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This article was published 8/1/2018 (1151 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Federal Industry Minister Navdeep Bains is in Winnipeg this week to, among other things, financially backstop a number of Manitoba economic development organizations to help them develop the western Canadian clean technology sector.
Bains, who is also the minister responsible for Western Economic Diversification Canada, announced funding totalling close to $7 million for five organizations: Composites Innovation Centre, North Forge Technology Exchange, Information and Communication Technologies Association of Manitoba (ICTAM), Life Science Association of Manitoba Inc. (LSAM) and Genome Prairie.
The timing of new funding commitments will allow some of them to breath a sigh of relief, as provincial funding has become more tenuous.
Monday’s announcement was the result of a call for proposals from Western Economic Development last year.
Bains made it clear that in addition to developing the domestic market, the ultimate goal of this kind of investment is for Canada to become a global leader in the space.
"I am confident we will attract more talent and build new firms that will develop into globally competitive businesses," he said on Monday. "The ambition is not just to succeed locally or nationally — we want them succeed on the global stage."
The funding announcement was made at the Composites Innovation Centre (CIC), which received the largest piece of the financial assistance, $2.05 million for three years to support its ongoing work to develop biomaterials and strengthen supply chains to support commercialization.
Sean McKay, CEO of the CIC, said the new funding will provide substantial support in continuing to develop networks, that have been in the works for several years, on ground-breaking work to make lighter and more environmentally friendly materials for aerospace and ground transportation equipment manufacturers.
It currently has partnerships across Canada and in the U.S., China and Australia.
For several years the CIC has been doing foundational work towards introducing the use of biomaterials — for instance parts made with hemp or flax fibre — that could replace carbon or petroleum-based fibre as a more lightweight, sustainable type of fibreglass.
The CIC has been a key contributor in several projects that have built biomaterials parts for transportation vehicles.
McKay said his research and development organization will be able to leverage the new funding from Western Economic Diversification into an additional $11 million from other entities in the clean technologies area and generate an additional $75 million in exports.
Although he said patience is required to eventually make it possible for manufacturers to use biomaterials in their commercial production runs, he said the tipping point is coming.
When the CIC started working on biomaterials in 2005, there were only four other entities working in the field. Now there are 30, including companies that are now part of a commercial supply chain. Bains said part of the function of the new funding is to focus on scaling companies up.
In the past, North Forge Technology Exchange has focused on supporting startups in whatever way necessary.
Jeff Ryzner, CEO of the organization, said the new funding — $1.156 million — is going to allow North Forge to start working with larger companies to help them become larger.
Ryzner said North Forge will partner with Manitoba Environmental Industries Association to launch a $3.3-million initiative to scale up larger companies across the Prairies.
"We will help them to create new products, new technology, new services and many of those new innovations will help Canada become a global leader in clean technology," he said.
The new funding for LSAM ($1.6 million) and ICTAM (close to $1 million) will also be used in pan-Prairie initiatives.
Bains also announced close to $1 million in funding for On Screen Manitoba to increase market opportunities for francophone audio-visual and digital small- and medium-sized enterprises and $25,000 to Entreprises Riel Inc., to develop a narrative to reposition francophone and Métis cultural tourism in Manitoba.
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.