Niagara College building innovative partnerships with industry thanks to provincial grant

Thanks to CVTA funding, Dan Sennet, founder of Bald Baker, partnered with Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division to improve two cookie products. The research team assisted with recipe optimization, identifying packaging options, conducting shelf-life studies and providing labelling and regulatory guidance. Niagara College photo

Niagara College press release – Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division is set to offer small- and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) a way to advance their products, improve their performance, or take an innovative leap forward, through the College Voucher for Technology Adoption (CVTA) program. CVTA is delivered by Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) in partnership with Colleges Ontario.

Thanks to a $210,000 grant, the College will provide vouchers to 25 companies to help solve their innovation challenges related to technology adoption, in the sectors of advanced manufacturing, food and beverage, and agriculture environmental technologies.

Businesses will work with expert faculty, students and researchers from Niagara College’s three Innovation Centres – including the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation CentreCanadian Food and Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, and Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre – to access resources to address technology and innovation challenges. As a result of this opportunity, industry partners will acquire new prototypes, products, processes, and test results that validate their products and services, bringing them closer to market. Companies accessing these resources at Niagara College will be required to match OCE funds, at least 1:1, with a combination of cash and in-kind.

Over the past two years, the College’s R&I division has successfully completed 23 technology-adoption projects, where both SMEs and NC students benefitted. This was demonstrated last year when the research team at the CFWI Innovation Centre helped sugar-conscious dessert company Bald Baker to extend the shelf life, optimize and scale-up their two cookie products in order to commercialize them into a larger market.

Since the project, Bald Baker is now on the shelves of Ontario health food markets, with Sobeys grocery chain on the horizon. The company was also able to significantly improve their understanding of product development and production processes. “Business has been really good this year so far,” said Bald Baker owner Dan Sennet. “Lots of growth and lots of interest from larger, more national retailers.”

Other examples of previous CVTA industry partnerships include enhancing renewable energy research, strategic marketing analysis, advancing horticultural practices, and food safety and quality assurance.

“We’re grateful to OCE for this grant, which will help SMEs gain a competitive edge in their field,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, NC’s vice-president, Research, Innovation & Strategic Initiatives. “At the same time, it allows students the opportunity to translate the skills they’ve learned in the classroom into real-world partnerships with industry.”

Roger Vail of Vailmont Vineyards received CVTA funding to collaborate with expert staff and student researchers at the CFWI Innovation Centre who conducted studies of a dozen different hop varietals to better predict potential harvest dates. The research benefited both hop growers and craft brewers across the province. Niagara College photo

Within the CVTA program, some technology adoption projects can be incorporated into existing college programs such as Culinary Innovation Food Technology; Electronics or Mechanical Engineering; Greenhouse Technician; Industrial Automation; and Renewable Energies Technician, where students will work with their course faculty and industry partner to address the specialized challenge.

Others will require the facilities and researcher expertise of NC’s three Innovation Centres, such as the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre, where the focus is on developing remote and real-time sensing and Geographic Information Systems data-processing technologies to support precision agriculture. The centre is also home to a 20,000-square-foot on-campus greenhouse and aquaponics system accessible to companies looking to work on horticultural or greenhouse management projects.

The CFWI Innovation Centre houses a suite of food technology labs to support culinary industry innovation from recipe development to shelf-life testing and nutritional labelling. The centre also works collaboratively with the College’s Teaching Brewery, Teaching Winery, 40-acre on-campus vineyard, and its new artisan Teaching Distillery.

The Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre team specializes in engineering design, 3D technologies, lean manufacturing processes and additive manufacturing. The centre works with Ontario businesses to bring ideas to life, from concept through to developing working prototypes, utilizing leading-edge technology, including equipment and software.

For more information about the funding program, including details for companies interested in partnering with the Research & Innovation team, contact Elizabeth Best at, or 905-641-2252 Ext. 4287.