Across Canada, there are a significant number of funding programs available to help small businesses find new product and service opportunities for technologies by partnering with academic institutions. Here we provide a quick guide on how a small business, from a startup through to established small businesses and larger ones, can engage these programs and partnerships.
Identifying A Problem:Every business has some form of problem they want to solve. Some are known, some are unknown. As an owner or executive manager, you may know the problem well or have a hunch, but not be sure of the solution. It may be a technology problem or a service oriented problem. Either way, the first step is to identify the problem clearly. You can start by contacting the faculty of a nearby university or community college. Set up an initial meeting. Most all faculties have an associate dean or someone senior who can arrange a meeting with the right professor.
The Initial Meeting:Once a meeting is set, outline your problem. Often, it helps to draft a one page document which can be in point form, that outlines the problem or what you think you’d like to achieve. Send this in advance to the professor or primary contact. That way, they’ll have some time to prepare themselves and perhaps bring in additional people.
Objectives for An Initial Meeting:The initial meeting should be an open discussion where ideas can flow and approaches be discussed. This may require several meetings as defining the problem is often an iterative process. The faculty member will be able to identify what types of funding programs are available and how to go about applying for them. A professor will also be able to determine the amount and education level of students that might be involved. You’ll also want to discuss timelines and expectations.
Getting Going:Most funding programs are actually quite easy to access and don’t require massive amounts of paperwork as is commonly thought. The better a project can be defined, the better the chances of reaching a desired outcome. It is important to be clear on timelines and anticipated outcomes.
A good approach is to identify a funding program, This can be done relatively quickly and provide a “proof-of-concept” or validation. Depending on the outcomes you may move on to more advanced programs or you may stop there.
Some programs require a small contribution from the business and then matching funds kick in. Larger projects may take longer and involve more than one faculty and varying degrees of student education levels.
The key is to make that first contact and let the faculty member work with you. It’s easy and starts with a conversation!
Most small businesses in Atlantic Canada want to grow; revenues and profitability. And as most businesses today now, such growth comes increasingly from leveraging technology, through what is called Digital Transformation. Whether that’s using Big Data and advanced analytics to seek competitive advantage or improving an existing technology with robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain or software applications.
The challenge for many small businesses however, is the research and development and funding to leverage these powerful new technologies. Sometimes, it is also difficult for a business to understand just how to leverage a technology to expand regionally or into international markets. A great idea may be sparked somehow, but then how to make it happen? How to understand the risks and mitigate them.
Partnering with universities and community colleges can be a great way to both mitigate the risks and get to market more cost effectively. It may also be a way to find the ideal employee who can ensure a new innovation continues to improve.
Speaking of improvement, there are government programs that enable a company to engage with a university or community college to evolve a product or service.
This can be done in a measured approach that works within the budget of a business and can grow over time. A company may for example, start with a quick “proof-of-concept” type of program where the cost is covered completely, then as it is proven, move towards programs where the company contributes some funds, but they are expanded through government programs. This puts the burden of the research on the academic partner while the company focuses on how to commercialise the product being developed. There are programs through ACOA that can help a company through the commercialisation phase as well.
Small businesses know that in today’s world, innovation and leveraging technology is not only critical to survival, but to staying relevant in the market. Especially as the trade agreements with the EU and the Pacific countries come into effect.
You can learn more by attending a free event called DAM-IT! (Digital Analytics Mixer – IT) On April 18th at Dalhousie University from 5PM to 6:45PM in the Rowe Management School building. Just click here for more details.
Businesses are always looking for an opportunity to increase profits, either through growth or cost reduction. Increasingly, they are turning to universities to help them find that edge. This is especially so when it comes to being digital and finding a technological advantage. It was the Canadian government’s investments into Artificial Intelligence years ago that lead to the development of “neural networks”, which has become the foundation of the greatest advances in AI and are now being used by Google, Apple, Microsoft and many others.
Today, the federal government in Canada is continuing this approach to bringing academia and business together to advance technology. Even small to medium sized businesses can now take advantage of small investment programs that multiply dollars spent significantly, or leverage grants for quick, smaller problems that deliver a business advantage and help a student move towards their masters or Ph.D., a win-win.
Universities across Atlantic Canada have also significantly increased their partnering with businesses across almost all sectors. From agriculture and oceans technology to data analytics and software development firms. Each university across Atlantic Canada has contact points to help businesses connect with the right faculty. Some universities have assigned a member of a faculty to be the main outreach and contact person to help a business coordinate their projects.
