Start-ups find support for innovation and growth at Xerox Research Centre of Canada

March 2018
ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Andrew Pasternak (GreenCentre Director of Commercialization and Business Development), Matt Heuft (XRCC Business Development Manager), and Pam Banks (RIC Centre Executive Director) were on hand to discuss how their organizations help start-ups accelerate their materials technologies.

Andrew Pasternak (GreenCentre Director of Commercialization and Business Development), Matt Heuft (XRCC Business Development Manager), and Pam Banks (RIC Centre Executive Director) were on hand to discuss how their organizations help start-ups accelerate their materials technologies. Photo credit: Arushi Sachdev

Support for start-ups and small-to-medium size enterprises (SMEs) is thriving at the Xerox Research Centre of Canada (XRCC) in Mississauga, Ont., as showcased during an innovation networking event held in early March for the Toronto-area sections of the Chemical Institute of Canada (CIC), IntelliFlex, and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. The CIC was represented at the event by Toronto section executive member Samantha Smith and national office staff Chris Muldoon and Laura Reyes.

CIC National OFFICE

Samantha Smith (Toronto CIC Local Section Communications Officer and Internal Events Coordinator), Laura Reyes (Career Development Leader), and Chris Muldoon (Industrial Development Leader) were all present at this innovation networking event. Photo credit: Arushi Sachdev.

One of two research centres for Xerox worldwide, XRCC provides advanced materials research & development as well as light production at the pilot scale for both Xerox and external clients. Co-located with XRCC is the Research Innovation Commercialization (RIC) Centre — a regional entrepreneur and innovation hub, and GreenCentre Canada — a Kingston, Ont.-headquartered organization dedicated to the commercialization of chemistry-based technologies.

XRCC, RIC Centre, and GreenCentre provide a combined set of resources and expertise that help start-ups scale up their chemical processes and accelerate the growth of their companies without devoting as much capital and other resources as they would require on their own.

From the lab bench to the pilot plant, technologies typically scale-up by a factor of 100 at XRCC, growth that is preceded by many iterations to create and optimize a scalable process. This would be a lengthy and expensive endeavour for a start-up company to undertake without an existing facility, especially considering that securing enough funding to do so would often require already-demonstrated scalability and proof-of-concept applications.

Matt Heuft welcomes attendees to an innovation networking event in early March to highlight the support that is available for start-ups and SMEs.

Matt Heuft welcomes attendees to an innovation networking event in early March to highlight the support that is available for start-ups and SMEs. Photo credit: Laura Reyes

“We are able to help companies accelerate the development of their materials technologies by leveraging our existing facilities and expertise,” says Matt Heuft, XRCC Business Development Manager.

The XRCC facilities are complemented by decades of materials science expertise in areas such as developing toner and ink formulations for Xerox. As Marko Saban, XRCC Director of Engineering, states, “chemists and chemical engineers come together to speak the language of scale-up of chemical technologies and processes.”

Saban also mentions the excitement of working on new chemistries and making new materials, using transferrable expertise and skills to help new companies produce that difficult first kilogram of material.

RIC Centre and GreenCentre further strengthen XRCC’s technology-accelerating capabilities at the campus. This is perhaps best exemplified by Anomera Inc., a spin-out company from McGill University that turns cellulose pulp into nanocellulose as a biodegradable and renewable replacement for plastic microbeads in cosmetics. Anomera entered this environment by first working with XRCC and then as a RIC Centre incubator client. Anomera was then introduced to GreenCentre to assist with their technical needs. These contacts helped Anomera grow in their first year, including receiving financial and technical support from winning GreenCentre’s first IHC4 SME Competition. Now with offices and lab space co-located at XRCC, Anomera continues to work closely with all three partners as they continue to grow.

Opportunities for innovators at the campus will only increase, as more organizations become affiliated or co-located there. Construction is underway for a new National Research Council Canada (NRC) facility, the first such lab to be built in 17 years. XRCC and NRC are the founding members of the Canadian Centre for Advanced Materials and Manufacturing (CCAMM), and XRCC is a member of the Advanced Materials Supercluster in Ontario, giving local start-ups and SMEs even more opportunities for advancing their materials technologies.