NRC IRAP celebrates 75 years of innovation

 

Empowering entrepreneurship and innovation in Canada

The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) has proudly supported and enabled Canadian innovation since 1947. As NRC IRAP celebrates its 75th anniversary in 2022, we are looking back across the decades to highlight the program's impact and successes in inspiring and supporting Canadian entrepreneurs.

The 75th anniversary is an opportunity to highlight how NRC IRAP has evolved through time to become a leader in Canada's innovation space. Throughout the year we will commemorate the program, celebrate the employees and clients, and continue to cultivate innovation for the future.

Today, NRC IRAP provides technical and business advisory services, linkages to industry-specific business expertise, access to R&D expertise and financial support to help Canadian small and medium-sized businesses build their innovation capacity and successfully take their ideas to market.

NRC IRAP has a proud history of helping Canadian firms increase their innovation capacity and competitiveness, both at home and abroad.

Keep visiting this page to learn more about the rich history of the program and to hear from the people behind the program!

Anniversary spotlight

 
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Successful endeavours

 
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Retrospectives and perspectives

 
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NRC IRAP in the 1980s: Delivering the right mix of expertise across Canada

By 1980, the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) had cultivated a strong reputation for helping industries leverage existing and established technologies, as well as supporting research to discover and develop innovative new technology solutions. NRC IRAP began the 1980s with 3 distinct programs. The first was a cost sharing program to pay salaries of R&D staff. The second was an employment program to enable firms to hire on new students in science and engineering. The third was a "small projects" program, which was created in response to the growing number of smaller Canadian companies who wanted to undertake R&D activities.

To meet the increased need for innovation support across Canada, the 1980s saw a significant shift in the way NRC IRAP delivered its advisory services. Between 1962 and 1982, advisory services were almost exclusively delivered from staff located at NRC offices in Ottawa. The program realized that it could maximize both accessibility and reach by embedding its Industrial Technology Advisors (ITAs) in local communities across Canada. As a result, in 1982, NRC IRAP established its ITA field services in 16 locations across Canada to provide guidance on industrial engineering methods and techniques to improve production. ITA field staff would visit companies to gather data, assess operations and then provide guidance and solutions on how best to overcome innovation challenges. Furthermore, field staff could also help companies access other NRC programs and services.

1982 also saw another addition to NRC IRAP's advisory capacity with the formation of its Technical Assistance Group, a team consisting of engineers and scientists with industry experience. Their purpose was to respond to clients and to NRC IRAP field staff to help address complex technical queries. The team was located within the NRC's Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (CISTI) and was embedded within a large network of technological and scientific resources both within Canada and internationally. This provided Canadian companies with access to a vast network of knowledge and resources to support their business needs.

Over the course of the 1980s, NRC IRAP evolved into a robust program offering a new level of support and expertise to help Canadian companies succeed. In 1985, the program introduced new technology to 4,300 firms and responded to more than 7,000 technical enquiries. In the following fiscal year, NRC IRAP contributed $70M in R&D funding support to Canadian companies, which resulted in 12,000 full time jobs, $1.5B in new sales and $500M in GDP. By the end of the 1980s, NRC IRAP grew in size and scale, offering 11 different programs and pilot initiatives to help advance technology development in Canada and help pull its small and medium-sized businesses to the forefront on innovation.

Expanding innovation support for Canada's evolving industry landscape

By the 1970s, the benefits to industry derived from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) were becoming increasingly apparent. The number of research positions the program helped to establish across industry continued to grow, offering more employment opportunities for scientists and engineers across Canada. Improvements were also being seen in terms of the growth of technological competency and capacity of NRC IRAP-supported firms, through an increase in the number of new research and development projects being undertaken.

The 1970s also saw a growing trend of research occurring within smaller Canadian companies, who recognized a need to undertake R&D in order to be successful. Over the course of the decade, more than 50% of NRC IRAP funding was allocated to projects for small and medium-sized businesses. Thirty-six percent of total funding went to small companies with less than 200 employees, 19% to medium-sized companies with over 200 employees, and 45% to large companies with over 1000  employees. While NRC IRAP provided support across all industries, companies within the electrical and electronics industry received the largest share (23%). This trend represented a significant development in Canadian industry—one that recognized the growing potential of high tech industries.

By the end of the decade, NRC IRAP expanded to include 2 different funding streams. These new offerings ran alongside the original cost-sharing NRC IRAP program, which covered salary costs of staff working on approved research projects, and contributed as much as 40% of the total project costs. One of the new streams was known as the Science and Engineering Student Program, which enabled firms to hire on summer students to contribute to their scientific and technical goals, in turn helping students gain valuable job experience in the innovation sector. The other stream was born of the increasing number of small businesses wanting to engage in first-time R&D through smaller-scale research projects. NRC IRAP was making the shift to support smaller firms and smaller projects.

NRC IRAP was approaching a new era, one that sought to expand innovation support to Canada's burgeoning small businesses across the nation. Innovation was no longer just reserved for large or well-established businesses—it was becoming more accessible to the broader business community and an essential stepping stone to success.

Building research capacity in Canada

In 1962, the Technical Information Service (TIS) program was formally renamed as the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP). At the time, the program's main purpose was to assist industry in becoming more competitive and innovative by promoting the adoption by industry of research and development teams. NRC IRAP continued to provide its hallmark advisory services, but also expanded to include the addition of financial assistance. NRC IRAP provided grant funding to industry to undertake private research in the same way that universities received grants for research. The financial assistance was on a matching basis, with companies contributing at least half the cost of any research project.

