Hamilton Economic Development

Pitching grants to business is hardball

Forming Steel Collaborations was the name of the get-together Thursday at CANMET lab on Longwood Road. Hitesh Jain, business and contracts manager, introduces the session.

In the auto parts business shaving a single penny off the cost of production can mean the difference between profits and bankruptcy.

When Guelph’s Linamar Corporation went in search of those savings it found its answer at McMaster University’s engineering department. where Stephen Veldhuis helped the company develop new tooling for its production equipment to make the machines more efficient.

“In a company like that you have millions of dollars invested in machinery, but a $100 tool determines the productivity of the machine,” Velduis said. “There’s not much you can (do) on the machine side, but you can do something with the tooling.”

Veldhuis was among a group of researchers making speed-dating like pitches to an audience of business people and other scientists Thursday at the CanmetMATERIALS lab at the McMaster Innovation Park. The occasion was an event designed to show the range of government funding programs, and university researchers, available to help Canadian industry survive in a tough new world.

Sponsors of the event included the city’s economic development department, National Sciences and Engineering Research Council and McMaster.

Selling business on the benefits of government help isn’t always an easy job, admitted Carolynn Reid, of economic development.

“Government is often seen as difficult so sometimes there’s a reluctance to even ask for help,” she said, adding overcoming that fear may be the key for firms staying in business.

“Everything that government says about growing our economy today is innovate,” she said. “We want to get the message out that we’re here to help.”

On the scientific side, McMaster and Canmet researchers are working on dozens of projects that could aid manufacturers in anything from understanding the mechanical behaviour of steel, to new ways of modelling production processes, to finding the most efficient forms of operating, to finding new ways of forming steel to meet the demand for lighter but stronger metal for fuel efficient auto bodies.

To finance the search for ways to turn that research into new products and processes, the federal government offers a range of programs targeted at small-medium sized companies — usually those with fewer than 500 employees.

The most recent of these programs is Engage, launched in 2010 by NSERC. It provides up to $25,000 for a six month project aimed at moving a new process or tool from the lab bench to the production floor.

Applications under this program can be processed in as little as six week and 87 per cent of applications are approved.

“Look at it this way, that means you have only a one-in-10 chance of not making the grade,” quipped John Jackson of NSERC.

Click here to read the full story from the Hamilton Spectator.





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