It’s no secret that small to medium-sized enterprises face challenges with funding, networking and project execution due to several reasons, including funding limitations and lack of internal capacity. Accessing services can seem impossible when they are spread out across industries as opposed to all in one place. Centennial College’s Technology Access Centre “WIMTACH” makes a concerted effort to continue to be a hub of innovation with specialized technical expertise, beneficial training and networking services and opportunities all in one place.
Jim Sheehan of Northline Canada, an intelligent traffic company that deals with traffic and infrastructure, understands the benefit of working with a college dedicated to applied research. He explains that SMEs like his don’t have the in-house resources to carry out long-term, demanding research such as that from an applied research project.
“My concern was we had done a lot of research at a lot of institutions with both community colleges and universities and there was a definite consistency of people not delivering finished products. [Because of this cost] We [still] have to go out to industry and pay huge amounts of money to figure things out,” he says. But with WIMTACH from Centennial, the experience is the opposite. “It’s like having my own mini R&D [research and development] department that I could never afford.”
Sheehan’s company was referred to WIMTACH via his Ontario Centre of Excellence (OCE) representative in Durham because WIMTACH had the “specialized knowledge that Northline was looking for”: mobile and web application and software development expertise. Sheehan was specifically looking for web and mobile-based applications that communicate with electronics to automate the power function of video recording (i.e., turning it on and off) traffic. The project with WIMTACH began four months ago. He was “very impressed” by the entire WIMTACH’s team, including the students.
“The interesting thing about students is that when they’re young they’re infallible. They have knowledge and unlimited energy! So they come up with things that, as we get older in business, we just sort of push down. Having someone who says, “Oh we can do this” or “We can do that”. It may not be practical and it may not work, but just to have that conversation creates so many opportunities for us.”
It helps SMEs to have a connected and collaborative approach to applied research as it allows many challenges to be addressed simultaneously and in a shorter, more controlled amount of time. Navigating a research project is easier because all the knowledge is right on campus – students, faculty, researchers and industry professionals.
WIMTACH doesn’t just provide services. It provides networking opportunities that support companies as well as the College. The applied research work at WIMTACH supports the growth and job experience of students and faculty to gain exclusive insight into their industries while making meaningful connections with industry partners. For Jim Sheehan, the experience working with WIMTACH gave him “the opportunity to see the students [work in a professional environment]…there are a few students that, when [the project is done], I’d like to have a chat with [about working for Northline].”
WIMTACH’s project with Northline has officially wrapped, and the prototype is now in its testing phase. The goal is for Northline to have a commercial product ready to launch formally in early 2020. In the meantime, Jim Sheehan recommends WIMTACH to other companies that are looking for meaningful collaboration, excellent services and realistic project management.
“I think setting those [realistic] [project] expectations is very important to companies like mine. If we presume that you can solve any problem, we will be let down very quickly. But through the experience we had, you [WIMTACH] managed the expectations very well and you were always able to bring in expertise to answer questions if something felt outside the group expertise. I would say to other companies to definitely connect. ”
WIMTACH collaborates with companies to produce exceptional applied research projects and enhance the capacity of its partners to demonstrate leadership and innovation in their respective industries. With over 60 projects completed and 90 companies served – and many more to go – WIMTACH remains committed to serving the healthcare sector in Ontario and beyond.
WIMTACH proudly recognizes funding to support this work from Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the College Voucher for Technology Adoption (CVTA) program of the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE).