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More opportunities for innovation in the Valley

Saturday, February 27th, 2010 | 3:33 pm

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By Kathy Michaels

The Okanagan Research and Innovation Centre was the recipient of a hefty cash infusion that will allow it to expand its operations.

The  Southern Interior Development Initiative Trust board  provided a grant of   $150,000 to the centre that mentors fledgling businesses. Those funds  will be used for a 5,600 square foot expansion of the facilities and expand its current incubation programs.

“SIDIT is supporting ORIC based on its demonstrated ability to diversify and expand the regional economy,” said Mayor Sharon Shepherd at the hand off ceremony, adding that ORIC is a key component in making the Okanagan a centre for high-tech development.

In the one year ORIC has been in the city, it has provided a foundation for some major success stories to launch from. Among them is Vericorder Technologies.
Having utilized the centre’s programs, the owners of Vericorder have been able to access further government funding and expand from an operation of several to nearly 18 in a matter of months.

In recent weeks Vericorder technology —which turns an iPhone into a mobile media centre — has been used by student journalists who have been covering the Olympic games.
Successes like that are why ORIC has outgrown its earlier digs and the hope is that when it grows, so too will the opportunities for future business owners.

Business incubation programs, such as those run by ORIC, are designed to catalyze the process of starting and growing companies by providing entrepreneurs with the expertise, networks and tools they need to make their ventures successful.

“Companies that graduate from the incubator will typically employ more than 10 staff,” said Martin J. Yuill Director of ORIC.

“We expect that approximately 84 per cent will remain in the Okanagan, creating economic benefits and sustainability for the region.”

ORIC President, Peter Haubrich, said statistics show that incubated companies have a significantly higher survival ra.

The Kelowna Innovation Centre offers full residential services to early stage client companies, including:

•    a collaborative enabling incubator environment with office support;
•    flexible space and short-term leases at affordable rates;
•    shared meeting rooms and boardroom facilities;
•    hot-desking options;
•    wired and wireless internet access;
•    ready access to in-house managerial, business and technical expertise;
•    enhanced brand exposure;
•    value-adding business support services, including legal (development of a patent portfolio), financial, HR and marketing advice; facilitated access to markets, educational and research institutions, technology workshops and seminars, sources of capital (angel, VC, NRC-IRAP, SR&ED, etc.), mentorship and coaching, market research and business plan development;
•    the opportunity to engage with a supportive community of business professionals, angels, like-minded innovators, entrepreneurs and professional service providers; and
•    a landing pad service to attract out-of-town, -province and -country technology companies looking to relocate to, or establish a base in, the Okanagan.

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