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.
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