Businesses are seeing results from expertise and tools provided through Niagara College’s SONAMI partnership project
Recipient: Niagara College, Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation (SONAMI) Project
Region: Niagara Region
Program: Investing in Commercialization Partnerships
Total funding allocated: $7.3 million
Over the past few decades, southern Ontario’s manufacturing industry has changed and evolved, bringing forth new innovative solutions. Academic institutions are collaborating with manufacturers to strengthen the development of emerging companies.
Niagara College, in partnership with McMaster University, Mohawk College and Sheridan College, is leading the formation of the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing and Innovation (SONAMI)—a key project that works to support manufacturers’ research and development needs. Since December 2016, FedDev Ontario has supported the SONAMI project through the Investing in Commercialization Partnerships initiative with an investment of $7.3 million.
“SONAMI is an unprecedented collaboration that has been successful in driving research and innovation in the advanced manufacturing sector in the Golden Horseshoe, and that has only been possible thanks to support from FedDev Ontario,” says Krystyn Keir, SONAMI Project Manager.
The SONAMI project supports manufacturers in a way to adopt and integrate advanced technologies into their operations—a task not always feasible for a growing company on its own. Within the project, numerous resources are readily available as each academic institution specializes in its own niche, from additive manufacturing to flexible manufacturing to high-productivity manufacturing and industrial internet. Businesses participating in the project are encouraged to access and make use of the state-of-the-art equipment, tools, services and expertise.
“Most small businesses do not have the resources in-house to bring their innovative solutions to market and remain competitive,” says Krystyn Keir. “By partnering with one of the SONAMI institutions, these industry partners are now being helped to compete on a global stage.”
According to Bob Benner of Niagara’s Hamill Machine Co., a heavy manufacturing company that recently evolved into custom operations specializing in the agri-food sector, his company’s work with Niagara College and SONAMI has been invaluable.
“Niagara College’s research team figured out exactly what was needed for our Harvester dryer and they gave us a working product,” says Benner. “And this ingenious technology is saving specialty crop farmers thousands of dollars. As a smaller company, we wouldn’t have had the capabilities or resources to diversify and grow had it not been for SONAMI or FedDev Ontario.”
And Benner’s story of success is just one of many.
“In just a short period, we’ve seen extraordinary results from the SONAMI partnerships—with one Burlington steel company realizing a 20-fold increase in tool life thanks to their collaboration with McMaster, and a Niagara Falls machine shop now doubling both its facility space and its workforce to accommodate new business, thanks to Niagara College,” says Keir.
Since the start of the project, an estimated 186 jobs have been created in the Niagara region, with more than 150 proof-of-concept prototypes and 85 new products for commercialization. And with all of SONAMI’s current momentum, these numbers continue to rise.
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