- Recipient: La Cité Collégiale
- Region: Ottawa
- Most recent funding allocated: $3.21 million
Official language minority communities (OLMCs) in Ontario represent the largest Francophone population in Canada outside Quebec, and are home to more than 75 percent of Ontario’s total Francophone population. Ottawa-based La Cité Collégiale (La Cité), the largest Canadian French-language college of applied research and technology outside of Québec, recognizes that the success and growth of OLMCs is vital to the economic fabric of this province and to Canada as a whole.
With the goal of offering French business support services for Francophone entrepreneurs and businesses, La Cité established La Factorie Desjardins (La Factorie), an entrepreneurial and growth accelerator on its Ottawa campus as a part of its Entrepreneurship Unit. As entrepreneurs begin their journey of product development at La Factorie, they are immersed in an environment with the experience and knowledge from professors and sector experts, fresh creativity from students and the necessary specialized equipment to pull everything together. Entrepreneurs have direct involvement at each stage of development so they can see their project evolve and are empowered every step of the way.
Danika Bourgeois-Desnoyers, manager of the Entrepreneurship Unit said, “Intersectoral collaboration is an added value at La Cité, which allows for the offering of innovative solutions to our business partners. We have developed an effective and unique approach in Ontario, thanks to the expertise of our network of consultants who are aware of the needs of Francophone companies and provide them tailored services. At La Cité, we are proud to be able to contribute to the economic competitiveness of Francophone businesses in Ontario and to support them in the development of new markets.”
La Cité is expanding the entrepreneurial programming at La Factorie with $1.35 million in support from FedDev Ontario. Building on a previous investment of nearly $1.86 million, this support addresses the growing need to pave the way for inclusive growth and inclusive recovery in OLMCs across southern Ontario and to continue to open new paths forward for Francophone entrepreneurs.
To support the entrepreneurial goals of Francophone women, La Cité breaks down the obstacles that women face when starting a new business. After assessing their existing business skills, La Cité then creates tailored learning activities to help participants develop the skills they need for success. Discussion groups provide mentoring opportunities as new entrepreneurs meet with successful businesswomen to discuss issues and find solutions.
La Cité is also addressing the challenges faced by newcomers to Canada in becoming part of the economic landscape of Francophone communities. Through discussions and workshops in cultural diversity with 12 established Canadian business owners and 20 immigrant start-up entrepreneurs, peers get the opportunity to learn more about each other’s cultures, experiences and realities to form strong working relationships based on understanding and respect.
La Cité is also focused on innovation in key sectors. Its Technology Access Centre in Bio-Innovation (TAC-B) leverages industry experts and students specializing in biotechnology to support product development and new market opportunities for innovative products and services in the areas of bio-innovation, intelligent prototyping and agri-food. The result is the growth of businesses, development of new technologies, and promoting a highly-skilled workforce.
For instance, Spiderwort Inc., a manufacturer of biomaterials for regenerative medicine, benefited from the support of La Cité’s TAC-B and the collaboration space at La Factorie. With access to highly qualified personnel, specialized equipment and business mentoring, Spiderwort was able to make significant advances with its innovative plant-based biomaterials that promote the repair and regeneration of living tissues, including the spinal cord. Charles M. Cuerrier, CEO and founder of Spiderwort, said, “We are very pleased with our collaboration with La Cité College. The office space at the business accelerator and the specialized labs at the Bio-Innovation Technology Access Center allowed us to accelerate the development of our technology."
To date, La Cité has exceeded its project targets and expectations, with support going out to 350 small- and medium-sized enterprises, including 150 women-led businesses, 100 youth entrepreneurs and 50 businesses led by new immigrants in Francophone communities. FedDev Ontario and La Cité are bringing meaningful business opportunities to OLMCs in southern Ontario and the region’s economic landscape is stronger through this diversity.