Success comes easy to Composites Innovation Centre

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Since it was formed in 2003, the Composites Innovation Centre has quietly become one of the most successful "greenfield" economic development initiatives in Winnipeg.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 12/11/2009 (4700 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Since it was formed in 2003, the Composites Innovation Centre has quietly become one of the most successful "greenfield" economic development initiatives in Winnipeg.

This week, the federal and provincial governments increased funding to the CIC for the next four years to $11.6 million from the $6.6 million that it received for the previous four years.

And the not-for-profit advanced materials commercialization centre is on such a roll that it plans to increase its third-party revenue stream over the next four years so that it equals its public-sector core funding.

Elaine Thompson / The Associated Press Archives Boeing is one of the core stakeholders of the Composites Innovation Centre.

That ambitious growth will require more space: Plans are being finalized for a 20,000-square-foot building near the airport.

Sean McKay, the CIC’s executive director, said the centre is budgeting $25 million over the next four years with a series of initiatives.

"It will be a bit if a challenge, but we want to eventually wean ourselves off government funding," McKay said. "We do have some momentum."

So much so, that it has significantly outgrown its 5,000-square-foot Smartpark location.

"It is not a done deal yet," McKay said of the new building. "We are still negotiating financial support but this agreement takes us a long way towards that."

Because of a lack of space, it is already sub-contracting some of its own projects to other groups around the world. It is occupying an additional 3,000 square feet in other locations around town and even doing some work out of a portable trailer.

The CIC works with industry and academia to commercialize manufacturing technologies associated with composite materials — lightweight, extremely strong materials made by embedding glass fibres, carbons and now bio-fibres into plastic resins.

The idea of creating a composites centre of excellence has caught on with industry to the point that the CIC’s likely move to a Winnipeg Airports Authority location is seen as a way to enhance the neighbourhood of many of its partners in the aerospace sector.

With federal and provincial cabinet ministers in attendance at Tuesday’s funding announcement, Kevin Lusk, the CIC’s current chairman of the board and the executive vice-president of Structural Composite Technologies Ltd. pointed out that the significance of the work being done at the CIC may not be so obvious to those outside the industry.

"Within industry circles the CIC is viewed as a world-class centre," he said. "The work being done here will enable Canada and Manitoba to remain globally competitive. This is what will ensure the future sustainability of the province. That’s what this is about."

Those are strong words, but there is something to it.

If Winnipeg it to remain an aerospace and bus manufacturing centre, for instance, those players must remain on the cutting edge. Boeing has been one of the CIC’s original and core stakeholders and it has leveraged that into a strategic advantage with the parent company’s development of the all-composite 787 Dreamliner.

Motor Coach Industries is experimenting with a flax-based composite material that the CIC is developing into exterior panel components.

Barry Rempel, the CEO of the Winnipeg Airports Authority, has been working with the CIC to build a new facility. He said a lease has been negotiated and a site on the west side of the airport has been identified.

"The whole thing is how to build a composites cluster that is truly meaningful with industry, education, application and design all in one area," Rempel said.

martin.cash@freepress.mb.ca

 

Martin Cash

Martin Cash
Reporter

Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.

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