Tech-Access Canada is a non-profit organization based in Ottawa, representing the pan-Canadian network of 60 Technology Access Centres (TACs).

Canada’s TACs are the foremost leaders in college and cégep applied research. These specialized R&D centres assist Canadian businesses-particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs)-by providing applied research and innovation services to build new prototypes and solve unique business challenges, as well as specialized training on the latest equipment and emerging technologies. TACs aim to enhance productivity, competitiveness and innovation results for their industry partners.

Collectively, the TAC network provides Canadian firms with access to:

  • 3 million square feet of dedicated innovation and applied research space;
  • $320 million worth of state-of-the-art equipment and research facilities; and
  • 1,700 experts in business innovation and applied R&D with in-depth industry experience.

Mission

Tech-Access Canada’s mission is to support its membership by:

  • sharing best practices to help enhance the operational capacity for TACs to deliver consistent applied research and innovation services to firms across the country; and
  • promoting the TACs and the impact of their research services to foster collaborations with industry, government, universities, associations, and other innovation stakeholders.

History

In 2010, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) launched the Technology Access Centres (TAC) funding program to enhance the work of established college applied research centres, increase applied research and development activity with regional firms, and support the growth of industry sectors across the country. The goal was to enhance the ability of companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), to become more productive and innovative by providing ready access to Canadian college and cégep specialized expertise, technology and equipment.

In 2013, the TACs began attending regular meetings to share best practices in business operations and recognized they faced common challenges in driving industry innovation, which could have been better supported by harmonious and standardized approaches to college applied research and the TAC model.

Launched in September 2015, Tech-Access Canada is the member-led national network that connects, engages and promotes Canada’s TACs.

Government Funding

We gratefully acknowledge the longstanding financial support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). Their support is essential to the operations of Tech-Access Canada and enables the TACs to participate in peer-to-peer workshops, professional development opportunities, webinars, and the Interactive Visits program.

TACs Avoid Undue Competition with the Private Sector

The TAC model was designed to de-risk novel research and innovation activity for small firms working toward commercialization. The TACs avoid undertaking any routine work that is already provided adequately by private industry and strive to avoid unintended competition with colleagues in the private sector.

If you feel that a TAC is offering services that are contrary to this philosophy, please speak to the TAC or their affiliated college directly to attempt to resolve the issue. If that approach is not satisfactory, please contact Tech-Access Canada to discuss the matter further.

Collaborating with a TAC enables Canadian SMEs to reach the resources they need become high-growth firms, succeeding at home and abroad. These partnerships assist the firm with their technical R&D work, preparing them to enter new markets with new products.

For innovative firms, there are several ways to engage with a TAC, each of which can be custom-tailored to meet the needs of the client. These engagements are:

  • fee-for-service arrangements;
  • leveraged projects;
  • capstone projects; and
  • association-supported projects.


1. Fee-for-Service Engagements

Fee-for-service engagements can entail specific technical and business services; training on new equipment and technologies; as well as collaborative applied research projects.

The cost of the engagement will be - by design - at, or above, the market rates of other service providers in the region, but the TAC will assemble the correct team, bring in unique value-added expertise, and the engagement can start the minute the contract is signed. Most of these service, training, and applied research projects can be completed in the rapid timelines the partner needs, often days or weeks.


2. Leveraged Projects

On leveraged applied research projects, the TAC can stretch the partner's R&D dollar further by attempting to access provincial or federal R&D support programs designed to de-risk the innovation investment.

These leveraging programs are competitive, take a considerable amount of time from application to decision, and are not guaranteed to receive leveraging support. However, if successful, the TAC will assemble the correct team of experts and start immediately.


3. Capstone Projects

If the partner's innovation challenge is on a slower track, or the partner is of more modest means, capstone projects are an excellent option.

For a very modest fee, often the cost of supplies and consumables, the TAC will assemble an interdisciplinary team of college student researchers in the last year of their undergraduate program, under the supervision of an instructor, to solve the industry partner's problem.

The project will only take 4 or 8 months, but it must align with the start of the college semester, and is contingent on finding the right mix of willing students to field a team.

Capstone projects have two other significant appeals: de-risking innovation for aspiringly-innovative firms, and letting the firm test-drive potential future employees. What better job interview than 4 months spent learning about a firm and solving their innovation challenge?

Regardless of the project outcome, capstone projects at TACs are also a form of experiential learning that allows college students to acquire valuable innovation skills before they graduate, socializing them to team members from different academic and professional backgrounds, helping create a competitive workforce in the region's key industrial sector.