A common concern posed by businesses is around the anticipated amount of paperwork and administration required to access funds and manage the project. In reality, it’s actually quite easy. Some programs require only a one page form to be completed, while others are just a few pages.
Every business has at least one significant technology problem that could benefit from some research. Meeting with a university faculty member can be as simple as an initial cup of coffee. You may end up finding a whole new vertical market opportunity or taking your business to an entirely new level.
We’re excited to announce an awesome mixer event on April 18th, 2018 to bring together business and academia! It’s free and open to the public and will take place from 5PM to 6:45PM at the Rowe Management Building on the Dalhousie Campus. Following the event is another exciting one featuring a speech by Dr. Dan Russell, Google’s uber tech lead for search quality and user happiness. You can check out Dan’s blog here.
There are some superb federal and provincial funding programs that are designed to help businesses solve problems with technologies such as Big Data and Artificial Intelligence. These can be small, fairly quick to solve problems that are almost entirely funded through grants up to major, complex problems that can take much longer but are offset with business contribution of funds and matching or higher funds from government.
The event will feature two minute pitches from a number of regional companies that have benefitted from these partnerships. Companies today need a digital advantage to compete on the global, hyper-connected stage. Find out more today and register for the event here. Coffee and nibbles will be served.
There are a number of programs available from federal and provincial departments and agencies to help businesses in Atlantic Canada to develop technologies and analytics programs. This includes Big Data projects.
Here we provide a PDF document that you can download; click on the link below.
Funding Programs That Support Company Research Needs
There are brief details on the available programs and their requirements with links to the associated websites with further details. There are some truly excellent programs that businesses of all sizes across any industry can leverage. You don’t have to be a technology company and such programs can help companies in their growth strategies, digital transformation and expanding their global footprint with tools that can provide competitive advantage.
To learn more and get inspired, be sure to register for the 2017 5th annual Big Data Congress this Nov. 6-8 in Halifax, Nova Scotia!
One sector that doesn’t get a lot of attention when it comes to Big Data is agriculture. Yet the AgriTech sector and agroculture as a whole are finding innovative and powerful ways to leverage Big Data. From soil indications through to crop management and food quality. The entire chain from seed to table is looking to Big Data.
In 2017 at the 5th annual Big Data Congress, we’ll be exploring how industry, government and academia are looking to Big Data. The business cases are growing rapidly and as more organizations see opportunities, they are seizing them. The data for these projects is coming from innovative uses for sensors; from deep in the soil to floating in the sky in drones and satellites.
Take, for example, Surrey Satellites who are developing small satellites with HD cameras to monitor soil and growing conditions. There are others developing similar satellite tools and Big Data’s role is expected to be worth US$50-100 Billion over the next decade according to SpaceNews.
Drones are not just adding cameras, but sensors as well. And video imagery can be converted into valuable data. In Nova Scotia, there’s SkySquirrel who uses drones to monitor vineyards.
The uses of Big Data are uhm, growing fast! At the 2017 Big Data Congress we’re bringing business leaders together to explore, discuss and generate ideas on how to make the most of Big Data. Keep an eye on our website for updated information here.
Our oceans take up over 70% of the earth. The provide us with oxygen, clean the air and provide us with food. Billions of tons of cargo move across them every day and they may become a key part of our renewable energy future. Now, corporations and governments around the world are looking to Big Data analytics to help them better understand, protect and manage our ocean resources.
The Atlantic Canadian province of Nova Scotia, already a globally recognized leader in Big Data, is at the forefront of finding innovative ways to apply Big Data analytics to our oceans. From sustainable fishing to logistics, maritime security and energy.
Nova Scotia recently announced significant investments (over CAD$140 Million) into the oceans sector from the COVE project (Centre for Ocean Ventures and Entrepreneurship) to OFI (Ocean Frontier Institute) and OERA (Offshore Energy Research Association) and more.
The Bay of Fundy between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia sees billions of tons of water move four times a day with the world’s highest tides. Now, efforts are underway to harness this energy through turbines such as the Cape Sharp Tidal turbine.
Halifax, Nova Scotia’s capital city, is home to Canada’s largest Royal Canadian Navy base. Many companies engaged in maritime and port security locate here because of this. From Airbus to Boeing and Lockheed-Martin.
In 2017, a primary focus of the Big Data Congress will be on oceans. We will be looking at how industry and government can leverage Big Data to find new revenue opportunities, improve cost efficiencies, generate energy and manage our oceans. What better place to find out more about the emerging uses of Big Data and our oceans?