As a result of NRC IRAP's evolved offerings, Canadian scientific and industrial activity increased substantially in the 1960s. Between 1963 and 1965, NRC IRAP was responsible for establishing and sustaining 1 in 3 of all new Canadian industrial research jobs. By 1969, the program supported 415 companies to raise the level of their R&D commitments, which resulted in many positive outcomes.

Companies got on board with capital investments in research facilities and increased their annual operating budgets to include the capacity for research and development. Tangible results appeared in the form of published papers, patents and many innovative new products being created by Canadian firms. Reports from companies receiving NRC IRAP support during this time noted significant improvements in existing products and processes, and the successful development of new products. The number of small and medium-sized companies new to research was growing in Canada and with it came a demand for more scientific and technical talent.

NRC IRAP in the 1940s and 1950s

The National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) traces its roots back to 1947 when its precursor, the Technical Information Service (TIS), was transferred by the Government of Canada to the care of the NRC. The purpose was to provide manufacturers with a point of contact to easily access scientific data, particularly as it pertained to manufacturing processes and the uses of new materials.

TIS was charged with providing these advisory services to industry with the goal of bolstering the post-war industrial economy. From the beginning, TIS was demonstrating impact for Canadian industry. Even while establishing its network, in its first year TIS received 3,657 enquiries from Canadian entrepreneurs and 4,430 enquiries in 1948.

There were many requests for information to address industry problems. It was not uncommon for an individual to make multiple enquiries, the feedback was that these individuals found the advice provided by TIS for a previous enquiry considerably helpful.

It was clear that having a central office in Ottawa was not going to be enough to service growing industry demands, so in the early 1950s, regional TIS representatives were located in field offices covering all major industrial areas across Canada. This was accomplished with provincial support, reaching agreements with provincial research organizations.

Over the course of the 1950s, TIS provided support to Canadian industry on a number of innovative projects including:

  • the use of water for canning vegetables and fruits
  • the use of propane as a fuel for automotive engines
  • the welding of stainless steel

As the decade of the 1950s drew to a close, one thing was certain: there was a strong appetite for specialized support for Canada's burgeoning innovation sectors.

Message from Iain Stewart, NRC President

January 18, 2022, marks the 75th anniversary of the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP). Throughout the coming year, we will celebrate the program's history and contributions to the Canadian innovation landscape by showcasing firms and their success stories, and highlighting the dedicated work of the NRC IRAP team.

Created to expand industrial research capacity and to support entrepreneurs, NRC IRAP has been instrumental to Canada's growth. Through the decades, it has built dynamic connections between science and technology to support innovative Canadian small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in Canada. SMEs are the backbone of our communities as major employers and drivers of the economy at the local and national levels.

NRC IRAP has expanded substantially over the past 75 years. In 2020-21 alone, the program provided assistance to to 8,000 firms. Through the program's ongoing collaborations with other government departments and external stakeholders, it will continue to address some of Canada's biggest innovation challenges and opportunities, from the development of clean technologies to help address climate change, to fostering the development of transformative technologies to enable, protect and safeguard Canadians and many others across the world.

Most recently, NRC IRAP quickly mobilized during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic to deliver $250 million to support more than 26,000 SME jobs, which is helping to protect the next generation of Canadian SMEs. NRC IRAP's efforts gave Canadian SMEs an opportunity to emerge from the pandemic poised for future growth and prosperity.

The value delivered through NRC IRAP programs and services is a reflection of the quality and calibre of our staff. My thanks and congratulations to the entire NRC IRAP team.

Message from David Lisk, Vice-President, NRC IRAP

On January 18, 2022, the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) will celebrate 75 years as a program. NRC IRAP has adapted and evolved over time to help Canada's small and medium-sized businesses meet the needs and challenges of the day, thereby keeping the program relevant through the decades. A significant part of remaining relevant is the talented team behind the program who have both the ability and agility to adapt as needed. This was certainly demonstrated at the onset of, and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

The team at NRC IRAP rose to the COVID-19 challenge to work and deliver new programs and services in different ways. We supported 120 pandemic response projects—everything from manufacturing hand sanitizers, to developing vaccines therapeutics and COVID-19 testing kits. We delivered nearly triple the amount of project funding to Canadian firms as compared to previous years. Every individual who makes up the NRC IRAP team has made a significant contribution to sustaining Canadian companies and safeguarding Canadians throughout the pandemic.

Today, with a national network of more than 460 employees in 110 locations across Canada, NRC IRAP continues to deliver programs and services to assist small and medium-sized businesses in growing, scaling up and expanding into global markets.

Thank you to our many wonderful clients for working with us, and for your trust and collaboration in advancing Canadian innovation over the past 75 years, and my sincerest appreciation and congratulations to our dedicated and talented NRC IRAP staff, past and present, who have made this program the success it is today.

NRC IRAP foundations to current services

Post Second World War, the Canadian government feared a repeat of the 1930s Great Depression and focussed its efforts on the conversion of military technology and know-how to commercial applications. In response to government priorities, the Technical Information Service (TIS) was established. TIS was charged with keeping the small manufacturing industry alive and growing in post-war Canada.

Technical advice

What started out as a small network of technically skilled employees, mainly responsible for answering technical inquiries from Canadian firms, evolved into more of a proactive advisory service. Initially introduced under the Department of Reconstruction and Supply, TIS was later transferred to the National Research Council of Canada (NRC), as it was believed the program could benefit from the NRC's background and resources to provide scientific and technical information to industry.

NRC IRAP R&D funding

In the 1960s, the NRC shifted its focus on science in Canadian industry and at that time the government authorized the NRC to assist firms with funding to expand their industrially based R&D. It was during this time that TIS was renamed the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP), which became the only program of its kind to provide direct financial support for research performed by Canadian firms.

