Guest column: Maker City: Windsor is a place of ideas and innovation

Friday, July 24, 2015

Published in the Windsor Star, by Yvonne Pilon and Irek Kusmierczyk

Mention innovative regions and people think San Francisco, New York and Waterloo.

But Windsor can also stake claim to being an ideas town.

Chances are your medicine cabinet has Palm-N-Turn child-proof containers invented by Dr. Henri Breault who was the chief of pediatrics at Hotel Dieu Hospital and founder of the Ontario Association for the Control of Accidental Poisoning.

The region produced Canada’s first electric streetcar, first winery and first international underwater tunnel as well as the first floating fountain and first mechanized fire truck.

Today, that mantle of innovation is carried forward by local entrepreneurs who are succeeding on the global stage.

Radix Inc. inspects 284 billion gummy bear candies per year with its high-speed vision technology.

The Collavino Group built the foundations and support structures for the One World Trade Center in New York.

Red Piston marries augmented reality with mobile applications to bring virtual appliances into a shopper’s home for Lowe’s and other international retailers.

Spot-welding technology invented by global manufacturing company CenterLine is now an industry standard and was used to weld subway cars traveling the Chunnel from Paris to London.

Valiant Machine and Tool received multiple PerformanceExcellence Awards from The Boeing Company for innovative products such as its groundbreaking cargo loader.

Dr. Fouad Tayfour, founder of the Windsor Laser Eye Institute, was the first surgeon in North America to perform the LASIK surgical procedure.

Netmon Inc. provided the environmental monitoring system for the London Olympics in 2012.

Lou Tortola created the RoundTail racing bike that significantly cuts down vibration.

We’ve barely scratched the surface.

That mantle of innovation will be passed to the next generation of innovative entrepreneurs, and the future looks bright.

Alex Deans, 16, received the prestigious Ontario Science Centre’s youth innovation award for inventing a belt that aids the visually impaired.

Windsor hosts the largest robotics regional competition in Canada that each year draws 1,500 high school students on 50 robotics teams – with each robotics team being run like a technology startup.

The draft framework of the city’s 20-year strategic vision plan aptly describes the City of Windsor as a Maker City.

Indeed, for close to a century, Windsor was known as an auto town that made cars and car parts better than any other city in Canada. We know how to build things. That is our strength. But in addition, Windsor is also a creative ideas town, a city of visionary entrepreneurs who make their mark on an increasingly competitive global market through innovation.

To lift a line from a recent Chrysler commercial, we are born makers and inventors.

One hundred years of Windsor-based innovation tells us that building partnerships and platforms that support our homegrown entrepreneurs is a good investment.

That is a vision we can all rally around.

Yvonne Pilon is President and CEO – and Irek Kusmierczyk is Director of Partnerships – at WEtech Alliance, the Regional Innovation Centre.