International research and development (R&D) collaboration is essential for Canadian small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) looking to accelerate their growth and access new markets. As a priority area of focus, the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP) creates opportunities for innovative firms to collaborate and grow beyond Canada's borders.
Eurostars provides innovation advantages for Canadian SMEs through access to technology, expertise, and markets in Europe and beyond. The program is aimed at supporting both development and commercialization of new innovative products, services and processes and helps technology-orientated SMEs to realize the many benefits of working beyond national borders. Canada joined the Eurostars‑2 programme as a partner country in March 2016 and has already engaged in a number of projects, including 2 with the UK.
Recently a delegation of 20 SMEs and industry representatives from the UK travelled to Canada as part of the Canada-UK Advanced Manufacturing Partnering Mission, held in Toronto and Winnipeg from April 16 to 20, 2018. Organized by the NRC in Canada and by Innovate UK and the European Enterprise Network in the UK, the goal of the mission was to create opportunities for the development of joint Canada‑UK advanced manufacturing research projects in time to submit project proposals for the September 2018 cut‑off for the Eurostars program.
Over the course of the week, Canadian and UK SMEs worked together to identify and explore manufacturing challenges that could be solved profitably by a Canada‑UK team. "We see international collaboration through Eurostars as an essential way of building trust between SMEs in Europe and SMEs in Canada. By building trust we build trade opportunities for the future," said Dr. Gordon Jolly, Industrial Technology Advisor with the NRC's International Innovation Office. Dr. Jane Watkins, National Programme Coordinator for Eurostars with Innovate UK, confirmed that the quality and calibre of the companies on both sides has been excellent. "I'm already getting a feeling that we're going to get submissions in September 2018, which I think will be a good result."
In addition to one-on-one meetings and networking sessions, the delegation also had the opportunity to explore the Canadian advanced manufacturing research landscape through visits to a number of manufacturing and research facilities.
International collaboration key to SME growth
In an increasingly globalised market, Canadian manufacturers need access to markets beyond their borders to thrive and global collaboration has become a competitive necessity. The NRC's international initiatives are focused on providing support in a number of key areas, including direct support to SMEs with international interests, technology partnering and joint R&D projects. "NRC IRAP is committed to ensuring that our SME clients are knowledgeable about and suitably prepared to address global challenges," said David Lisk, Vice President of NRC IRAP. "The Canada‑UK mission was a fantastic opportunity to begin forming strong partnerships that can tackle high-value challenges in advanced manufacturing, leading to economic benefits for both our economies."