Today's NRC IRAP

Initially, the information service provided by TIS and the funding assistance to firms were operated separately by the NRC. In 1981, NRC IRAP as we know it, combined proactive advisory assistance and shared-cost projects under one strategic service. This model continues to this day, with NRC IRAP providing Canadian small and medium-sized businesses with advisory services, financial assistance and connections to the best business and R&D expertise to help them innovate and grow. In 2020–2021 alone, NRC IRAP assisted over 9,300 firms.

Evolving program and new initiatives

Over time, NRC IRAP introduced new initiatives to better support client firms and program delivery. Advances included the decentralization of offices across the country in the late 1970s to 1980s to facilitate field advisory services, the ongoing evolution of organizational structure to meet emerging needs for program implementation and administration, and the renewal and expansion of program offerings such as the addition of international collaboration initiatives.

NRC IRAP International

Since 2013, a suite of NRC IRAP International program offerings have been developed to connect Canadian SMEs with the funding, international linkages, advisory, export and innovation support services they need to access new markets and global value chains. NRC IRAP International also manages Canada's participation in Eureka—the world's largest public network for international cooperation in R&D and innovation, present in over 45 countries. Integrating with the Eureka network serves to maximize benefits for Canadian SMEs, providing them with access to technology, expertise and markets in Europe and beyond.

Youth Employment Program

The concept of a student hiring program started in Quebec in the 1970s and has since grown into a national Youth Employment Program (YEP) which NRC IRAP delivers under the Government of Canada's Youth Employment and Skills Strategy. Under the program, NRC IRAP provides funding assistance to Canadian SMEs to support the hiring of young Canadian post-secondary graduates. In fiscal year 2020–2021, NRC IRAP supported close to 900 youth employment opportunities.

Responding to COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has called on every facet of the NRC. Through new initiatives such as the NRC IRAP Innovative Solutions Canada COVID-19 Challenge Program, NRC IRAP has awarded up to $14.4 million in funding across 13 different challenges to date to Canadian innovators to help combat COVID-19. In addition, NRC IRAP has and continues to invest in a number of Canadian SMEs to support government-wide efforts to strengthen Canada's domestic PPE manufacturing capacity, create made-in-Canada diagnostic test kits, and advance early-stage R&D of Canadian vaccine and therapeutic candidates to prevent and treat COVID-19.

The NRC received additional funding to develop and launch the NRC IRAP Innovation Assistance Program (IAP), a temporary wage-subsidy program to support innovative Canadian SMEs in the midst of the pandemic. NRC IRAP adapted quickly to the unprecedented demand, providing over $370 million in wage subsidies that helped over 2,200 SMEs maintain more than 26,000 jobs.

No matter the challenge, NRC IRAP has consistently evolved to meet the shifting and emerging needs of the nation—a winning model that has driven Canadian innovation and the continued success of the Program for nearly 75 years!

Ringing in 75 years of support for Canadian innovation

Starting on November 4, we will be counting down the 75 days leading up to the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program's (NRC IRAP) 75th anniversary! To celebrate this anniversary, NRC IRAP is putting together an exciting line-up of spotlights and activities to raise awareness of our accomplishments since the program first began.

Leading up to our official anniversary celebration on January 18, 2022, we will be sharing past successes through testimonials, spotlights, and more in-depth articles, as well as a new video series. During the year of celebration, through the eyes of clients, stakeholders, and employees, we will highlight the program's ongoing success, past endeavours, notable services, as well as the dedicated employees at the heart of the program – that have helped small and medium-sized Canadian companies for 75 years.

As we celebrate the past, present and future of the program – we hope to inspire readers with NRC IRAP's story, showing the next generation of Canadian innovators the key role the program can play in getting them to the next step in their journey.

Make sure to follow us on social media to not miss any of our exciting content!

Anne-Marie Harte, Industrial Technology Advisor – Ontario

Anne-Marie Harte

I came to NRC IRAP 5 years ago, after having held positions in engineering, R&D and market research for different organizations in different industries. I obtained my undergraduate degree in engineering physics from the University of Saskatchewan; as a prairie girl, I am very proud of that. I also earned an MBA from University of Western Ontario and a Ph.D. in Materials and Mechanical Engineering from the University of Cambridge.

As an Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) my role is much more than simply providing technical advice; I see it as more of a holistic approach. Our clients at NRC IRAP are running technical businesses. They come to us with their challenges and opportunities and we need to offer help in a way that all facets of the technical and business align. ITAs have that scientific or technical expertise along with a business background; without that combination it would be difficult to help our clients to innovate and grow. Helping firms grow is the best part about being an ITA. We all have our own career successes and now we are in a position to share our knowledge, so we can help others be successful too.

I feel that there is a lot of freedom to explore at NRC IRAP. Whether it is doing a deep dive with a client to find a solution or getting involved internally to contribute, connect or learn about something new. I experience this often as a member of the Advanced Manufacturing Sector team. I get to work with other ITAs to discuss challenges and discover opportunities for our clients in this space. It is a powerful think tank that works to provide great insight for our clients and colleagues alike.

I have to say that one of the silver linings of working through the COVID-19 pandemic, is that I have been able to meet many amazing colleagues outside of my field of expertise and outside of my region that I may never have had the pleasure of meeting. NRC IRAP is an amazing collection of people with different backgrounds, experiences and humour, yet we all have the same dedication to be supportive to each other as colleagues and to the many businesses we assist.

