Canada's 30 Technology Access Centres (TACs) are specialized applied research & development centres affiliated with publicly-funded colleges and cégeps.

Each TAC serves a specific geographic area, with a focus on strengthening the industrial sector of significance to that region.

These demand-driven centres, from BC to PEI, help Canadian businesses - especially Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) - get their products, processes and services market-ready by:

  • offering objective advice and specialized technical services;
  • providing training related to new types of equipment and processes; and
  • conducting applied research and development projects focused on company problems.

Tech-Access Canada is the national network of Canada's Technology Access Centres (TACs). The network's members provide clients and partners from across Canada with access to:

  • expertise and experience of over 1,000 business innovation and applied R&D experts;
  • over 2.4 million square feet of innovation and applied research space; and
  • over $250 million worth of highly-specialized equipment and facilities.

This specialized capacity is designed to be complementary to other players in the Canadian innovation ecosystem such as start-ups, SMEs, large firms, incubators, accelerators, private research laboratories, university researchers, colleges and institutes, government research laboratories, and international collaborators.

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.


New Pilot: 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.

To help address this issue, a very recent pilot project is underway with the nine Ontario TACs in partnership with the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) to provide Interactive Visits for SMEs.

This innovative pilot 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.

We gratefully acknowledge IRAP's foresight and trust in partnering with Tech-Access Canada to launch this innovative pilot project with the nine Ontario TACs, and we are optimistic the model has cross-country applicability.

Request Interactive Visit: http://interactivevisits.ca

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Tech-Access Canada’s Jumpball 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 30 Technology Access Centres, including over 1,000 business innovation experts and more than 2 million square feet of dedicated applied research space.

We have a dedicated point person at each of the 30 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 [ ]