KAST Kootenay tech sector

Technology & Innovation in the Koots: Full STEAM Ahead!

KAST Kootenay tech sector

The Koots tech sector is drawing talent, inspiring entrepreneurs, and providing a welcome home for anyone looking to bring their idea, product, or service to market.

2018 has been a great year for the evolution of STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics) throughout the Kootenay region as well as the province of British Columbia as a whole.

Since the KPMG British Columbia Technology Report Card in 2016, where it was reported that B.C.’s tech sector is growing faster than not only those in the rest of Canada but also our American neighbours, the sector is still growing, full steam ahead!

The impact of the BC Tech Sector cannot be denied:

  • it comprises over 9500 companies spanning a number of industries: Interactive and Digital Media (IDM), Cleantech, Lifesciences, Information & Communication Technology (ICT) as well as IT & Engineering services;
  • it generates over $15 billion dollars per year;
  • more than 90,000 jobs are created for British Columbians in the tech sector alone.

A marker of BC’s leadership in tech and innovation was federal funding awarded to the British Columbia-led Digital Technology Supercluster in the Government of Canada’s Innovation Supercluster Initiative. The initiative is estimated to create 50,000 jobs and inject $15 billion in GDP into BC’s economy over the next 10 years.

The West Kootenay specifically is, more and more, becoming a destination for tech and knowledge workers from around the country.

Initiatives such as Imagine Kootenay, promoting our much-coveted lifestyle and the growing number of opportunities available; and the exciting regional branding effort, Metal Tech Alley, developing multi-lateral, multi-dimensional partnerships to help clear the path for startups and businesses to succeed are welcome developments.

The Metallurgical Industrial Development Acceleration and Studies (MIDAS) Fabrication Lab has become something of a crown jewel in the region when it comes to entrepreneur support and training in fabrication, manufacturing, and rapid prototyping. MIDAS allows for students, entrepreneurs, startups and businesses to access an MIT-certified digital fabrication laboratory, or “Fab Lab, which includes almost $450,000 in state-of-art equipment as well as valuable expertise and training to help bring innovative ideas to life.

Here at KAST, working with valued partners, have strived for the past 20 years to provide the resources and support to continue to encourage entrepreneurs to grow their startup and business ideas to reach their goals. Confirming to anyone curious about the potential of the region, that the infrastructure and support are in place for STEAM to grow and develop here.

Selkirk College with campuses in Castlegar, Trail, and Nelson, is steadfast in their commitment to supporting and promoting technology & innovation throughout the region through their programming. Their Environment & Geomatics program is making news for significantly contributing to the career success of students.  They have developed an effective combination of classroom education, outdoor learning and real-world, hands-on, experience.

The college’s new Digital Arts and New Media program offers students a solid foundation in traditional and graphic arts, web site development, video and sound production, animation and digital media. It’s an innovative program designed to meet increased demand for skills in advanced production techniques, effective project management and the new media business environment.

Examples of other regional organizations and businesses shaking up West Kootenay innovation include:

  • SMRT1 – founded by MIDAS Fab Lab Director, Brad Pommen, is shaking up conventional vending. Smrt1 is a Nelson-based company specializing in solutions that are a fusion of 3D interactive learning, social marketing and instant product sales.
  • i4C Innovation Centre – a fundamental link between IIoT industry gaps and rapid commercialization of metals related products who will be concentrating on advanced acceleration and mid-level manufacturing of microelectronics for IIoT (Industrial Internet of Things) products.
  • Advanced BioCarbon 3D – awarded the 2018 BC Innovation BC Ignite Award of $300,000, developing a new type of 3D-printing filament from 100% biodegradable, engineering grade plastics and carbon fibre derived from lignin, which are the natural glue-like fibres found inside of wood.
  • I/O Design & Engineering – design machinery and components for heavy industry; excelling at solving problems and developing cost-effective engineered solutions. Services include designing automated equipment to troubleshooting and redesigning existing mechanical equipment.

#madeatMIDAS #metaltechalley

#madeatMIDAS great minds in fabrication and 3D printing

Great Minds in Fabrication and 3D Printing: Our Regional Supercluster!

#madeatMIDAS great minds in fabrication and 3D printing

Kootenay supercluster:  Great Minds gather in fabrication and 3D printing

As evidenced by the funding award to the BC-led Digital Technology Supercluster earlier this year, there is some serious momentum building in the tech sector not only in the Lower Mainland, but throughout the province, as well as here in the Kootenays.

