2020 was quite the year. COVID-19 took us all by surprise and forced us to adapt and persevere under the most uncertain of times. While the year began as most before it, by mid-March our office went virtual as our team took quick steps to keep our staff and community safe.
In-person client meetings were out, zoom meetings were in. With the help of technology, our team was able to deliver the same dedicated support as ever to both existing and new clients. We are so proud and inspired by our clients as we reflect on all the unimaginable challenges they met with the greatest perseverance to adapt and overcome. They took advantage of all the support available to them including virtual one-on-one meetings with our business advisors, participation in Zoom training and networking events, market intelligence reports and funding programs. This year our clients accessed $369,000 in market intelligence reports to help them make informed business decisions and raised $8.5 million in investments.
With the sudden shift in needs for training and information, our team also delivered virtual events tailored to the challenges our clients were facing. We covered topics like how to share your company’s story during a crisis, how to plan for financial recovery, how to ensure your company is compliant with data privacy and security regulations on and offline, and more.
We didn’t do it alone though. We worked closely with our local, provincial and national partners to provide support to Canadian entrepreneurs. Above all else, we were unified in our quest to help Canada’s entrepreneurs survive this pandemic.
We teamed up with our sister Regional Innovation Centres (RICS) to deliver critical training and information to entrepreneurs. Our digital world allowed us to pool resources for entrepreneurs to access valuable content. With their partnership, Innovate Niagara delivered a total of 43 events to 1,542 attendees.
As one of the 29 hubs in the Canadian Digital Media Network (CDMN), we rallied to bring vulnerable Canadian start-ups and scale-ups the support they needed to survive this crisis and help rebuild Canada’s economy. The federal government heard our call for help and allocated resources to future-proof Canada’s tech and innovation sector through various programs. Innovate Niagara is also represented on CDMN’s advisory board, providing insight into Niagara’s tech sector and influence for greater support for our innovators.
We are also proud to have been chosen to help deliver Digital Main Street Programming across the province. As part of a $57-million investment by the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev) and the Province of Ontario, Innovate Niagara was selected to work with regional innovation partners Communitech, WEtech Alliance, Tech Alliance, Innovation Guelph, Innovation Factory and Haltech to support 5,200 small businesses go digital, creating more than 700 jobs for co-op students in Southwestern Ontario.
Niagara’s support system for entrepreneurs is robust and connected. Innovate Niagara has long hosted meetings with community partners including Brock University (BrockLINC, Brock Research and Venture Development), ihub, National Research Council Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), Niagara College Research and Innovation, Niagara Region Economic Development, St. Catharines Enterprise Centre, Ontario Centre for Innovation, Venture Niagara and Vineland Research & Innovation Centre. Since the pandemic began, Innovate Niagara and our community partners have been meeting bi-weekly to stay current on what’s happening in Niagara’s entrepreneurial and innovation world.
Read our 2020 Year of Perseverance to learn a little bit about some of the companies we support and how they have managed through this pandemic.
This article originally appeared in Business Link Niagara.