Bob Benner at Hamill Machine Co.: Bob Benner, CEO of Hamill, stands near equipment at Hamill Machine Co (SONAMI project photo).
The Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) to support innovators in developing, managing and commercializing their intellectual property through the Intellectual Property Ontario (IPON) partnership.
The Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), led by Niagara College, has been awarded $290,000 from Intellectual Property Ontario (IPON) to participate in the pilot program augmenting the capacity of Ontario post-secondary institutions’ innovation and commercialization efforts. This program is part of the Commercialization Mandate Policy Framework which was first introduced by the Government of Ontario in January 2022 to help colleges and universities advance the shared goal of ensuring that “made-in-Ontario” research and innovation benefit Ontarians.
The investment will allow Niagara College to hire a commercialization specialist to work alongside SONAMI staff to maximize engagement in commercialization among industry partners (small- and medium-sized businesses) in the manufacturing sector. The goal will be to educate and enhance Intellectual Property (IP) opportunities with SONAMI industry partners who have started or completed an applied research project with the network. The specialist will offer consultation to industry partners on options to protect IP developed in collaboration with an institutional partner.
“We are thrilled to be adding this vital piece of commercialization support,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, Niagara College’s Vice-President, Research, Innovation and Strategic Enterprises. “In SONAMI collaborative applied research projects the IP developed belongs to the industry partner. Some industry partners are not equipped to commercialize their IP at the end of a project, now we can provide the resources to support those companies in their commercialization journey.”
Within the province, colleges and universities are a large contributor of innovation outputs which are critical to productivity growth in today’s global knowledge-based economy. Through various consultations and engagements with Ontario’s postsecondary sector, IPON heard that more support and resources are needed to improve IP and commercialization efforts.
“IPON’s funding support is always coupled with our wider services such as access to dedicated IP talent, mentorship and education programs that can be implemented across campus. This is important because having these additional supports provides a better opportunity for long-term innovation and commercialization success which is what we want to see,” said Peter Cowan, CEO, IPON.
“This investment is just one example of how IPON is supporting our province’s postsecondary institutions and innovators, by providing them with the funding, tools, knowledge and connections they need to harness the value of their IP,” said Jill Dunlop, Minister of Colleges and Universities. “Initiatives like this are helping our province’s innovators benefit from IPON’s expertise and ensuring the economic and commercial benefits of home-grown innovation remain right here in Ontario.”
Of 23 applicants, seven were successful, receiving a total of $2 million. The investment for Niagara College is $290,000.
“Through IPON, our government continues to support Ontario’s innovators, businesses and researchers as they bring more of their made-in-Ontario research and innovation to market,” said Vic Fedeli, Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. “Ontario is home to some of the brightest minds in the world, and this funding will help ensure that we remain a global leader in innovation. Together, we’re building a strong Ontario.”
SONAMI’s established collaborative network structure means commercialization support will be offered across southern Ontario, through the award-winning collaboration of nine post-secondary institutions (PSEs) supporting SMEs with their manufacturing-related challenges, through their research centres.
SONAMI leverages faculty, students, and state-of-the-market equipment, together with funding from the federal government, to conduct projects that provide innovative solutions. Network research centres partner with SMEs to design and test prototypes, evaluate new technologies, and develop and commercialize new or improved products, in many sectors, including transportation, medical devices, food processing, and energy systems.
Since the network’s creation in 2016, SONAMI partnerships have resulted in 318 completed projects (as of Dec. 31, 2022). For those who did not immediately commercialize their IP, the new commercialization specialist will be ready to offer IP strategy and protection planning education and services.
To maximize outreach efforts, SONAMI will hold five in-person outreach or education events throughout southern Ontario, as well as online training opportunities. The training will be offered in general recruitment events as well as in IPON’s priority sectors of medtech, artificial intelligence, and automotive as specified in their call for proposal.
- In late February, IPON put out a call for proposals for up to $300,000 in funding. Submitted proposals included: a demonstrated need for additional resources; a proposed project or activity related to commercialization; how results will be achieved in eight months or less; and, how impact will be measured. IPON received 23 applications in total.
- The following institutions have been selected to receive between $215,000-$300,000 in funding totaling $2 million: Niagara College leading SONAMI, Conestoga College, Lambton College, Durham College, La Cite College, York University, and a joint proposal led by Laurentian University with Trent, Lakehead and Nipissing universities.
- SONAMI was established in 2016 – led by Niagara College, in partnership with McMaster University, Mohawk College and Sheridan College – with an initial $7.3-million contribution from FedDev Ontario, which provided funding through March 2019. The network expanded to include five additional academic institutions: Centennial, Conestoga, Fanshawe, Lambton, and George Brown colleges.
- SONAMI has completed 28 Automotive/Transportation, 57 MedTech and 15 Artificial Intelligence/Machine Learning projects since its inception.
- In July 2019, FedDev Ontario announced an additional investment of $14 million towards a five-year project (through to March 2024), which would grow the network to 10 partners, enhancing its reach to help manufacturers innovate.
- Niagara College received the 2019 Research Partnership Award from the Canadian Association of Research Administrators (CARA) for the significant impact SONAMI has had on the regional economy.
- Through specialized expertise, resources, and Research & Development (R&D) capabilities, SONAMI partners have a broad range of capabilities that provide effective innovation and technology transfer in areas of automation, additive manufacturing, product testing & validation, Industry 4.0, process optimization, simulation & modelling, and digitally enabled and intelligent manufacturing.
- SMEs wanting to innovate but do not have the resources of time, knowledge/skills, or finances to take them to the next level can de-risk their R&D by leveraging a 1:1.2 funding match on projects. FedDev’s investment is matched by a mix of cash and in-kind contributions from the industry partner. This could reduce overall project costs by up to 50 per cent and help more manufacturers participate.
If you would like to discuss your organization’s needs with a SONAMI representative, please contact [email protected].