24 April 2008

What is Innovation?

What is Innovation?, an event held yesterday by CONII and Polytechnics Canada member Humber College, explored this question and articulated the value proposition of college applied research within the innovation chain, particularly with respect to working with SMEs. Held at the Orangeville campus, the event was sponsored by the town of Orangeville, Innovation Humber, and the Ontario Centres of Excellence. In attendance were faculty and staff from Humber, representatives of the Orangeville Small Business Enterprise Centre, the OCE, other CONII members and business owners.

I spoke with one such business owner who makes board games - one just about to hit the market, who made several good points about the capacity of colleges to fill an important gap in the innovation-to-market spectrum. He was referred to the event by the Orangeville Small Business Enterprise Centre, which works with Innovation Humber to link businesses in need of applied research services with Humber faculty and staff expertise. The business owner said that he could outsource his manufacturing to offshore locations, but he "wants to help Ontario manufacturing industries by keeping the work here." "The profit margins are smaller," he said, "but you have to put people before profits." He went on to say that he wished he had known about Innovation Humber and the college applied research services a year ago. He could have saved money, and moved his prototypes into production much more quickly.

"Innovation happens where change is needed," said Robert Taweel, Innovation Humber's Industry Liaison Officer. Like spring, change is in the air as college research moves into position to help Ontario's small businesses remain competitive in a global marketplace.

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