Innovation Insights
Niagara College helps local SMEs embrace e-business
Digital Media Solutions team develops key online components.

by Carolyn Mullin

Contemporary
business-to-business solutions most often involve the latest e-business solutions, but for small to medium-sized companies (SMEs), the ability to keep up-to-date can be either cost-prohibitive or hindered by a lack of expert knowledge.
Niagara College’s Digital Media & Web Solutions team, part of the Research & Innovation division, is a ready partner with SMEs to find solutions.

Through industry projects funded by various levels of government, students and recent graduates — many from the college’s New Media Web Design program — tackle the e-business challenges of local SMEs, and gain valuable experience towards their own employment along the way.

The division is currently developing a track record of success, having been awarded funding by the Ontario Centres of Excellence in the form of Vouchers for E-Business in 2014-15, and Vouchers for E-Business and Technology Adaption in 2015-16. Technology Adoption projects focus on technology development and testing/validation activities to support innovation. The e-business vouchers include projects focused on website development, online sales process, digital and social media, and customer relationship management.

“Our new website has greatly improved overall traffic to our retail store and is a huge asset for us,” notes Amy Bond, office manager with Industrial Pump Solutions (industrialpumpsolutions.com). Bond’s Niagara Falls-based company worked with Research & Innovation last year to enhance its e-commerce capabilities. As Ontario’s largest aftermarket and surplus pump inventory supplier, this new easy-to-navigate e-store is essential to their business, she adds.

“There are so many factors that are often affected by change, especially in keeping up with the competition,” says Jaqueline Waspe, executive chef and proprietor at Spring Manor Bed and Breakfast (springmanor.ca). “Spring Manor’s website needed updating to showcase our amenities and what sets Spring Manor apart from the others.”

For each project, the Research & Innovation team meets with the industry partners several times during the project, assessing the business’s needs, and proposing solutions, before implementing the right fit.

“For the past few months we have been exchanging photos and text, and the team has been training me how to manage the site on my own,” says Waspe.

“Every company needs a strong web presence and e-business tools to compete in today’s increasingly digital world. Our research team has the right tools and talent to work with local companies to provide them with that competitive edge,” notes Marc Nantel, associate vice-president, Research & Innovation.

While the most recent roster of available projects is full, the Research & Innovation division has several opportunities for related business solutions for local SMEs in areas such as market research, marketing and advertising plans, and sales strategies and prospect lists. Industry partners from the advanced manufacturing and food and beverage sectors in particular are currently being recruited.

Companies interested in partnering with the Research & Innovation team may contact Kristine Canniff, industry liaison officer, at kcanniff@niagaracollege.ca, or 905.735.2211, ext. 7172.

Carolyn Mullin is the manager of Dissemination & Outreach for the Research & Innovation division of Niagara College.