What comes to mind when you think of Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent?
Our rich history in manufacturing and agriculture? Our indomitable spirit? The generosity of our community?
Well, consider adding innovative to that list.
Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent has always been a phenomenally innovative community. From new inventions, to national and global “Firsts”, to companies that serve as trailblazers in their field, our region is a fertile breeding ground for new ideas.
But now, as our community continues to evolve, many business owners are focusing on innovation. Specifically, many are turning their attention to Intellectual Property (IP).
But, what is IP?
Myra Tawfik, Professor of Law at the University of Windsor, weighs in on the concept.
“IP has intangible value for companies,” Myra states. “There’s copyright, trademark, confidential information or trade secrets as a form of commercial value. Most commonly, especially in our area, is patents. Increasingly, as we’re operating globally, what we used to call the knowledge based economy we’re calling the innovation/intangibles economy.”
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The ability to gather lots of data, Myra explains, and sell technology around it, is the basis for several IP-driven companies.
“A number of companies rely on their inventions,” Myra states. “They develop new techniques around that data, or they license that data to others so they can process it. Those are the kinds of businesses that are high value. Those are the kinds of businesses that Canada can accelerate.”
“One of the things that I think is key for our region is to become IP literate.”
For Myra, its important that our region truly embrace the mindset of innovation.
“I’ve been working in this industry for a long time,” Myra states. “One of the things that I think is key for our region is to become IP literate. We need to think about not only intangibles, but how business owners can use the intangible elements of their business to become more resilient. Entrepreneurs should be able to recognize the potential value of trademarks and brands and how to leverage that.”
Our region has housed numerous innovations. One such patent is the Palm N Turn child-proof safety cap, developed by Tecumseh native Dr. Henri Breault, Chief of Pediatrics & Director of Poison Control Centre at Hotel Dieu Hospital. The invention helped drop child poisonings by 91% across Canada and the United States. Dr. Breault was inducted into the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame in 1997.
Another local innovator, and fellow Canadian Medical Hall of Fame inductee, Dr. David Hubel is one of the leading medical scientists of the latter twentieth century. Dr. Hubel is recognized as a founder of the field of modern research on the visual system of the brain. Dr. Drake perfected surgical techniques on the repair of reptured brain aneurysms for which he gained world-wide fame.
Our local innovative spirit extends far beyond the medical field.
Pineapple on pizza? Regardless of where you land on the debate, one thing is undeniable, despite its tropical name, this invention was the brainchild of Chatham’s Sam Panopoulos.
And on the modern side of things, one such local business that truly embodies the spirit of innovation is CenterLine (Windsor) Limited.
CenterLine is a Canadian based, privately held corporation specializing in advanced automation processes and joining technologies that satisfy resistance welding, metal forming, and cold spray applications. CenterLine is a vertically integrated enterprise with product offerings ranging from welding consumables to fully automated production systems.
Larry Koscielski, CenterLine’s Vice President of Process and Technology Development with the company’s FlexFast™ Welder
“We’ve been an innovation company for an awful long time,” Larry Koscielski, Vice President of Process and Technology Development at CenterLine, explains. “But over the last 10 or 15 years, we’ve become more outward-facing. One of the things we now do a lot of is fastener welding. We figure out strategies for a specific job or an industry problem.”
To date, CenterLine has been awarded over 80 patents and has numerous North American and international patents pending.
Several years ago, CenterLine began focusing on fastener welders, as cars become more inundated with sensors and other computers.
“Everything about cars became more complicated,” Larry recalls. “Seating became more complicated. It just added tons of fasteners onto cars. Now, when we ship equipment, we tabulate how much production we think its going to do, based on the predicted volumes and so on.”
“‘We have only been keeping track since 2017, but since then we have built fastener welders that have welded about 9 billion fasteners and still counting”.
“That translates into 12 million fasteners a day,” Larry explains. “We build the equipment for customers to run their production.”
CenterLine currently has customers all over the world, including countries like the United States, Mexico, Brazil, Germany, Romania, India and China.
The future looks bright
The WEtech Alliance client portfolio is filled with numerous innovative local technology companies that continue to be on the cutting-edge, building on the region’s strong history of “WINnovations“.
“We know innovation is critical to our success as a nation and we know Windsor-Essex and Chatham-Kent have many more “firsts” to add to Canada’s innovation story.” says Yvonne Pilon, WEtech Alliance’s President & CEO.
As well, EPICentre’s NextGen CTO Program aims to develop the next generation of CTOs (Chief Technology/Technical Officers). The program provides these future CTOs information on the importance of IP and how it can be leveraged strategically to grow their businesses. This program is open to students from all faculties, as well as business owners and entrepreneurs in our community.
And with the recent funding announcement to accelerate the development of a world-class automobility innovation cluster in Windsor-Essex, this region’s transition into the Automobility Capital of Canada looks to carry our innovation story well into the future.