When the global pandemic hit last year, some organizations were forced to curtail or dial down operations. But for Canadore College, located in North Bay, Ontario, it presented opportunities for the educational institution to apply its strengths and further demonstrate its commitment to the communities it serves. “Harnessing innovation and technology with a focus on applied research to address real and current world issues facing industry, business and the community is instilled in the mission and vision of the college,” says George Burton, president and CEO of Canadore College.
Confronting the shortage of PPE last year, Canadore College’s Innovation Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Prototyping (ICAMP) led a collaboration to develop and produce made-in-Ontario reusable protective face shields. The design, local manufacturing and distribution of face coverings, marketed under the name of ProtectOn, went from concept to prototype to commercialization to distribution in just over five months. This feat was achieved thanks to decisive action by motivated stakeholders brought together by ICAMP, says Mr. Burton. They “took a leap of faith” that they could move fast to provide a desperately needed product, “illustrating what can be done if everyone’s willing to focus with some urgency.”
Don Champagne, the founder and head of North Bay Plastic Molders Ltd., a manufacturer of injection moulded plastic parts, called ICAMP in late March to offer his company’s expertise in mass producing PPE. “We knew we could ramp up the process,” explained Mr. Champagne. The company, known for prototyping and pre-production, and largely supplying to the mining industry, was in the process of moving into a new state-of-the-art 20,000-sq.-ft. plant.
With ICAMP facilitating – and in conjunction with a “fabulous team” including Javelin Technologies Inc., Pure North Medical and TWG Communications – North Bay Plastic Molders Ltd. is now capable of producing 130,000 face shields per month. Mr. Champagne, who was presented an Entrepreneur Award by the North Bay Chamber of Commerce this past December, says “the work with Canadore is invaluable” and that his 35-year relationship with the college is far from over.
“I know there will be more work with Canadore, that’s for sure.”
The ProtectOn initiative is just one of the 700 projects that ICAMP has completed, working with approximately 290 businesses since it was established in 2013, explains Brad Gavan, director, Canadore Foundation, Corporate, Community and Alumni Partnership. Operating as an independent business, ICAMP leverages the college’s infrastructure, providing partners from at least a dozen different sectors with the resources they need to develop and launch new products or processes, to re-tool or improve operations.
“Clients come to us for help, and we bring people together to create solutions,” says Mr. Gavan. “We’ve built good relationships. We are only as strong as our communities.”
The dedication to building healthy communities has prompted Canadore College to engage in diverse projects that benefit the public sector, says Shawn Chorney, vice president, Enrolment Management, Indigenous and Student Services. From “social innovation to community development projects, to sustainability through poverty reduction,” the college embraces endeavours that “affect meaningful change for people and communities.”
The college is currently laying down the foundation for a clean drinking water project, via a collaborative hub approach, with the goal of constructing a customized, scalable, clean water drinking facility, says Mr. Chorney.
The intent is to try to redefine a technical, economic and water resource model. Linking ICAMP with various resources, including the First People’s Centre at Canadore College, collaborating with First Nations partners and members of both private and public sectors will “create a community of practice where the linked sites have access to technical support for virtual and hybrid training and applied research. The college will be able to measure the effects of the technology, while creating jobs and wealth in the community,” says Mr. Chorney. Another component is that a number of students, enrolled in the 85 plus academic programs offered at Canadore, will gain experiential learning through hands-on participation and an opportunity to have a positive impact on society.
“The hub encompasses everything – from academic to culture to technology – coming together to shift the way we provide clean water and manage resources to one that’s community led, stewarded by and benefiting those who are going to be consuming and using the water.”
Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications with Colleges and Institutes Canada. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.