Excellence in productivity: new centre to assist business with innovation.

Author:Kelly, Lindsay

Statistics from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development show that Canada lags behind other G8 countries in productivity growth. In Timmins. a new centre of excellence is being established to combat those figures by putting Northern Ontario businesses ahead of the trend.

Now established at Northern College, the Centre of Excellence for Productivity and Innovation will help small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs) in northeastern Ontario build productivity and innovation capacity. The centre will be run by NEOnet.

Though the idea has been germinating since 2010, Northern College president Fred Gibbons said it solidified after the city formulated its Timmins 2020 strategic plan. The plan asked whether a centre of excellence could be created in Timmins that was unique from other centres in the North.

The working group--which comprised representatives of the Timmins Economic Development Corp., the Chamber of Commerce, the Venture Centre, the Far Northeast Training Board. the college, NEOnet, and MaJIC--settled on idea of proving productivity and helping companies to innovate.

"A lot of the small and medium enterprises don't employ a lot of people, so consequently they don't have internal research and development capacity of their own in the vast majority of instances," Gibbons said. "So what this project does is give them access to that to solve some of these perplexing problems that they have."

NEOnet was chosen to run the centre because of its track record in developing information and communications technology in Northern Ontario. Its mandate has been to build broadband and cellular infrastructure so that residents of small communities could benefit from education and health care provided over the web so they don't have to leave their homes to get access to that information.

Chris McLaughlin, director of operations for NEOnet, said the focus of the productivity and innovation centre will be twofold: it will raise awareness about productivity, as well as apply new technologies so businesses can become more productive in their workplaces. The focus will be on non-retail enterprises such as...

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