The Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster: NGen's Initiatives to Implement an Effective Innovation Culture

by Nicolas Sacchetti

The Canadian manufacturing companies need innovation to thrive. Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen) presents the Canadian Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Supercluster.

Innovation and intellectual property protection are central to NGen's mission. Stewart Cramer is the Chief Manufacturing Officer at NGen. He is joined by his colleague Rhonda O'Keefe, Vice President of Intellectual Property and Contracts in the webinar Strengthening the Canadian Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Ecosystem, co-presented by CKN and 4POINT0. The two company representatives tell the story of the shift to open innovation partnerships. The event was held on 18 October 2021.

Next Generation Manufacturing Canada is the Not-for-Profit organisation (NPO) that runs Canada’s Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster, one of the five Innovation Superclusters funded by the Canadian Government. NGen’s mission is to build a world class advanced manufacturing capabilities in Canada.

Superclusters are a unique Canadian initiative. They encourage companies to collaborate on « transformative projects to accelerate the growth of some of Canada's most promising industries." Advanced manufacturing is among them, along with digital technologies, plant proteins, AI in supply chains, and the ocean economy.

The Government of Canada website defines, "Superclusters are places of intense economic activity arising from the coming together of businesses (large and small), academia and NPOs (NextGen), incubators and accelerators." Silicon Valley is a Supercluster.

According to Business Development Canada (bdc), "Incubators and Accelerators are programs that give developing companies access to mentorship, investors and other support to help them get established, or become stable and self-sufficient."

Also according to bdc:

Companies that use business incubators are startups in the "child" phase - they have just launched and still defining their operational models and goals. Those using accelerators are typically startups that have moved beyond the earliest stages of getting established. They have basically entered their "adolescence," meaning they can stand on their own but need guidance and peer support to gain strength.

It is indeed through open collaboration and knowledge sharing that Canadian companies will be able to manufacture domestically made products, using advanced technology.

Open Innovation

Stewart Cramer discusses the four pillars of a successful NGen project: collaboration, innovation, long-term impact of actions taken, and a practical approach to actions taken. Their criteria for success include workforce development, leadership, technology development, and cross-company collaboration.

Culture of Innovation

Stewart Cramer, Chief Manufacturing Officer at NGen Canada

Stewart Cramer, Chief Manufacturing Officer at NGen Canada

He explains, "You don't just have to look at where your customers are and where your value proposition is today, but you have to understand what your customers needs from you to support their future success."

Innovative Organisation

Communication with the players in the company's ecosystem is important. It is also important to understand what enables your suppliers to succeed and the challenges they face. This way, your company can position itself around the needs of the supply chain and innovate accordingly. It is also important for all employees to understand the company's mission.

Leadership and Inspiration

Cramer states that to achieve success, inspiration is key. In this vein, fostering learning is a leadership model. He suggests creating opportunities for staff and team development.

According to the Chief Manufacturing Officer, a good leader must ensure that everyone knows and understands the objectives and desired results for the client. The leader seeks out the creativity of employees and treats failure as a learning opportunity. Emphasis should be placed on knowledge sharing and rewarding initiatives in this direction. This will increase motivation.


When an innovation occurs, Cramer advises documenting it to set a precedent and ensure that ideas flow through the organisation. A process can be established to facilitate this.

Managing Operations and Activities

Rhonda O'Keefe, Vice President of Intellectual Property and Contracts at NGen Canada

Rhonda O'Keefe, Vice President of Intellectual Property and Contracts at NGen Canada

Rhonda O'Keefe elaborates on how NGen helps companies. The focus is on collaborative responsibility: "making sure that the companies are ready to put in the effort, that they apply the various strategies identified to complete the project, and that they can manage the economic and technical risks involved."

In addition, NGen assists in developing an effective business plan around the project and provides mentoring tailored to group or individual training needs throughout the project. The NPO also provides expert project management advice, intellectual property training, and extended to the organisations it works with.

"Our ultimate goal is that the knowledge NGen brings to the table can be expressed in all areas of their company in addition to the commercialisation of the results." - Rhonda O'Keefe

Transformational Leadership Program

AMP UP is an NGen program specifically designed for small and medium-sized businesses. It provides "technical and management training to improve skills and prepare staff for tomorrow's challenges." Trainers include Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters (CM&E), Excellence in Manufacturing Consortium (EMC), Fanshawe College, Innovation 360, McMaster University, École de technologie supérieure (ÉTS) and Écoles des hautes études commerciales (HEC Montréal).

Courses, taught in both official languages, cover the categories of Leadership, Manufacturing Business Management, Advanced Manufacturing 4.0 Certificate, Project Management, and Green Manufacturing.

The Transformation Leadership Program is another NGen initiative that provides organisations with a methodology to achieve organisational alignment around a balanced transformation roadmap.

Innovation and Intellectual Property

Ultimately, Stewart Cramer reminds us that innovation is a process that can be cultivated and improved. Focusing innovation processes on the objectives that drive desired business results will optimise value creation. All things considered, the identification, exploitation and protection of intellectual property must be integrated into organisational processes and practices to maximise value creation.

This content has been updated on 2022-05-19 at 12 h 41 min.