Money Well Spent
By Mike McLeodGeneral Funding Innovation
The Ontario government, through the Yves Landry Foundation, is providing up to $50,000 for training to SME manufacturers in the province.
Just about everywhere you turn these days, someone is advocating innovation as the best way forCanadian manufacturers to stay competitive in a global economy. But given the economic beating many have taken of late, spending money update existing technology or practices can be challenging, to say the least. Tack on the cost of training personnel to take advantage of the new technology and the whole thing seems like an idea better left to a rosier future.
To encourage innovation in the province by offsetting some of its associated costs, the Ontario government is offering manufacturers in the province up to $50,000 to fund training related to an innovation project. Managed by the Yves Landry Foundation, the Achieving Innovation & ManufacturingExcellence (AIME) initiative targets Ontario SMEs looking to re-vamp their operations and personnel to stay competitive in the global economy.
“The whole idea behind the AIME initiative is that SME manufacturers in Ontario need to bethinking creatively about how to do things differently; how to expand their product mix, their client reach, those kinds of things,” says Karyn Brearley, the executive director of the Yves Landry Foundation. “This program is unique in that we recognize the value the current workforce gives and recognize that forOntario to become more competitive, we need to improve our skill sets,” she says. “AIME gives the ability to do that with minimal out of pocket expenses for the company’s themselves.”
To qualify,applicants must be manufacturers with a facility or facilities inOntario, have roughly between 15 and 1500 employees and been in operation for at least three years (or demonstrate financial viability). According to the foundation, qualifying proposals can include any training that would support the adaptation of new technology, processes or procedures or training to help“highly skilled personnel” (i.e. engineers) take advantage of new software, hardware or manufacturing methods.
For example, a proposal could include training associated with upgrading engineers’ skills with CAD or related software or training associated with investigating and implementing a new manufacturing process or material. Other examples the foundation suggests include training to support new safety equipment/procedures; quality control equipment/procedures or developing new packaging material or delivery features (RFID).
“These examples are just to give people ideas of what is in the realm of possibility but it isn’t limited to that,” Brearley says. “And this isn’t just for automotive parts makers, either. It’s for the entire manufacturing sector from food manufacturers to bio fuels to furniture makers to really anything.”
Launched in earlyOctober 2008, AIME has seen healthy participation with approximately165 companies having received application approval to date, she says.While the foundation will continue to accept applications untilSeptember 30, 2009, Brearley says interested companies shouldn’t wait since AIME has a fix pool of money to draw upon and submissions are processed on a first come first served basis. Brearley says approximately $6 million of the program’s $25million total funding pool has been earmarked so far.
To begin the process, candidates submit a preliminary application, to which the foundation will reply with suggestions as to how to improve the proposal. After this initial pre-qualifying step, candidates then submit a formal proposal form, which the foundation will respond to within 20 working days. Once the training has been completed and a summary report is submitted, the foundation issues the re-imbursement check. Funding covers 100 percent of direct training costs and up to 50percent of indirect costs.
“Were view the innovation they are undertaking, not in judgement, but simply to assess the project and how the training plan will get them to that goal, in the amount of time and money that they have specified,” she says. “We see ourselves as a conduit to help companies get to where they want to go through innovation and not act as a judge and jury or barrier to keep them from it.”