Jean Léger, Industrial Technology Advisor – Atlantic & Nunavut

Jean Léger

I came to NRC IRAP in December 1998 as an Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) covering the North-West region of New Brunswick. I was a civil engineer by trade with experience in construction project management when I joined. One year in, I was recruited to be the regional representative on the Business Process Improvement (BPI) team. This assignment put me on an accelerated path to learn everything about the program and its accompanying processes, policies and broader government guidelines. I was soon asked to co-lead 2 significant business processes and application teams. For this, I travelled the country for 2 years and got to meet and know almost every employee and position in the program, which helped launch my career.

This became the enabling factor in my ability to contribute to national initiatives and to better serve my clients as an ITA. In my 23 years at NRC IRAP, I have had the opportunity to contribute to many teams, both regional and national, formal and informal, program focused and client focused. The relationships I have made with my colleagues across all these teams, in the central office in Ottawa and across Canada have been amazing. I don't know of another group of people that are so dedicated. There is no weak link in NRC IRAP, everyone is excellent at what they do and everyone pushes in the same direction all the time, I have found no exception to that.

Since I have been with NRC IRAP, I enjoy going to work every day. As an ITA, the best part of my job is meeting with my clients to learn about their ambitions and then to find ways to assist. When you are in touch with entrepreneurs and teams that are so enthusiastic about what they are doing and so driven to accomplish their goals, they become my inspiration to give the very best back. I remember once asking a client what they felt was my greatest contribution to their success. They replied it was that I stuck with them in their most challenging times, that I helped them to work through it and believed in them every step of the way. That reply stuck with me and it follows me into every client relationship.

There are many hardships in business; that is the side to the success story that you don't always hear about, but as an ITA you see often. So, when I am working with a company and witness their growing pains, financial hardships and other challenges, and years later they have become a huge success, I know what it took for them to get there. It makes me happy to think that NRC IRAP played a part in that success.

Laurie-Ann Ulmer, Administrative Assistant – Prairies

Laurie-Ann Ulmer

In October 2008, I moved over to NRC IRAP after 3 years working with the former NRC Plant Biotechnology Institute in Saskatoon. I vividly remember the phone interview for my current position. My children were in the process of getting ready for school in the morning when my potential new boss called. I found myself juggling the interview alongside helping my children get organized and out the door. Later, I learned that it was this juggling act that landed me the job with NRC IRAP. I had proven my ability to handle multiple priorities and tasks simultaneously.

Today, in my region, we are 4 administrative assistants working together as a team in much the same way. We cover for each other and jump in to assist on whatever is needed in the moment, we really try to make it all seamless. A big part of our success is based on the relationships we have built with everyone on our team. I make it a point to reach out frequently to my fellow admins, my supervisor, directors, advisors and everyone in the region, so that when anyone needs help, they know where they can find support.

There is so much teamwork at NRC IRAP, not only within my own team, but  across all regions and divisions of the program. Over time, I have come to learn and appreciate what other colleagues are doing in the background to assist me in supporting my team. There are many areas like finance, human resources, information technology and policy  all working together perfectly in the background, so everything flows smoothly in the foreground.

As admins, we are often the "go-to" people for many different challenges and my desire to provide solutions sometimes takes me outside of my comfort zone. Whether I'm being asked to lead a group or invited to participate in a new initiative, I get to meet new colleagues, discover new ways of doing things, and it helps me contribute in my own way. Together, these little contributions that we all make add up, which in turn has a large impact on the success of our program and our clients.

Gilles Sarrazin, Regional Director – Quebec

Gilles Sarrazin

With a degree in mechanical engineering and a Master's Degree in aircraft design, my career path took me directly into aerospace engineering. I served in the Canadian Armed Forces for 18 years and was responsible for support and maintenance of many aircraft fleets. After I retired from the military, I spent 20 years working for Bombardier on product and program development and in customer support roles. So, when I joined NRC IRAP as an Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA) in 2016, I came with 38 years of experience in aerospace.

Today, in my role as Regional Director, I have moved into developing strategies to support small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in my region. I consider how to best address current industry challenges and issues to meet the needs of specific sectors. I strive to support my team in identifying opportunities that provide NRC IRAP with a stronger footprint in our region, so my team can do what it does best, provide SMEs with the best expertise and the most valuable advice.

I enjoy being able to take a step back to see the big picture in my region and identify how NRC IRAP can be the most beneficial in this space. This is something I also experienced as part of the Aerospace Sector team. I know what it takes to build an aircraft and I know what the "state-of-the-art" is in terms of the technology to do so. Couple that with the ability to step back to see where the industry is going and should be going, this provides valuable insight that helps us best support our firms in developing their innovations and in connecting them to industry and to other SMEs to produce solutions. Now, with NRC IRAP, I get to do this for all sectors, not just aerospace.

I have learned a lot about what is going on in the various industrial ecosystems. I am amazed at the high-tech advancements happening across industries, across Canada and across NRC IRAP. I am learning all the time through assessments and through my team, who have a shared a passion to support Canadian SMEs.

Hélène Pepin, Industrial Technology Advisor – Quebec

I started working as an industrial technology advisor (ITA) with NRC IRAP in 2020, after acquiring 40 years of international industry experience in aerospace propulsion, advanced manufacturing, industrial applications, automation and robotics. It was during my time in Singapore while working with an organization similar to the NRC to help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and large companies develop technologies that I began thinking, "I would love to do this for my country." I was very happy to join NRC IRAP and bring my experience back to home soil for the benefit of Canadian SMEs.

An important trend of development at the moment is Industry 4.0. This integrated digital transformation is not only affecting manufacturing, but also business, management and human resource models alike. I have been fortunate to have been exposed to new technologies supporting manufacturing transformation during my time abroad. This is an important area to explore and build on with our SMEs. As an ITA, I am keen to assist companies in optimizing a variety of manufacturing technologies through AI, machine learning, robotics, 5G and additive manufacturing.

