Three years of success brings another $10 million to CONII

OTTAWA — Queen's Park gave CONII three years to make good and it did so the province has anted up another $10 million to keep it going for three years more.
The unique Colleges Ontario Network for Industry Innovation (CONII) program, created in fall 2006, has been extended to 2012 based on a record that has seen more than 2,000 Ontario college students put research and innovation skills into practice with about 400 small and medium-sized businesses across the province. The initiative involves 10 colleges along the Ontario Technology Corridor between Ottawa and Windsor — Algonquin in Ottawa, Conestoga in Kitchener, Fanshawe in London, Niagara in Welland, Sheridan in Oakville, St. Clair in Windsor, and Centennial, George Brown, Humber and Seneca in Toronto.
“The success of CONII has dramatically exceeded our expectations,” says Katharine Janzen, chair of the CONII steering committee and VP, research and innovation, at Seneca College. CONII organizers had originally anticipated the participation of little more than 100 students and companies.
“CONII members work to solve problems or meet goals driven by CONII161X86.gifour business partners, an approach referred to as ‘market pull,’” says Janzen, explaining that CONII’s mandate is to develop research projects with businesses that make effective use of faculty expertise, provide students with real-world learning opportunities, and ultimately have a positive economic impact on the province’s small business sector.
During the last three years, CONII has successfully helped small and mid-sized companies across Ontario solve technical problems faster, improve the efficiency of manufacturing processes, and move products and services to market more quickly. Projects have included designing more efficient light sources and alternative energy systems that reduce pack electricity usage, enhancing the use of laser technology in industry, and revolutionizing the three-dimensional and other interactive educational gaming experiences, all while making Ontario companies more productive and profitable in the process.
Ottawa-based Blindside Networks, for example, "benefited greatly this summer from an Algonquin College student who made our open source web conferencing project look very professional," says Fred Dixon, CEO of Blindside. "By applying a broad set of web site design, user experience design, video editing, and social media skills, the student made significant and innovative improvements to the overall user experience of our product, resulting in many positive comments from our customer and user base.”
By tapping into the knowledge and commercialization expertise of college students and faculty, "businesses are able to further a research area or address a challenge for which they may not have in-house staff or expertise,” explains Len Crispino, president and CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce.
“CONII is a creative and cost-effective resource for companies, enabling them to access the innovative research and development they need to position their businesses for growth,” adds Crispino, an entrepreneur who himself has worked with CONII member Niagara College to increase the efficiency of his business.
CONII’s areas of focus include alternative energy, environmental technologies and construction, digital media, health and life sciences, hospitality and tourism, information and communication technologies, manufacturing and materials, and viticulture and agri-business. Each of the colleges linked by CONII has established an industry innovation centre to serve as a primary contact for business owners looking for assistance. The centres then put together the strongest team from its network of colleges for each particular company and business issue.
All businesses are welcome and encouraged to contact their local college for help with research, innovation, commercialization and access to project funding support. The college will assist applicants in sourcing its most appropriate subject matter expert for their particular challenge or act as a conduit to source the required expertise from any of the other CONII colleges.

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