4. Industry Association Supported Projects

A fourth type of engagement is through industry-association sponsored applied research. In these engagements, an industry association, representing private firms of all sizes in a sector, engages the services of a TAC to tackle an innovation challenge that affects all of their members.

The TAC works individually with a subset of the association's membership on projects, and the results are disseminated to all members for application in their individual operations to improve their productivity and innovation outcomes.

Playing to economies of scale, an engagement of this kind makes much more sense than having each individual member of the association attempt to engage the TAC to conduct duplicate research, especially if there will be no individual proprietary advantage with the results of the project.


5. Interactive Visits

Despite the variety of methods of formal engagement with a TAC, there are thousands of firms who are just beginning to consider investing in innovation, or established firms who still see investing in business innovation as too risky, too expensive, or too complicated to navigate.

This innovative project provides a maximum of 20 hours of engagement with an expert identified by the TAC in order to solve a problem identified by an SME by receiving technical or strategic information; assistance with the selection of specialized technical equipment; or providing access to other technical advice. SMEs must be NRC-IRAP clients; if you are not an IRAP client, please call 1-877-994-4727.

Tech-Access Canada gratefully acknowledges the ongoing support of the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) to enable this initiative.

Contact your NRC-IRAP ITA to request an Interactive Visit!

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Our Team

TechAccess Team
Ken Doyle

Ken Doyle

Executive Director

Phone: +1-613-366-4252

Email: kdoyle@tech-access.ca

As Executive Director of Tech-Access Canada, the national network of Canada’s 30 Technology Access Centres (TACs), Ken is responsible for ensuring the network achieves its mandate of facilitating the sharing of best practices between member TACs, and promoting the adoption of comparable service excellence standards. Ken actively promotes the Technology Access Centre model to external audiences including industry associations, federal and provincial governments, and the general public. Ken also encourages companies – particularly small and medium-sized firms – to access the services offered by the TACs to get their innovations to market.

Based in Ottawa, Ken brings a deep knowledge of college applied research and over a decade of experience in federal public affairs and policy development for the Canadian college sector. He most recently served as Special Advisor to the Vice-President, Government Relations and Canadian Partnerships at Colleges and Institutes Canada, where he was responsible for strategic files related to college applied research and innovation. Ken holds a Master’s Degree in Public Policy and Administration from Carleton University in Ottawa.

Michelle Thomson

Michelle Thomson

Director, External Relations

Phone: +1-613-366-3239

Email: mthomson@tech-access.ca

As Director of External Relations, Michelle leads member and stakeholder relations, event management and program development for Tech-Access Canada. She delivers networking opportunities for member TACs to facilitate the sharing and adoption of best practices and service excellence standards to enhance their business performance. She also promotes the TAC network with external stakeholders and key players in Canada’s innovation ecosystem to build new partnerships and raise awareness among SMEs in key industry sectors.

Michelle has over ten years of experience in leading high profile corporate events and research programs, as well as developing new business opportunities and partnerships. She is passionate to help advance business innovation in Canada. Michelle holds a Bachelor of Commerce in Marketing from the University of Ottawa.

TACs List

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Tech-Access Canada’s Jump Ball Initative

Rapidly connecting innovators to business innovation assets.

The Jump Ball Initiative (JBI) taps into the innovative capacity and capabilities of the network of Canada’s 60 Technology Access Centres, including over 1,700 business innovation experts and more than 3 million square feet of dedicated applied research space.

We have a dedicated point person at each of the 60 TACs eager to rapidly respond to your innovation-related inquiry if their TAC is equipped to assist.

Simply place the required items in the body of an email and send to JumpBall@tech-access.ca (attachments are fine).

We will distribute the request to all members and, within two business days, provide you with a curated list of TACs who have volunteered to assist, as well as their points of contact.

Discuss with the TAC(s) and collaborate to solve your innovation challenge!

Required items for email:

To: JumpBall@tech-access.ca

Subject: (Maximum 6 words)

Body of email:

  1. Description of problem/innovation challenge (as much detail as you’re able to share)
  2. What - to date - has been attempted to solve the problem? (as much technical detail as you’re able to share)
  3. Deadline for assistance (if there are time pressures, what date must the project be completed by?)
  4. Who should we contact to provide the list of TACs, and what is the best way to reach them? (name, title, organization, location, phone, email, Skype, etc.)

Sample of use cases:

  • Connection to an experienced health-innovation product developer
  • Develop and deliver a training module for existing staff on new technology
  • Facilitate access to a multi-axis water jet cutting machine
  • Guidance on new carbon sequestration regulations
  • Referral for manufacturing scale-up in the food industry
  • Refine an orthotics-related alpha prototype into a beta level prototype

Click here to download the PDF backgrounder [ ]