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Georgian College helping companies make ‘Industry 4.0′ leap

Innovative companies like Quench Buggy are turning to Georgian College’s applied research facilities for help in updating their products or services.SUPPLIED

Quench Buggy’s founder Darryl Hindle had a problem. His company, which had been providing mobile hydration stations at more than 175 festivals and events across North America – and selling outright to 15 to 25 municipalities – needed to automate its station’s taps to comply with COVID-19 protocols. To help solve the problem, his mind immediately turned to Georgian College, where he’d studied mechanical engineering and automotive manufacturing.

“Georgian was our go-to place because it has a wide base of knowledge in engineering and business and computer technology,” Mr. Hindle says. “We were matched with the right faculty and student researchers. We’re now going through the build stage.”

Through the Department of Research, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (RIE), faculty, mentors and students come together to help innovators. Students get hands-on experience, and researchers get to sink their teeth into real-world projects.

The Georgian College program, from which hundreds of companies have now benefited, is part of a concept called RICCO – the Research Innovation Cluster of Central Ontario.

“The concept is that there are a number of business support organizations all over our region, and through RICCO, they all interconnect into one big web,” says Jamie Doran, executive director RIE at Georgian College. “It’s a network of people and resources. If we all understand what our economic goals are across the region, we can work together to reach them.”

Innovative companies – such as Quench Buggy – that want to be competitive in their industries are channelled into the applied research stream where they can further develop their technologies. On the entrepreneurship side, they can access mentorship through Georgian’s Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre (HBEC) to achieve their growth goals.

“One of the values of working together in this network environment is seeing what we can do to build a robust local supply chain,” says Mira Ray, director of research and innovation at Georgian College.

Dr. Ray’s side of things is the industry-led applied research, drawing on the skillsets, capabilities, infrastructure, expertise and capacity the college has.

“A major program we offer right now is called Competitive Smart Manufacturing, working with manufacturers and product developers to help them on their advanced manufacturing and Industry 4.0 journey,” says Dr. Ray, adding that this includes how to go digital and optimize productivity to best serve their markets.

HBEC invites students, members of the community and staff to bring their business ideas or fully formed businesses to the centre.

“We surround that entrepreneur with the mentors we have on our team. Our goal is to ensure the time they need to grow is shortened,” says Sara Bentham, director of HBEC, who adds that part of Georgian’s hope is that the businesses hire its students.

“We see at least one new client every single day,” Ms. Bentham says. “That really speaks to the need in the region for the services and supports that we offer.”

Advertising feature produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.