SONAMI expands simulation and modelling with new member addition

SMSD Group photo

Professor Il Yong Kim (in the centre) surrounded by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows.

New partnership expands range of facilities to eastern Ontario, brings advanced Finite Element Modeling (FEM) and multi-disciplinary design and optimization Research & Development (R&D) capabilities

The Structural and Multidisciplinary Systems Design (SMSD) Lab at Queen’s University has become the newest member of Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI), a Niagara College-led consortium of post-secondary academic institutions that provides competitive, disruptive, and innovative solutions to Ontario’s manufacturers.

SONAMI has received more than $21.3 million from the Government of Canada through the Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) to establish and then grow its network. The partnership will expand the range of facilities and expertise available to small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and extend SONAMI’s reach further into eastern Ontario. The addition of Kingston-based Queen’s University to SONAMI now brings the total in the network to 10 postsecondary partners, including Centennial, Conestoga, Fanshawe, George Brown, Lambton, Mohawk, Niagara and Sheridan colleges, and McMaster University.

Through the centralized SONAMI hub, member institutions pool their resources and talent to match them to the needs of SMEs in various industries, giving them access to cutting-edge technologies, knowledge and funding in order to de-risk their applied R&D, create innovative new products and optimize processes.

“The focus of Queen’s University’s SMSD Lab on Finite Element Modeling (FEM) and multi-disciplinary design and optimization working with industry partnerships in aerospace, automotive, and energy brings a unique set of complementary capabilities to SONAMI, further enhancing support for manufacturers,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, Vice President, Research, Innovation and Strategic Enterprises at Niagara College.

“By welcoming a leading university from eastern Ontario – with its strong history of applied research – to the partnership, the network will advance its resources available to assist SMEs to remain competitive by offering leading-edge solutions for industry partners,” said Nantel, who is also the Chair of the SONAMI Steering Committee. “At the same time, we continue to provide more students with the opportunities to gain essential skills by working alongside research staff and faculty on real-world projects.”

SONAMI supports all SMEs in the manufacturing sector. The SMSD Lab will expand the network’s capacity in FEM and multi-disciplinary design and optimization.

SMSD’s capabilities can be used to solve a wide variety of real-world challenges, for example reducing the weight of automotive or aircraft structural parts, while considering stiffness, strength, vibrational behaviour, fatigue, and certification requirements. Cost reduction is always the most important criterion in SMSD’s research, and using state-of-the-art computational optimization and in-house tools, lifecycle costs may be minimized, including material, manufacturing, assembly, maintenance, and operation and recycling costs. Multiphysics and multidisciplinary design optimization can be used to maximize the performance of various complex systems, including electric vehicles and UAM (urban mobility systems), which will also help create more resilient and sustainable parts and systems.

Over the past 19 years, the SMSD Lab has developed and published novel academic research for automotive and aerospace applications. The lab utilizes analytical and computational optimization techniques to develop new principles and methodologies to solve practical problems with various industrial partners.

“I am truly excited to be part of SONAMI.  I look forward to making an impact on the automotive and aerospace industry in Ontario. This will also bring tremendous opportunities for the students in my lab,” said Il Yong Kim, PhD, Professor and Graduate Coordinator of the SMSD Lab. “Close collaboration with industry has always been a top priority for SMSD, and our research in multi-physics and multi-disciplinary optimization will help improve system performance and lower the cost of products for SONAMI members.”

A video of Professor Il Yong Kim and the SMSD team, along with the research done by team members on various industry projects.

“The SONAMI network has been instrumental in providing important resources and support to manufacturing businesses,” said the Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. “With their support, businesses are innovating and growing their ventures. This latest partnership with Queen’s University will further strengthen the SONAMI network, expanding the reach in the province and providing more essential tools to SMEs. The Government of Canada understands the importance of Southern Ontario’s advanced manufacturing sector, and these investments are supporting the people that create jobs and build a strong economy.”

“We are thrilled to see Queen’s University join SONAMI, our office has been working with SONAMI over the past year supporting local manufacturers to develop processes, producers and technologies, that align with our vision of sustainability and innovation,” said Abdul Jendi, Investment Manager, Sustainable Manufacturing at Kingston Economic Development. “Queen’s Structural and Multidisciplinary Systems Design Lab (SMSD) which specializes in advanced modelling and multi-disciplinary design and optimization is a great addition to SONAMI’s spectrum of specialties. We look forward to the continued collaboration with SONAMI in pursuit of excellence in manufacturing.”

Since the award-winning network’s inception in 2016, industry partners have benefitted from collaborative projects by: increasing sales, reducing manufacturing costs, diversifying product lines, and realizing their innovative ideas. To date, SONAMI partners have worked with more than 300 SMEs to complete more than 400 projects resulting in $12.5 million in sales from commercialized innovations, created or maintained over 220 jobs and provided skills and training for hundreds of students to prepare them for future jobs.

To access the advanced manufacturing network, representatives from interested businesses can contact SONAMI’s Business Development Lead, Mitchell Lutz at [email protected]. For more information about the network, please visit the SONAMI website.

A video on the story of one part at the Structural and Multidisciplinary Systems Design (SMSD) Lab at Queen’s University, and its transformation from an idea to a reinterpreted topology optimized design.


Queen’s University has a long history of scholarship, discovery, and innovation that has shaped our collective knowledge and helped address some of the world’s most pressing concerns. Home to more than 25,000 students, the university offers a comprehensive research-intensive environment with prominent strengths in robotics/AI/design optimization, physics, cancer research, geoengineering, data analytics, surveillance studies, art conservation, and mental health research. Welcoming and supporting students from all countries and backgrounds to a vibrant, safe, and supportive community is an important part of the Queen’s experience. Diverse perspectives and a wealth of experience enrich the Queen’s campus and community. A core part of the University’s mission is to engage students, staff, and faculty in international learning and research, both at home and abroad. Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation develops and facilitates collaborations with industry, governments, not-for-profit organizations, and other academic institutions to strengthen Queen’s local, national, and global impact.

In 2023, Queen’s ranked 3rd in the world and 1st in Canada and North America in the Times Higher Education Impact Rankings. The rankings measured over 1,700 post-secondary institutions from 117 countries worldwide, on their work to advance the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) is a Niagara College-led network of postsecondary institutions, who, through their respective Research and Innovation Centres, collaborate with small- and medium-sized companies to tackle their manufacturing-related challenges. SONAMI leverages faculty, students, and state-of-the-market equipment, together with funding from the Federal Government, to support manufacturing in Canada. Learn more at

Niagara College has a full-time enrolment of more than 10,000 students from over 95 countries, who study in 130 diploma, certificate and bachelor degree programs at specialized campuses in Welland and Niagara-on-the-Lake. Niagara College is also involved in educational projects and partnerships around the world and is consistently ranked among Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding. Learn more at

For 13 years, the Government of Canada, through FedDev Ontario, has worked to advance and diversify the southern Ontario economy through funding opportunities and business services that support innovation, growth and job creation in Canada’s most populous region. The Agency has delivered impressive results, which can be seen in southern Ontario businesses that are creating innovative technologies, improving productivity, growing revenues, creating jobs, and in the economic advancement of communities across the region. Learn more about the impacts the Agency is having in southern Ontario by exploring our pivotal projects, our Southern Ontario Spotlight, and FedDev Ontario’s Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.

SONAMI Quick facts:

  • 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.
  • SONAMI is funded by FedDev Ontario, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and Intellectual Property Ontario (IPON).
  • 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.