Ontario research organizations join forces

Three technology research centres in Ontario Monday said they have agreed to work together to help the province compete more effectively against countries like India and China.

“We’re basically ganging up to take on the world,” said Iain Klugman, president of Communitech, an organization that represents technology companies in the Waterloo region.

Communitech is working with the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation, an economic development corporation located in the nation’s capital, and the MaRS Discovery District, a Toronto-based not-for-profit geared towards the commercialization of scientific and technological intellectual property.

“When we go out individually as regions and try to promote our companies internationally, we’ve got a lot of competition out there . . . especially when you’re talking about China, India, the U.S. and Europe,” said Jeffrey Dale, president and CEO of OCRI. “We don’t compete amongst ourselves; we don’t compete with Toronto and Waterloo.”

The three organizations have agreed their partnership will function under the name the MaRS Network. MaRS is by far the youngest of the three organizations – Communitech is almost a decade old and OCRI is about 25 – but has become a business force since it opened last year.

“I think it’s a very powerful brand. They’ve established it as a place to really grow your business,” said Klugman.

MaRS originally stood for Medical and Research Sciences, but has since shied away from that label, said Ross Wallace, director of corporate strategy. The organization doesn’t want to be pigeonholed as being just a life sciences or biotechnology outfit — it lends equal weight to information communications and advanced manufacturing.

MaRS may be Toronto-based, but its mandate is province-wide, said Wallace. By joining forces with organizations in other parts of Ontario, MaRS is more likely to fulfill that mandate, he said.

“We’re looking to the examples of Waterloo and Ottawa to see what their best practices are and what the things that they’ve done really well are over the last 10 years to build the brand of those communities,” he said.

The three organizations aim to share best practices and contacts, and lean on the strengths of their respective regions. All three may have good venture capital resources, for example, but specialties that may be peculiar to a certain area.

“We’ve realized that we don’t have all the answers ourselves,” said Dale. Ottawa is strong in telecommunications, he explained, but Toronto may have better resources for digital media and Waterloo for certain types of software.

“We’re going to create some very strong alliances and great mentoring opportunities,” he said. “If one region succeeds, we don’t all succeed. We have to succeed together if we’re going to compete internationally right now.”

Dale added that the MaRs Network is open to working with other Canadian technology organizations, including those with a national or a regional focus.

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