future that homes will have these (3D) printers. If they need a part, like a door handle for a fridge, the company can send a file and the part will be printed at home,” he said.

The technology the centre will offer will allow companies to design products, do reverse engineering, rapid prototype development, 3D imaging, product and material testing, advanced manufacturing machining, automation and simulation.

The $3 million project has received funding from the private sector, and the federal and provincial governments. It will offer a 3D theatre, areas for design, assembly and development and an equipment room. About $500,000 is going towards renovations with the remainder being used to purchase equipment.

North Bay Mayor Al McDonald said the college plays an important role in the city, and its partnership has never been stronger.

“Our role and responsibility is to support these institutions as best we can,” he said.

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli challenged the attendees to use innovation for “old school industries” like mining, forestry and water power.

“How can we bring the ICAMP innovation to the rocks, trees and water that we have in the North?” he asked. “How can be bring modern solutions to these industries we depend on?”

“ICAMP is a work in progress,” said Burton. “It will never be completed and it is designed that way. It is a living lab – a big serious sandbox that industry can play in. It will allow for experimentation and development, concepts, products and processes, in a high-yield, high-potential, low-risk and low-cost environment.”

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