NORCAT CEO Darryl Lake
For the past 13 years, the Northern Centre for Advanced
Technology (NORCAT) has been dedicated to helping
northern Ontario companies in the mining, minerals and
other sectors compete in
the global marketplace.
During that time, their
Occupational Health and
Safety (OHS) training
programs have become
widely coveted throughout
the mining industry.
Furthermore, the centre’s
division has been
responsible for numerous
inventions — both literally
and figuratively. It
has helped small- and
ideas from concept to
reality that otherwise might never have been developed. If all
this was not impressive enough, NORCAT has managed to
achieve this while remaining self-sustaining — no easy feat for
a not-for-profit corporation.
As the centre begins construction on a new 60,000 square
foot commercialized innovation park, scheduled to open in
the fall of 2008, the future is certainly looking brighter than
ever for both the centre and its hometown of Sudbury.
However, as the centre’s CEO Darryl Lake explained, that was
not always the case.
“In the early 1990s,mining was at a pretty low point,”recalled
Lake. “I was working at Cambrian College at the time and my
colleague Glenn Toikka and I were watching most of the graduating
students leave to work elsewhere.”Wanting to find a way
to bring some of this talent back — and to keep fewer people
from leaving in the first place — Lake and several of his colleagues
travelled to the United States and Finland to see if anything
could be gleaned about helping the smaller companies
in mining and other sectors to compete.
Lake and his colleagues discovered that having a technological
edge was more important than ever for small- and medium-
sized companies, especially given the impact of increased
consolidation in the mining industry.“With companies like Vale
Inco and Xstrata, the playing field has really become global,”
said Lake.“In order to serve this wider national and even international
market, smaller northern Ontario companies had to
offer more if they were to remain competitive.”
However, most of these fledgling companies generally lack
the funds and infrastructure necessary for R&D activities. In
response to this need, NORCAT established a residency program
that would provide access for chosen enterprises and
entrepreneurs to prototype expertise, technology advice and
reasonably priced space in which to work on new product
development. Lake emphasizes that not just anybody makes
the cut; prospective companies are carefully screened.
Most of NORCAT’s expertise is derived by engaging outside
enterprises on a contractual basis. “We are very fortunate to
have access to so much talent within the Sudbury mining community,”
he said.“That way,expertise and specialized equipment
can be accessed on an as-needed basis.”
Lake said that so far, NORCAT has partnered with more than
83 companies on more than 153 new technologies, of which
approximately 80 per cent have been commercialized through
small- and medium-sized companies.