Specializing in manufacturing as an ITA has brought me in touch with a diversity of clients in several industries, including my original speciality—aerospace. Being able to help Canadian companies to evolve and grow is very exciting to me. The work we do through NRC IRAP is essential to helping our Canadian SMEs move into the future.

Jonathan Davidson, Regional Program Support Officer – Pacific

I began my career at NRC IRAP as a regional contribution agreement officer back in 2008 and moved into the regional program support officer role in 2018. I have seen the program evolve significantly since I started. To remain current, we are constantly changing, adapting, acquiring new skills, updating our training and processes, and looking for better ways of doing things. As a result, year after year, NRC IRAP continues to improve how it delivers programs and services to our clients.

My role is to support my colleagues and our clients with challenges they may be facing in the delivery of our program, so problem solving is a big part of my work. I have the opportunity to take a look at different situations and map out how to resolve them, while simultaneously staying aligned with our policies and regulations. It's both a very reactive and proactive position depending on the day. I need to understand the policies and procedures in place, go to the very heart of the problem and then determine the best course of action to support my colleagues and our clients so that the situation is resolved to everyone's satisfaction.

NRC IRAP has many talented individuals, and everyone has a different background, different expertise, and different experiences. I think that this adds a wide range of skills and cultural insight for the entire team. We have staff who come from countries all over the world. I have heard from my colleagues about their pilgrimage to Mecca, what it was like growing up in Asia or going to school in Eastern Europe. Sharing these personal experiences is both eye-opening and enriching. To me, the diversity at NRC IRAP is our biggest strength.

Ashif Tam, Administrative Assistant – Ontario

In my position, what I love the most is helping my colleagues. I really invest in learning what my team needs to be effective and then do whatever I can to help. If it is ordering a certain supply, registering someone for a conference or onboarding a student, I won't hesitate to jump in. We all have to work as a team, from the admins, to regional contribution agreement officers (RCAOs), to Finance, to senior management, to industrial technology advisors (ITAs). No matter the role, we are all contributors to the success of our program and, ultimately, the success of our clients. Whenever I read a story or article that highlights the positive impact that NRC IRAP has had on a client, even though I may not be directly involved, I know that I have contributed in some way.

Since I joined NRC IRAP I have felt blessed to have great people around me. I feel that we have a shared drive to do our best for Canadian SMEs and a desire to be supportive in any way we can. One of the team initiatives that we undertake every year really captures this supportive spirit. To end the year, right before winter holidays, we participate in the kilogram challenge. This was an idea that came from one of our regional directors, to have a community food drive and for fun guess how many kilograms of food we collectively contributed. The last 2 years this event has gone virtual, but the end result is still the same—the winner gets bragging rights and lots of food donations are made to serve the local community. We do a lot of great things at NRC IRAP, internally and externally, and it humbles me to be a part of it.

James Oickle, Industrial Technology Advisor - Atlantic and Nunavut

Having worked with technology in one form or another for almost 30 years, I am lucky at this point in my career to take some of what I have learned and share it with others. More importantly, I can reach out to my diverse set of peers at NRC IRAP to help Canadian SMEs create new products, new jobs, and ultimately, the future Canadian economy.

As an industrial technology advisor (ITA), I focus on how a company is structured. I need to understand the team and their projects and how they think completion will help them innovate, grow, and enter new markets. I strive to work closely with my clients to help them identify opportunities and equip them with the right tools and expertise to seize them.

I have only been a part of the NRC IRAP team for a short time, but I have already seen the positive changes that take place for a business as a result of our advisory services and funding support. I am also excited to see NRC IRAP's commitment to supporting Canadian Indigenous communities. As part of NRC IRAP's Indigenous Support Network, I see first-hand how directors and senior leadership are making efforts to extend our programs and services to reach more Indigenous-led businesses on their terms.

Richard Lajoie, Industrial Technology Advisor - Quebec

I spent the majority of my career in the Silicon Valley in different positions, eventually holding the position of VP R&D for an international high-tech firm. With a very large team of engineers, we built machine learning, speech recognition, voice biometrics and data analytics software. Over several years, I gained extensive experience in developing and commercializing such products for large-scale international enterprise clients.

I was closely involved in mergers and acquisitions over several years and honed my financial and technical due diligence capabilities. As an NRC IRAP industrial technology advisor (ITA), these skills have allowed me to quickly evaluate companies to identify strengths and weaknesses and recognize the most effective approaches to helping small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs).

The entrepreneurial spirit in Canada is incredible, and the SME activity in our country is really quite remarkable. In the 4 years that I have been an ITA, I have met so many talented young entrepreneurs and very much enjoy hearing about their innovative ideas, their aspirations and their vision. I consider myself privileged to be actively participating in the Canadian entrepreneur ecosystem helping our SMEs succeed and to be surrounded by such talented people at NRC IRAP.

Erin Price, Regional Contribution Agreement Officer - Pacific

As a regional contribution agreement officer, I enjoy being hands-on right from the beginning, preparing firms for and guiding them through the claims process. I am available to help them with any questions they have throughout the duration of their NRC IRAP-supported project. The rapport that this position allows me to establish with clients often becomes a connection that remains long after the project ends. For instance, one client called me excited to share that they were able to progress their breast cancer treatment to human trials and she thanked me for my help along the way. My favourite part of my job is being here to help our clients, and then watching them succeed. When I see an NRC IRAP client in the news, I am so proud of their accomplishments. When I work with a client and then see their product on the shelf of my local store, well yes, that's going in my basket. Those connections go beyond the project and really make me proud to be doing what I do.

