The Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance hopes to further its efforts to encourage the commercialization of breakthrough ideas by merging with a trade organization dedicated to the research and development community.

CATA said late

last week it was waiting only for final member approval to ratify a deal that will see the Innovation Management Association of Canada (IMAC) become one of its divisions. Based in Guelph, Ont., IMAC is made up approximately 200 members who meet regularly to discuss emerging R&D practices, develop measurement tools and explore funding opportunities. Like CATA, IMAC has devoted some of its efforts to helping educate organizations about the government’s scientific research and educational development program (SR&ED), which offers tax credits for certain projects.

IMAC chairman Darren Lawless said the organization originally grew out of another merger, between the former Canadian Research Management Association (CRMA) and the former Canadian Association for the Management of Technology (CANMOT). As a volunteer-based association, however, he said it was sometimes difficult to be proactive in terms of offering value to its membership. CATA, he pointed out, has that administrative infrastructure in place, and several events and programs its members can tap into.

Lawless said IMAC would be bringing many innovation leaders from firms like Nova Chemical and the Ontario Centres of Excellence to Canada, as well as insight into how to make the most of SR&ED.

“Very often innovation fails. For a small and medium enterprise, do you roll the dice and hope that it works?” he asked. “To be innovative, unfortunately, requires an investment. And even if you do have the money, how do you make sure you don’t go out of business trying to make it succeed?”

CATA vice-president Barry Gander said the merger capitalizes on several years spent trying to boost the commercialization potential of R&D departments.

“An obvious first step in that is to make sure that the handoff from the idea factories, as it were, to the commercial arena, is done correctly,” he said.

While other trade organizations have struggled to retain membership amid the industry’s downturn, CATA has spent the last several years beefing up its ability to serve technology professionals by merging with like-minded partners. Last year, for example, CATA joined forces with the Society of Collaborative Opportunities and Advancement of Professionals (SCOAP), best known for evaluating the Government Technology Exhibition and Conference’s Federal Government Distinction awards. SCOAP also had some R&D expertise from managing the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI) award program. SMART Toronto and the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP) have also been brought under the CATA umbrella.

Lawless said he hopes CATA will play an important role in keeping R&D on Paul Martin’s agenda.

“We need a voice, we need somebody to advocate,” he said. “It’s easy for the government to get innovation fatigue and say that health care is more of a priority, or other issues. Then all of a sudden all the good work that we’ve done to date goes away.”

CATA will be co-hosting an event later this week called Innovation and New Ventures 2005 that will bring together representatives from industry, post-secondary schools and government from across Canada to share strategies and best practices in R&D and entrepreneurship. Gander said CATA will also be creating programs specifically aimed at innovation managers.

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