The Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre also seeks to uplift and support their own community through a number of different initiatives.
"At its most basic, innovation is about making things better in a way that benefits everyone," writes Canada's Ministers in their report, Innovation for a Better Canada.
One company that strives to empower the ideas and provide solutions for innovative entrepreneurs/local businesses is the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre (SSMIC).
SSMIC is a non-profit organization that is based out of Sault Ste. Marie, and according to Peter Bruijns, SSMIC’s Executive Director, the innovation centre’s inception began as a need to diversity our Sault Ste. Marie’s economy over time.
“We are one of 17 Regional Innovation Centres (RIC) in Ontario that help entrepreneurs and innovators succeed by helping them develop their ideas to make them marketable and attract talent, capital and customers,” Bruijns said. “We are here because of a need to expand our industry verticals to include more prominent positions in the science, technology, and information technology sectors to keep the city relevant and moving in the right direction.”
When SSMIC first began, the organization’s initial focus was solely on its Community Geomatics Centre division, which specialized in geographic information systems (GIS) and mapping.
The Community Geomatics Centre division would transition into Acorn Information Solutions (AIS), and this division of SSMIC provides crucial services such as the aforementioned GIS mapping (the ability to analyze and present data based on geographical information to generate solutions), data infrastructure, business insights, custom software solutions, a range of information technology (IT) related services, and much more to assist in creating solutions for the businesses, organizations, and entrepreneurs that the SSMIC serves.
Alongside the Acorn division, SSMIC also offers solution-creating programs that are more specialized to specific sectors. These programs include the Rural Agri-Innovation Network (focused on innovative research and the development of agri-food businesses/organizations), the Sault Ste. Marie Academic Medical Association (focused on researching and developing ideas/projects related to healthcare and how to improve it in the community), as well as the Vulnerable Persons Registry (started by the Acorn Information Solutions division, the VPR focuses on creating safety improvements for higher-risk residents during emergencies while living at home).
And while SSMIC offers a vast assortment of programs and experts that specialize in coming up with unique solutions for a multitude of different business sectors, Lori McDonald, SSMIC’s marketing and communications manager, says that the overall goal of SSMIC is simple, yet important to the organization and what they do.
“We want to be there to uplift individuals and businesses that are also solutions focused, innovative, and have a growth mindset. We are going to help you succeed as best that we can in the realm of what we do,” Lori said. “We want to drive businesses/individuals forward.”
SSMIC is not only looking to support local businesses/entrepreneurs, but the organization also wants to support the Sault Ste. Marie community as well, and Lori says that SSMIC has done so with its array of community-based initiatives.
In an effort to inspire future generations of young entrepreneurs and business leaders, SSMIC created the YouLaunch division, which offers workshops, camps, and training experiences to youth who are under 29. The goals of the program are to help advance the students’ skills, as well as preparing them for innovative jobs and entrepreneurial endeavours.
Another educational offering that SSMIC provides are e-Learning courses. The courses teach interested learners about technology and entrepreneurship, and SSMIC offers the courses online for free upon registration for anyone (including beginners).
And Bruijns says that these educational programs are only just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the SSMIC’s community initiatives.
“We encourage people to have a conversation with us,” Bruijns said. “We want to work with partners across the community to find solutions and empower change.”