Carl King, Industrial Technology Advisor - Atlantic and Nunavut

I am a professional mechanical engineer by training and have been working as an industrial technology advisor with NRC IRAP since 1996. I started my career working in the mining industry, moved into manufacturing, then later on to construction and project management. After a period of working in Norway's offshore oil platform construction industry, I managed a large project to design and build a construction facility for Canada's East Coast offshore oil and gas platforms. I have also owned several of my own successful businesses along the way, where I came to understand the challenges faced by start-ups. My experiences are across many sectors and I consider myself a generalist with a solid understanding of what a business needs to thrive. I have a wide range of clients in so many different industries and every client presents different opportunities, often different technologies and different challenges. Changes in technology are perpetual and I am proud to be part of NRC IRAP, a program that is so keenly dedicated to the need for Canada to continue to grow and prosper, to be technically advanced, and to remain relevant in this ever-changing and competitive world.

Ernest Siu, Regional Director – Prairies

I joined NRC IRAP in 2009 as an industrial technology advisor and I am now acting as a regional director in the Prairies. I would say the most important part of what I do is to ensure that our clients are equipped with the information they need to succeed. The most valuable advice is to guide our clients toward market understanding and to identify the extent to which there is real customer traction for their product or service. I find the most challenging and rewarding projects are with early-stage entrepreneurs. They have great ideas and have the determination to push forward, but sometimes there isn't enough data to support successful commercialization of their idea. Providing advice to clients sometimes means having those difficult conversations, because our goal is to guide them towards success. When clients come back to say they have a new model or a new idea, I think that speaks to the drive and tenacity of the entrepreneur and also speaks to their willingness to be open to the business and technical advice that NRC IRAP provides.

Tamara Kononoff, Industrial Technology Advisor (Prairies) and Agri-Food Sector Team Lead

NRC IRAP's sector teams are highly specialized groups, where we come together to share our knowledge and expertise to help our clients in their respective sectors. I think one of the biggest benefits is our ability to communicate industry needs to other government departments and to find opportunities and synergies for Canadian small and medium-sized businesses. With our team located across Canada, we can see similar issues and challenges among many of our SME clients and then come up with a plan to address them for all. What was once a problem now becomes an opportunity. NRC IRAP has a strong network of expertise and knowledge from coast to coast to coast. Relying on that diversity is our biggest strength. I consider myself lucky to have access to this network of team members that I work with directly, it's my favourite part of the job.

Mike Jain, Planning and Policy Analyst – Pacific

When I first joined NRC IRAP as an industrial technology advisor (ITA), it was important for me to build relationships both inside and outside the organization. I looked first to build relationships where there were none. I remember reaching out to a firm that I thought was a good fit for our program. I gave a presentation about the program but I could see from their body language that they were a bit skeptical.

At the end of our meeting they said they didn't think NRC IRAP had anything to offer other than red tape, which they did not have time for as a busy company. It was an eye-opening experience that left me with a strong desire to correct that opinion, by demonstrating that NRC IRAP is a flexible program delivered by an agile team who stand ready to deliver based on our clients' needs. Over time, I not only built a working relationship with this client, I also developed their trust in the program. Whether we work on one or multiple projects with clients, NRC IRAP services and support go beyond simply benefitting the client; it creates a positive impact on many fronts. When small and medium-sized businesses advance technologically and grow, they create new jobs and new products, and expand into new markets—all of which benefits our economy, not to mention Canadians who now have access to these new products and services. Sometimes these benefits also extend globally, beyond Canada's borders. To witness, in real time, the many positive outcomes of the work we do, gives me immense satisfaction and pride to be part of NRC IRAP.

Maj-Britt Herzog, Regional Contribution Agreement Officer - Prairies

Regional contribution agreement officers (RCAOs) play a fundamental role in supporting the delivery of NRC IRAP. As an RCAO, I work in collaboration with directors, industrial technology advisors (ITAs), fellow RCAOs and with clients. I believe the success of NRC IRAP is definitely linked to a team approach. This team approach took on heightened importance during the administration of the NRC IRAP Innovation Assistance Program in 2020-2021, a temporary wage-subsidy program to help innovative small and medium-sized businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Because our team worked tirelessly to assist each other through a heavy workload, and over a short amount of time, the program was able to provide businesses with timely and much-needed assistance. It is very gratifying to know that our efforts have such great impact and really make a difference not only to our clients, but overall to Canada.

Andrew Bauder, Industrial Technology Advisor – International

Regional contribution agreement officers (RCAOs) play a fundamental role in supporting the delivery of NRC IRAP. As an RCAO, I work in collaboration with directors, industrial technology advisors (ITAs), fellow RCAOs and with clients. I believe the success of NRC IRAP is definitely linked to a team approach. This team approach took on heightened importance during the administration of the IRAP Innovation Assistance Program in 2020-2021, a temporary wage-subsidy program to help innovative small and medium-sized businesses weather the COVID-19 pandemic. Because our team worked tirelessly to assist each other through a heavy workload, and over a short amount of time, the program was able to provide businesses with timely and much-needed assistance. It is very gratifying to know that our efforts have such great impact and really make a difference not only to our clients, but overall to Canada.

