What did the Innovation Centre deliver in 2018?

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The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC) released its 2018 performance metrics to its stakeholders as part of the new Memorandum of Understanding. The mission statement of SSMIC is to; ‘function as a catalyst for economic development and diversification in the science and technology sectors in the Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma region. SSMIC leads business development services and many science and technology sector development projects, workshops and events within the community.’

“We measure ourselves in a lot of ways the public is not aware of,” said Peter Bruijns, Executive Director. “We want to make public our performance metrics which holds us accountable for making a positive difference, but also lets everyone know what we do day to day for our community.”

SSMIC is not a department of the City of Sault Ste. Marie but rather an arm’s length not-for profit corporation with an innovation focus on the entire Algoma Region. The City of Sault Ste. Marie contributes $277,890 per year as a grant to support overhead operations at the Innovation Centre while the Centre leveraged additional funding of $8,387,556 from multiple sources such as revenues, direct client funding, client matching, federal and provincial program funding in 2018, all for the benefit of our local economy. The Innovation Centre operated with a small surplus of $60,000 in 2018.

The Acorn Information Solutions software development team is recognized globally as one of the world’s most advanced geomatics groups and in support of our City and PUC, Sault Ste. Marie is evolving to be one of the most advanced smart cities in Canada. The team earned $2.01 million of revenue, up 22% from the year before and has over 26 staff, most of whom are graduates of Sault College and Algoma University. The group serves not only Sault Ste. Marie’s needs but also serves several other communities across Canada. The team works on custom software solutions for diverse clients in areas of social impact and industrial software projects which have driven a lot of the growth over the past year.

The RAIN group focuses on agricultural innovation in the Algoma region and manages several programs serving all of Northern Ontario. RAIN managed $1,674,000 of funding which was used to clear 100 acres of bush to farmland, 400 acres of land tile drained for improved production, and delivered several studies focused on northern crops, food security and marketing of regional products. The SNAPP (Sustainable New Agri-foods Products and Productivity) program funded 43 farmers and food producers with new equipment to help grow their businesses. The team helped establish 9 new full-time jobs.

“At the Innovation Centre, our focus is on helping to create regional wealth and opportunities and that can only come from business and entrepreneurs scaling up companies that compete globally,” said Bruijns. “It all starts with our children in every grade, their teachers and their parents all committed to learning, coaching and preparing kids to become well adjusted, capable adults with hopes and dreams, which is why our C2C and YouLaunch programs are also important.”

The C2C (Concept to Commerce) and YouLaunch programs are very diverse and include programs for elementary schools, high schools, college and university as well as entrepreneurs and local businesses. The team played an important supporting role in the creation of 9 new businesses and more than 80 new full-time jobs, held 43 workshops attended by 837 people, held 229 material business consultations, engaged 3,412 students, held 19 classroom visits and established a free software learning portal for all Sault residents provided by CISCO. The BEAM, IAP and IRAP programs funded 71 companies a total $394,000 to improve their online presence and increase sales.

Marketing and Communications organized the 11th annual ARTIE event which had 1,243 students participate and delivered another successful SSMARt Innovation Awards ceremony where SSMIC profiled women in leadership to encourage young women to pursue and aspire to leadership roles.

The UP Lottery and Gaming team completed a successful recruitment of PQA/PLATO this past year to Sault Ste. Marie and was critical in the establishment of $1,850,000 of funding to help the company accelerate its growth. “Our own Jennifer Rushton left the UP team to lead PLATO and we are pleased that the first cohort of students are now going through their training program,” said Bruijns. The UP team also established a key recruitment tool for all local lottery and gaming companies to benefit from while also helping two other local firms raise $645,000 in capital. Active companies and institutions involved in the Sault’s lottery and gaming cluster have grown considerably since UP began its initiative, and their focus on the global lottery and gaming marketplace is driving local job growth. The team continues to work to attract new companies in 2019.

Overall, the Innovation Centre employs more than 50 staff which includes professionals in diverse disciplines. SSMIC works together with counterpart organizations in Sudbury, North Bay, Thunder Bay and Timmins, and local organizations as well as MaRS and the OCE (Toronto) to push for northern innovation programming. SSMIC also has several young interns at any given time, providing work placement experiences to build their resumes for their next job.

“A lot needs to be done in Sault Ste. Marie to move our City and the Algoma region to a place where citizens can remain proud of the heritage but vibrant about the future,” said Bruijns. “We are going to continue working hard at getting things done to empower people to make good things happen here.”