October 20, 2019

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R&D corp. gets a reset

New CEO reorganizes, re-brands Composites Innovation Centre

Supplied</p><p>The CAD Cave where the engineers work on design and analysis. Among other things, CIC pioneered the development of bio-fibres to be used in mainstream manufacturing.</p></p>

Supplied

The CAD Cave where the engineers work on design and analysis. Among other things, CIC pioneered the development of bio-fibres to be used in mainstream manufacturing.

A year after taking over as head of the Composites Innovation Centre, Doug McCartney has launched a full-fledged reorganization and re-branding of the not-for-profit research and development corporation.

For starters, the organization that was formed in 2003 to increase the capacity of Manitoba manufacturing sector’s expertise in composite materials, will broaden its focus to work with the private sector on applications and technologies related to all materials including plastics and metals.

Budget constraints and changes in market demand has also led the organization to decide to make a more targeted effort to engage with small- and medium-sized operations.

The impetus for the creation of the organization 16 years ago was a former senior executive at Boeing Canada which operates the largest composites manufacturing operation in Canada in Winnipeg.

A year after taking over as head of the Composites Innovation Centre, Doug McCartney has launched a full-fledged reorganization and re-branding of the not-for-profit research and development corporation.

For starters, the organization that was formed in 2003 to increase the capacity of Manitoba manufacturing sector’s expertise in composite materials, will broaden its focus to work with the private sector on applications and technologies related to all materials including plastics and metals.

Supplied</p><p>CIC CEO Doug McCartney</p>

Supplied

CIC CEO Doug McCartney

Budget constraints and changes in market demand has also led the organization to decide to make a more targeted effort to engage with small- and medium-sized operations.

The impetus for the creation of the organization 16 years ago was a former senior executive at Boeing Canada which operates the largest composites manufacturing operation in Canada in Winnipeg.

Since then, the CIC has become a recognized source of development expertise in the field, for example pioneering the development of bio-fibres to be used in mainstream manufacturing.

But while that work is noteworthy, bio-fibre development has not yet developed the kind of supply chain necessary for it to become more widespread and funding of that kind of work will not be as predominant as it has been for the CIC.

In the meantime, the overriding current trend in industry is what is called advanced manufacturing — the use of new digital tools including 3-D printing in the manufacturing process. The National Research Council is in the process of building a $60-million advanced manufacturing centre in Winnipeg and Red River College and the University of Manitoba have both concentrated resources to research and apply those technologies

McCartney said the reorganization is being made in response to feedback from the private sector. He said to some extent the organization was starting to become more distracted at meeting the needs of government rather than serving the needs of industry in Manitoba. 

"Now we are transitioning to a more market driven organization," McCartney said.

SUPPLIED </p><p>A pair of CIC staff manufacturing parts for a project with Bionic Power.</p>

SUPPLIED

A pair of CIC staff manufacturing parts for a project with Bionic Power.

As part of that process he said it is likely the word "composites" will be dropped from the name of the organization and will convert to its acronym — CIC — so as to de-emphasize that material as its sole focus.

Other realities include funding cut-backs that have forced layoffs to about 25 per cent of the centre’s staff. While it will remain a not-for-profit public-private partnership, more fee-for-service projects will be sought.

Kevin Lusk, an industry consultant and the vice-chair of the CIC’s board, said the board and industry is supportive of the change.

"Sean McKay (founding CEO who stepped down a year ago) did a tremendous job and provided an extraordinary service to the province," Lusk said. "But the world changes. Things don’t stand still. It was time for a shift in direction."

McKay himself, who has been working with the manufacturing industry to uncover potential projects for the new NRC facility also believes the organization he helped grow over 15 years was in need of a bit of a reset.

SUPPLIED</p><p>The five-axis machining centre with a tool in the foreground and the structure being machined in the background.</p>

SUPPLIED

The five-axis machining centre with a tool in the foreground and the structure being machined in the background.

"It’s a good strategy especially when looking at how advanced manufacturing is the focus now," he said.

McCartney said both the provincial government and the federal government’s department of Western Economic Diversification — which combined, provided more than 50 per cent of the organization’s budget over the years — are also glad the changes are being made.

He insists that the expertise and industry collaborations that have been developed over the years will be valuable in working with new companies. He said the CIC will spend less time and resources on researching and development new products and technologies and more on helping to enhance the capacity of existing operations, particularly small- and medium-sized ones.

Greg Dandewich, senior vice-president at Economic Development Winnipeg and a long-standing board member at CIC, said the new direction is a natural progression of the work the CIC has always done.

"The fundamental underpinning was to provide applied technology to the private sector in order for them to be able to compete and generate more capacity which then creates more jobs more revenue and so one," he said. "We are at a stage now where we need to re-evaluate ourselves and continue to make the adjustments in term of how CIC brings value back to the private sector."

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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