Q&A with NGen CEO Jayson Myers
NGen received an investment of $177 million from the Government of Canada to advance Canada’s Global Innovation Cluster for Advanced Manufacturing
February 23, 2023 By Canadian Manufacturing
Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen), the industry-led organization behind Canada’s Global Innovation Cluster for Advanced Manufacturing received an investment of $177 million from the Government of Canada. To date, NGen has approved 167 projects, with renewed funding, NGen will support Canada’s research, technology, and manufacturing strengths to develop, scale up and commercialize solutions in advanced manufacturing. Canadian Manufacturing spoke with Jayson Myers, CEO of NGen to discuss the plans and projects that will benefit from this funding.
Can you share some of the biggest successes to come out of previous funding?
We have some really interesting solutions, including green recycling of EV battery black mass. We’ve invested in new materials; new forms of concrete, for instance, that are carbon negative materials. We’ve invested in computing technologies that cut the cost of computing for manufacturers by about 92 per cent.
The Aspire / DarwinAI project – “Novel Application of Advanced Manufacturing Approaches to High Quality Protein,” was selected as one of the Top 10 Outstanding Projects applying AI to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by the International Research Center in Artificial Intelligence.
We supported the development of the Verschuren Centre bioprocessing facility in Cape Breton to help cleantech entrepreneurs scale their technologies for environmental applications. There are six companies involved including; OmniaBio Inc. (Hamilton) and partners ExCellThera (Montreal), MorphoCell Technologies (Montreal), Aspect Biosystems (Vancouver), and CATTI (Montreal).
This project is one of NGen’s largest investments and aims to secure Canada’s global leadership in life sciences. Essentially, it will provide bio manufacturing facilities to tech companies for scaling up their therapies for full commercialization, full production and commercialization.
What are NGen’s areas of focus with the new funding?
With input from across our ecosystem of over 5000 industry members and our board of directors, we have targeted four priorities. These priorities include:
- Solutions to address the major innovation challenges in the electric vehicle value chain,
- Scale up and demonstrate manufacturing solutions to reduce carbon emissions,
- Fund leading edge projects in advanced manufacturing focusing on medical technologies, bio manufacturing, and robotics and automation,
- Continue investing in our initiatives that promote capabilities across Canada such as workforce development to support management, tech adoption and the development of net zero facilities and that attract young people into advanced manufacturing.
Which kind of projects is NGen focusing on with the new funding?
The key areas we are focusing on include projects in the EV value chain, decarbonization and circular manufacturing, robotics, and medical devices.
We will be receiving the proposals for these projects shortly, which will run through an independent selection process with industry and technology experts.
Ultimately, we are looking at projects that address some of the major innovation challenges for the future in Canada and we expect them to be transformative. Our previous projects have shown how successful this funding has been in the past. We expect our projects to be in the later stages of development, where our strategy is to integrate technologies into unique and innovative solutions for manufacturing.
How might this funding help address ongoing labour shortages?
In a couple of ways. We are investing in programs that will help companies reshuffle their employees while also introducing new people into advanced manufacturing.
We’re really focusing on introducing kids into careers in advanced manufacturing. We are also encouraging underrepresented groups like women, Indigenous, Black, and visible minority workers into advanced manufacturing. We will continue to support these programs into the future.
Many of the new technology solutions that we are investing in focus on automation. The labour shortages in manufacturing are not going to disappear, they are only going to get worse. We know this because a quarter of the workforce is going be retired in 10 years’ time. So, companies are going to have to automate to remain in business and to remain competitive, let alone grow. Because of this, we are really focusing on skills development but also automation projects solutions.
What are the next steps in funding new projects?
We have an open public call for proposals, which is followed by information sessions that can help companies navigate through how to apply and what is eligible for funding. We then connect companies with opportunities to partner which will support developing and commercialization strategies for projects. After about three weeks of the deadline for project applications, we will announce the recipients of the funding.
How can companies interested in gaining funding learn more?
I recommend those interested in receiving funding to keep an eye on our website and to sign up for the newsletter to receive updates. We have already announced a call for proposals focusing on AI application in manufacturing which will close in a few weeks’ time. The exact dates are still being worked out, but I would say within a month we should have a new call for proposals.
The proposal call outs will be accompanied with guidance in terms of what we’re looking for in these projects. We will launch a call for proposals around advanced manufacturing projects fairly soon, likely in March. Followed by a call for proposals around electric vehicle projects, then followed up by a call around decarbonization.
Another thing companies can do is look at our website, we will share guidance and what we expect in projects. Additionally, those interested can contact our project team at firstname.lastname@example.org to see if their project is within the scope of what we are looking for.
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