Product and process development projects are difficult for most small and medium-sized (SME) manufacturers to achieve. These projects require significant internal expertise, time, equipment, and materials to complete, and technical uncertainties often prevent businesses from making such investments. Not only is it difficult to plan and execute technology development projects, but the risks involved can often outweigh potential rewards.
Fortunately, resources exist to help Ontario-based manufacturers access the equipment and expertise needed to de-risk technology development projects.
The Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI) is a network aimed at helping manufacturers and innovation-based businesses overcome innovation challenges, and is funded through the FedDev Ontario Regional Innovation Ecosystem program. Through the network, businesses partner with post-secondary institutions who support their technology development project, leading to successful outcomes in less time and with less strain on their resources.
Businesses accessing the SONAMI network may even reduce project costs by up to 50% through Canadian government funding.
Manufacturers are encouraged to contact SONAMI if they have a project that would benefit by partnering with post-secondary research facilities.
What is the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI)?
SONAMI is a network of Ontario-based post-secondary research institutions that assists manufacturers to develop and integrate highly innovative technologies. The partnership includes Conestoga College, Fanshawe College, Lambton College, McMaster University, Mohawk College, Niagara College, and Sheridan College.
Companies approach the network with a concept, then researchers develop and test innovative solutions that meet the manufacturer’s requirements.
From prototype development to production planning and production automation, SONAMI serves as a comprehensive resource for manufacturers creating and implementing cutting-edge technologies. Manufacturers can discuss their innovative project with SONAMI and become matched with the post-secondary institution whose facilities and staff/students are best suited to support the project.
Over several weeks or months, manufacturers work with the post-secondary institution’s innovation team to plan and execute the project. Technologies can be at any stage of technology readiness when the project is submitted to SONAMI, and all intellectual property (IP) remains with the manufacturer so that its products/processes can be commercialized upon project completion.
Reduce Project Costs by Partnering with SONAMI
One of the most significant benefits for manufacturers is that all projects eligible to participate in SONAMI may also receive Canadian government funding. When the network launched in 2016, it was awarded $7.3 million from the federal government. These funds are now used to reduce the costs of participation for each eligible manufacturer.
In 2019, an additional $14M contribution was made from FedDev Ontario to expand SONAMI’s geographical reach beyond Niagara Region by adding three additional post-secondary institutions. This brought more knowledge and expertise in areas such as bio-industrial manufacturing and green product manufacturing.
The network provides a 1-to-1 match for company cash and in-kind contributions. This reduces overall project costs by up to 50% and helps more manufacturers participate.
There is no additional application process for businesses to receive funding. As the network has already received government support, funding is applied automatically to each assisted project. Post-secondary institutions invoice manufacturers for its services at reduced rates; manufacturers must then pay the college or university directly.
In response to COVID-19, the SONAMI Network provided 100% funding support for 31 COVID-19 response projects between March and September of 2020. These projects were focused on many areas, including filling the critical gaps in supply chains for medical devices and PPE, to working on therapeutics, touchless and remote supply chain solutions, and more.
SONAMI Network’s ideal projects should: have a quick turnaround time (ideally under four months), be based in southern Ontario, and directly support the economic growth and innovation in southern Ontario. Those who have a project idea are asked to contact the SONAMI team to assess the project and connect you to their partners.
Capabilities of the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation
SONAMI provides southern Ontario manufacturers access to expertise and advanced manufacturing facilities. Through this approach, manufacturers can develop and commercialize new advanced manufacturing technologies.
The advanced manufacturing network consists of seven post-secondary research institutions:
- Conestoga College: Conestoga’s Centre for Smart Manufacturing (CSM) is an important driver of commercialization, innovation, productivity improvement, and competitiveness for Ontario’s manufacturing sector.
- Fanshawe College: The Centre for Research and Innovation (CRI) connects industry, business, and community partners with Fanshawe student and faculty researchers to develop research and innovation programs and projects.
- Lambton College: The Lambton Manufacturing Innovation Centre (LMIC) is a specialized research and development centre that works with Canadian businesses to advance their products, processes, and services.
- Niagara College: A leader in advanced manufacturing technologies, Niagara College can support engineering, 3D technologies, and plastic additive manufacturing at its Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre.
- Mohawk College: Supports metal additive manufacturing projects. Manufacturers may design and print custom parts to solve technical challenges.
- Sheridan College: Specializes in robotics and flexible manufacturing. Their Centre for Advanced Manufacturing and Design Technologies can support a range of mechanical engineering projects.
- McMaster University: The McMaster Manufacturing Research Institute (MMRI) supports innovations in advanced materials tooling adoption.
Types of Advanced Manufacturing Projects Accepted
SONAMI collaborations support six types of advanced manufacturing technologies:
- Additive Manufacturing: Discover more about 3D printed technologies for manufacturers and how to apply it in your facilities.
- Automation: Adapting production to market demand using robotics, artificial intelligence, sensor integration, and machine learning.
- Process Optimization: Improving manufacturing productivity through tooling selection and development and lean manufacturing processes to realize new and improved products and robust full-scale manufacturing processes.
- Simulation and Modelling: Developing new products and processes using computer aided design and simulation.
- Information and Communication Technology and Cyber Security: Evolving manufacturing processes for Industry 4.0 with the application of Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), cyber security, data analytics, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence (AI).
- Product Testing and Validation: Prototypes and new product designs may require multimodal testing and validation to determine areas of improvement and ensure product quality.
SONAMI: Manufacturing Innovation Success Stories
Some notable projects that have been successfully completed with SONAMI support include:
- COVID Projects Across the Network
- Lambton College Supporting Front-Line Healthcare Workers with PPE
- Niagara College’s ‘heroic efforts’ to keep communities safe
Access SONAMI Advanced Manufacturing Support
To access the advanced manufacturing network, interested businesses have several options:
- If the company identifies a post-secondary institution with the capabilities it needs, it may contact the institution directly.
- If the company would like to first discuss SONAMI and have their project matched to the most applicable institution, please contact Kithio Mwanzia, SONAMI Network Manager or Sarah Dimick, SONAMI Project Manager.
- Fill out a SONAMI Partnership Application Form.
Each project is subject to a vetting process that enables research institutions to decide if they have capacity to support the project or if it would be better executed by another member of the network. To minimize potential delays in the vetting process, please contact the most appropriate post-secondary institution or contact SONAMI’s Project Manager.
For more information on the network, please visit SONAMI’s website.