“It is an exciting and historic time for innovation in Canada. The Digital Technology Supercluster is a generational opportunity – one that holds significant promise for companies in BC and across Canada,” says Bill Tam, Co-Chair of Canada’s Digital Technology Supercluster consortium. “Now the important work begins. As a collective, we’ll apply data and use technology in new ways, such as mixed reality, which can digitally transform companies, solve industry problems and advance economic opportunities throughout BC, Canada and the world.”

The Kootenay region is ripe for expanding innovation and tech-based economic development, creating a fertile environment for the increasing clustering of initiatives, ideas, and talent springing to life throughout the region.  The combination of phenomenal mountain lifestyle, location, high-speed fibre Internet, access to markets, and affordability has offered up the perfect storm of opportunity appealing to innovators, disruptors and adventure-seeking entrepreneurs dialled in to the potential of the area to effectively and efficiently nurture and grow their respective businesses.

#metaltechalley clustering great minds 3D printing

West Kootenay:  Canada’s next Silicon Valley?

Essential to the evolution, or revolution as it’s being referred, is the region’s enthusiastic embrace of the power behind fabrication and 3D printing and rapid prototyping – resources often required to facilitate startup and business success.

The MIDAS Fab Lab,an MIT-certified digital fabrication laboratory in Trail, is a perfect example.  MIDAS, the Metallurgical Industrial Development Acceleration and Studies, is an applied research, commercialization and digital fabrication training facility becoming a hub for innovation and fabrication in the Kootenays.

With a focus on the metallurgical sector that has supported the region and the Teck Trail Operations smelter, MIDAS support entrepreneur development and the commercialization of applied, market-relevant research in the metallurgic industry.  The fab lab also works to helps to expand local small and medium-sized companies’ strengths in collaborating, adopting technology, and creating new and marketable products.  It also promotes skills & equipment training in digital fabrication and metallurgical technology, making recent advances in manufacturing tech (including 3D Printing) accessible to West Kootenay companies, entrepreneurs and students.

“Nelson and area has the potential to be the next Canadian ‘Silicon Valley’, and every day we see more and more talented STEAM advocates moving to the region, participating and adding to the growth and success of a solid foundation.”  Says MIDAS Fab Lab Director, Brad Pommen.  “I am excited to see what we’ve achieved in a short five years and the potential of where the next five years will take us.”

i4C innovation in Trail, BC, nestled in the the newly minted Metal Tech Alley, is a production and testing facility committed to the recruitment of early stage Industry 4.0-related companies that want to run their R&D, light fabrication, commercialization and/or distribution from their strategic location just minutes from the US border.

Tenants of i4C are provided with custom-designed infrastructure, equipment, professional services and access to venture capital focused on digital technologies for industrial applications.  Founded by three tech heavyweights, visionaries Pilar Portella, Brian Fry, and Tim Dufour, i4C is intended to be a regional innovation hub.  They understand the strong potential of the region for growing innovation as an economic driver.

According to Fry, “I think we can innovate even faster then other traditional Silicon Valley like environments due to our many advantages.” 

Another example of local 3D printing & fabrication innovation, a recent BCIC Ignite award recipient and exciting partnership between business and local academia, is exploring ways to provide an environmentally friendly alternative to traditional 3D printing filament while at the same time drawing on resources native to BC.  Darrel Fry, CEO of Advanced BioCarbon 3D, and Jason Taylor of Selkirk College, respectively, were awarded $300,000 to develop 3D-printing filament from 100% biodegradable, engineering grade plastics and carbon fiber derived from lignin, the natural glue-like fibres found inside of wood.

States Taylor, “Academic and industry partnership is important for us because it provides the opportunity for our students to keep ahead of the curve.  It gives us the access to what industry is doing and really gives us the opportunity to share our knowledge with industry to provide a wold standard in the fields that we are working towards.”

#madeatMIDAS #makersgonnamake #metaltechalley

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#BCTECH Summit KAST 20th Celebration

REMINDER: 20th Anniversary KAST Meetup at #BCTECH Summit!

#BCTECH Summit KAST 20th Celebration

Just a friendly reminder to all the Koots tech pros and knowledge workers off to this year’s #BCTECH Summit….  We’d love you to help celebrate the 20th Anniversary of KAST!

