Greg Rickford, Canada's minister of natural resources and FedNor, announced Monday around $1.9 million in federal funding for the Northern Ontario Centre for Advanced Technology (NORCAT) and the City of Greater Sudbury's Mining Supply and Service Export Assistance program.
Rickford made the announcement at NORCAT's head offices, prior to his participation in the 2014 Energy and Mines Ministers’ Conference, also in Sudbury. The conference is an annual meeting of Canada's federal, provincial and territorial mines and energy ministers.
FedNor granted NORCAT $1.25 million to support three expanded programs.
The first was the Fortin Discovery Lab – a new advanced manufacturing facility that will give local entrepreneurs access to the latest technology – such as 3D printers and injection molding – to develop prototypes and bring new products to market.
Through the Fortin Discovery Lab, mining supply and service companies will be able to connect with more service-oriented companies who can take on new product development.
The companies will be able to access NORCAT's lab, at a fee that has not yet been determined, to test and create new products for their clients.
Established entrepreneurs like Tom Fortin – who helped launch the lab – will provide mentorship to the new entrepreneurs.
The FedNor funding will also allow NORCAT to expand its underground training centre at the former Falconbridge Fecunis Adit Mine in Onaping. The new money will help expand surface operations at the training mine.
Finally, NORCAT will be able to use some of the funds to launch the NORCAT Commons, a co-working space that will welcome 20 to 30 entrepreneurs in an environment where they can collaborate on new ideas and connect with a number of mentors with past business success.
Members will be required to engage with their mentors every month.
“If they are not actively progressing toward their venture, and engaging our NORCAT mentors, we reserve the right to say, 'Maybe this isn't for you,'” said NORCAT CEO Don Duval.
FedNor granted the City of Greater Sudbury $681,644 to expand its Mining Supply and Service Export Assistance program.
The program helps connect local mining supply and service companies to markets overseas.
“They're a broker,” said Mayor Marianne Matichuk. “A lot of business people don't have time to go out and do that themselves, so we do it for them.”
The new funding will allow the city to help an additional 20 companies through the program.
Rickford said the investment could help create 40 new jobs in Sudbury.
Prior to his meeting with Canada's energy and mining ministers, Rickford addressed the federal government's financial commitments to the Ring of Fire.
He said the federal Conservatives are not ready to make a $1-billion commitment to Ring of Fire infrastructure – as the provincial Liberals have promised.
Rickford said the feds have already made investments in the nearby First Nations to increase their educational opportunities.
He said future federal funding for the Ring of Fire will need to be tied to specific projects with precise goals.
“We're obviously quite hopeful about what the Ring of Fire offers,” he said. “Not just in terms of its extraction activities, but the actual legacy of creating the infrastructure required to support this.”