Carlene Fuentes, Project Management Coordinator, Client Enablement

Early in my career, I worked in the private sector and had a drive to support entrepreneurs, which stemmed from my own interest in wanting to run a business. When I began working at NRC IRAP in 2003, I took my passion for entrepreneurship and applied it to government administration. I was invested in leveraging my experience for the benefit of the program and have always looked for opportunities to get more involved. It is in branching out, year in and year out, in different ways that has granted me the opportunity to connect with so many colleagues. I have been involved in 15 Government of Canada Workplace Charitable Campaigns, have provided support to NRC IRAP's Advanced Manufacturing Sector Team since its inception and am currently the lead for NRC IRAP's 75th Celebrations Team. For nearly 2 decades, I've worked in many areas across NRC IRAP to learn, contribute and build relationships—all of which have made my job interesting and fun. I have also seen how connecting and collaborating across the program has made us stronger both internally and in our relationships with clients and partners. I may not be on the frontline, but I am going to do everything I can in the background to make NRC IRAP a success.

Anushiya Kumarakulasingam, Program Advisor - NRC IRAP Vice-President's Office

I first heard about NRC IRAP during my co-op interview and I thought, "I want to work here. I want to be part of a program that really makes a difference for Canada!" Thankfully, I was able to join this talented team which has allowed me to grow personally and professionally. I remember giving my first presentation at an NRC IRAP regional meeting; I was so nervous that I was reading from a piece of paper. It turns out that those nerves were unwarranted as, when I looked up everyone in the room was smiling back at me. I could feel the warmth of my new colleagues; I put the paper down and began to speak. I realized in that moment that this was my team, they were rooting for me and they were here to support me. The more I began interacting with NRC IRAP colleagues across the country, the more I realized that there is a genuine passion for supporting each other. I believe it's this passion that sets our program apart. At NRC IRAP, not only are our people passionate about what we do within our own roles, we are passionate about the team and supporting each other so that we can grow, thrive and better support our clients as a program. As the project lead for NRC IRAP's 75th anniversary, I knew that honouring the people behind the program was going to be an important part of our story and our celebration.

Pierre Vallée, Client Engagement Advisor, Client Enablement - Québec

In my role as a client engagement advisor (CEA), I provide advice and connections to relevant resources to support firms appropriate to their stage of innovation and growth journey. I often provide advisory services by matching early-stage firms with other organizations and programs. Receiving early-stage advisory services can be a turning point for many small and medium-sized businesses, as it can create momentum for companies to keep innovating and growing. CEAs have a trusted network of stakeholders and partners at the regional and national level, and we work together to provide optimized service to firms. What I enjoy about NRC IRAP is that we are supporting innovative firms and, as a result of what we do, we are learning all the time. I consider myself fortunate to be part of an organization where there is so much expertise, collaboration and passion to help our firms and our colleagues succeed.

Geralyn MacDonald, Regional Program Support Officer - Atlantic and Nunavut

I joined NRC IRAP over 23 years ago and in 2018, I became a regional program support officer (RPSO). There are 5 RPSOs across Canada and we all share a passion in making things run smoothly and improving our operations. We are a very dynamic team that leverage each other's skills and strengths to support the implementation and delivery of NRC IRAP across our regions. I have been part of many program initiatives and projects over the years, several of which required a high degree of collaboration and forward-thinking execution. In the earlier days of the COVID-19 pandemic, we had to respond swiftly to help develop processes and tools to deliver 3 rounds of the Innovation Assistance Program (IAP) - a temporary wage subsidy program to assist innovative small and medium-sized businesses. This was an effort we delivered in record time. It was extremely busy, but also a very rewarding undertaking knowing that we achieved this feat to help companies during difficult times. Watching NRC IRAP grow and experience challenges, opportunities and important milestones along the way is a testament to our agility and our steadfast commitment to serving the needs of our clients.

Dennis Sindrey, Industrial Technology Advisor and Diagnostics/Testing Kits Subject Expert Team Lead - Ontario

When COVID-19 hit, NRC IRAP established subject expert teams (SET) to address critical medical supply-chain issues and help source made-in-Canada solutions. Having worked 27 years in the biotechnology industry, including 13 years as an industrial technology advisor (ITA) with a portfolio of clients in diagnostics, medical devices and therapeutics, I was asked to lead NRC IRAP's Diagnostics and Testing Kit SET.

The team helped bring forward SMEs who had the right business, technical and manufacturing capabilities in this field to produce solutions for Canada and for export. A particular highlight in this role involved working with the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) to help them establish bio-surveillance capabilities at Toronto Pearson Airport. I saw this as an opportunity to run some trials using existing Canadian diagnostics technologies. We set up temporary laboratories in 2 of their terminals. We brought in an NRC IRAP client that was developing a rapid antigen test, and another that was developing a new application of infrared technology that signaled COVID-19 biomarkers through a 30-second finger scan. We also involved an NRC IRAP client that had a Health Canada-approved PCR test, so at the end of the day their trial could be validated. In addition, we connected the GTAA with another client that had the cloud data system to process the results of the test and send them directly to passengers' cell phones, so they could show a negative test result before boarding. Overall, the trial tested 33,000 passengers and employees and detected 115 positive tests. It was amazing to bring these SMEs together for this trial and even more amazing to see what Canada can do.

Maria Negulescu, Industrial Technology Advisor and Personal Protective Equipment Subject Expert Team Lead – Ontario

The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Subject Expert Team (SET) at NRC IRAP put everything we had into helping Canadian companies to overcome the challenges in pivoting to PPE manufacturing. It was much more than looking into specifications on how to make face shields, gowns, masks and respirators. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, there were no Canadian manufacturers of PPE, no Canadian standards in place, and there were no certified laboratories in Canada to sanction PPE products for use.

There were many gaps to address and many solutions needed in a short timeframe. As such, NRC IRAP, in collaboration with numerous stakeholders (including the Canadian Standards Association, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Next Generation Manufacturing Canada, Health Canada, the NRC's Metrology Research Centre and Advanced Manufacturing program, Public Health Agency of Canada, Standards Council of Canada, among others) came together to address these gaps. With a lot of hard work in a short amount of time, we were able to define an ecosystem that supported Canadian manufacturing capabilities for PPE.