We’ll be in the booth with MIDAS and would love not only to connect with you, but invite you to our popular Kootenay networking event in Vancouver, May 15th at 7:00pm.

Be sure to make your way to the MIDAS booth at the Summit, have a visit, register with us, and pick up your FREE ticket(s) to our evening meetup.  Sponsored by KAST and LCIC, this networking event is a great opportunity to meet new Koots tech professionals, connect with peers & colleagues, share Summit experiences, and chat with other Kootenay folk in a fun and casual atmosphere.  Last year some great connections were made and you never know who’s doing what right in our own backyards!

The tickets are free, food and drink will be provided, and there will be a fabulous prize draw during the get together!

We’ll be providing more deets about the event when you check in with us at the MIDAS booth.

The Summit is fast approaching, so be sure to put this special KAST 20th Anniversary event on your calendar.

We look forward to seeing you – very, very soon!! – in Vancouver!

KAST Journey - 20 years celebrating innovation

Celebrating 20 Years: Where the KAST Journey Began!

20th Anniversary of KAST

The KAST team is so excited to be celebrating such an incredible milestone!  20 years since the inception of the Kootenay Association of Science & Technology, the KAST journey has been truly a zig-zag of adventures, embracing new and creative ideas to help foster a new culture embracing innovation and encouraging a culture of startups and entrepreneurship.

20 years ago KAST registered as a non-profit society serving the West Kootenay-Boundary region and representing a broad range of interests in local industry, business, education and government.

KAST:  20 years committed to the spirit of West Kootenay innovation

In the mid-nineties, the Science Council of BC (SCBC) – what is now BCIC – launched several regional Innovation Councils beyond the lower mainland and Victoria to Nanaimo, Prince George, the East and West Kootenay.  These councils, under the guidance of the SCBC were tasked with encouraging and promoting science through specific programs, training and events.

The councils quickly proved to be successful in raising the profile of science and, soon to follow, technology, throughout the regions they represented.

In 1998 the regional councils initiated a degree of independence from SCBC to allow for more autonomy and ownership of the programming, activities, and deliverables as per each council’s specific regional needs.  It was at this juncture that KAST was launched as a non-profit.

The first couple of years were spent setting up the structure with a large step forward the result of transitioning from a working board to one of governance, allowing for more effective management of resources, programming and deliverables.

The second crucial step in establishing KAST as an authority in the science & technology needs in the region, was ensuring that both business and industry were represented on the board.  With local CEOs of small business as well as industry representation combined with increased engagement with regional economic development organizations (Community Futures, Columbia Basin Trust), we were able to better identify not only the challenges facing entrepreneurs, business and education but effective solutions as well.

According to Bruce Hardy who was a member of the KAST board for eight of those early years (six of which he sat as Chair), “KAST created the environment, network and infrastructure that has helped many local startups find success here in the West Kootenay.”

Since the beginning we have worked hard to foster a culture that values science, technology, innovation and entrepreneurship as activities vital to maintaining and enhancing the competitiveness of the region. In that spirit we continue to organize and support a variety of efforts, events and initiatives that help to stimulate the growth of science and technology throughout the communities in our service area.

Our mission to promote and advance science and technology in the region is partially achieved through one of KAST’s primary goals, namely acting as a catalyst for advancing technological development to revitalize and diversify the West Kootenay-Boundary regional economy. We are so proud of our expanding role as important resource for promoting science and technology in the region.

We look to provide and support programming that underpins this vision with outstanding projects like the MIDAS FabLab serving as huge encouragement and inspiration as to what is possible in the region: fusing science, technology, innovation, and imagination for both industry and public participants.

As a community-based organization, we value:

  • Being a visible and approachable member of our regional community
  • Creating connections to solutions
  • Positive partnerships and relationships that advance science, technology and innovation
  • Our local talent and learning from others
  • Education and learning
  • Creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship
  • Effective action
  • Inspiration
  • Professionalism

KAST receives its core funding from the BC Innovation Council. In addition, every effort is made to leverage funding through partnerships, sponsorships and contracts with government and other organizations.  We are proud of the skilled and talented staff that work tirelessly to implement the KAST vision and are governed by stellar representation by both the private and public sector in our diverse and inspiring Board of Directors.

In celebration of our 20 years supporting innovation throughout the region, this post launches a little stroll down memory lane, taking stops along the way to revisit highlights in this journey of two remarkable and innovative decades.

KAST Journey - 20 years celebrating innovation

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