Over 130 Canadian SMEs stepped up to pivot to PPE production in the early days of the pandemic. I am grateful to have worked for NRC IRAP, where we were able to be part of this journey. Together we increased Canadian PPE production and worked on the standardization and distribution of PPE products to protect Canadian healthcare professionals working on the frontlines. It was an amazing experience and I am grateful to my fellow PPE SET team members for all their hard work and contributions.

Perry Quan, Director, NRC IRAP International

I joined the NRC IRAP International team in 2013 when it was just a start-up, so to speak, and became the team leader. While operationalizing the financial support for Canadian firms was important, a lot of focus was also placed on creating advisory service offerings to help Canadian SMEs develop their international co-innovation strategies and plans, and build key R&D partnerships with innovators abroad. One of the most interesting and rewarding parts of the job is being "on the ground" in different parts of the world supporting Canadian clients in real time, helping them to identify partnering opportunities, and advising them on collaboration issues, be they business, financial, technical or otherwise. The support I provided to clients was more than just business and technical, it also included how to engage with different cultures, different business practices, and how to navigate what was often for them a new business landscape. Creating new international programs, testing them, investing in the ones that worked, scaling them up and absorbing so much knowledge along the way reflects the entrepreneurial spirit of NRC IRAP International that today serves over 500 Canadian SMEs per year.

Paul Barran, Industrial Technology Advisor and BioMedical Sector Team member - Pacific

I have been an industrial technology advisor (ITA) with NRC IRAP for over 20 years. From my early days at NRC IRAP to today, collaboration has remained key to the program's success. As part of NRC IRAP's BioMedical Sector Team, we serve as a point of access and a resource, not only to NRC IRAP but to other government departments and broader communities. For example, NRC research centres will call upon us for industry intel— to find out what's happening, determine if there is a market for a certain kind of technology and how to access that market. There is also collaboration with organizations, like the Canadian Space Agency (CSA), who has a keen interest in the adaptation and development of medical technologies for space exploration and astronaut health. CSA has accessed the expertise of the BioMedical Sector Team to better understand where Canada's capabilities are in this area and what technologies are being developed in Canada that could potentially be made space-ready. I have experienced so much collaboration working for NRC IRAP, the results of which have been invaluable. My whole career has been focussed around trying to help build the life sciences industry in Canada. It's been gratifying to see how the industry has evolved and developed over time and to see the difference NRC IRAP has made along the way.

Alain Brizard, Director, Program Expertise – Division Services

Leading the Program Expertise team, my job is two-fold: first to design programs and second to ensure proper implementation. Implementation means ongoing support to staff so they have both the tools and the know-how needed to best serve our clients. Though my role has changed over the last 20+ years, providing meaningful guidance has remained. I have been part of some projects that were significant milestones for IRAP.

Whether it was standardizing our Contribution Agreement, developing the "One IRAP" field manual or working collaboratively on SONAR (our case management system), it is important to me that people have confidence that our central office exists to empower them to go forth and deliver the program. I believe the way to empower staff is to listen to them, to understand what is and isn't working on the ground. Reconciling the best interest of our clients, our staff and our government mandated program entails a commitment to delivering value for each.

I started at IRAP in the previous millennium and have always felt that at IRAP everyone is committed to delivering value on every front. Anyone who comes into IRAP can't help but feel part of it and proud of it.

Denise Prevost, Program Officer – Division Services

I have been with IRAP for 20 years. As a Program Officer with Division Services there are always many things on the go. One day you are working on policy guidance, another day you are building business and functional requirements and another day you're onboarding a new program. I enjoy connecting with my colleagues, not only to help answer their policy and program questions, but also to understand from their shoes, what they need on the ground.

It's important to have a central office that takes care of program integrity in the back end, so our frontline colleagues have what they need to deliver great services. Though I am not on the frontline delivering the program, when I hear how IRAP has made a difference in the success of our clients, I know that each of us at IRAP had a part to play and it makes me proud to be part of this team.

Jewelle Smith-Johnson, Manager, Operations and Finance – Ontario

Whether I am managing operations, overseeing support of the Grants and Contributions program or compiling financials, all my tasks involve connecting and collaborating in some way with colleagues, clients and other stakeholders. This sense of connecting and collaborating was heightened during the pandemic with the roll-out of the Innovation Assistance Program. This wage subsidy program resulted in a substantial workload for many of us; yet we all pulled together and worked hard to ensure that Canadian firms affected by the pandemic had the help they needed at the time they needed it.

There is a shared passion to support each other and our clients that is felt throughout IRAP. What has added depth to my enjoyment in being part of IRAP is the culture, one that strives to promote equity, diversity and inclusion. I am proud to be part of our cultural commitment to listening, educating, validating and taking positive action towards creating an environment of respect and equal opportunity for all employees to achieve career goals.

Cindy Yiu, Administrative Assistant – Quebec

I have been working with IRAP for the past 7 years and my administrative tasks vary greatly. I often have the opportunity to provide help and support to my colleagues during busy periods for the program which allows me to discover, learn and grow at the same time. In addition to the ongoing work of the entire team to support, accompany and advise our clients — the companies we work with — we can also count on the moral support of colleagues when needed.

Solidarity and mutual help are always available whether on a professional or personal level. We feel supported and well surrounded. Being part of the IRAP team is both interesting and rewarding. The diligent and devoted work of each IRAP member to help clients innovate in their respective fields contributes to the success of the program. There is an immense pride in working for the good of Canada.