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Seeding innovation for export growth

Monday, July 23, 2018

The voucher program with NSBI was very helpful. We needed to invest time and money into figuring out whether there was a project there. That was a stumbling block because such an investment can be risky. The voucher program allowed us to go ahead and do that research together. It allowed us to get off the ground.

Denis Lanoë, VP of Operations

Copol International Ltd.

“Innovation is critical to any business, but even more so for manufacturing plants in Cape Breton,” says Denis Lanoë, vice-president operations and general manager of Copol International Ltd. 

Located in North Sydney, Copol manufactures cast polypropylene (CPP) film to create a range of plastic products for the flexible packaging industry. CPP is a niche product used mostly for food packaging. The company currently employs 55 people and operates around the clock.

“We’re not in an area where we can compete on high-volume, commodity-type business,” he says. “To succeed in Nova Scotia, you need to be able to differentiate yourself, and you need to compete on something other than price. We want to compete on technology, and in order to do that, we need to keep innovating – having new products and new offerings for our customers.”

Copol is partnering with Cape Breton University’s Verschuren Centre for Sustainability in Energy and the Environment to develop active packaging” – a film that would react with the product it packages to improve the product or increase its value. “We’re looking at doing research on nanoparticles that can be loaded with various reacting agents that can be embedded in our films,” Lanoë says. “For example, an oxygen scavenger would remove the residual oxygen within the packaging to allow that product to stay fresh longer.” Extending shelf life in this way could reduce food waste.

Taking the next leap in R&D

Copol had been conducting small-scale R&D internally and was starting to look at launching longer-term projects with partners. “The Verschuren Centre has really good technology and the right knowledge and equipment for what we’re looking for,” Lanoë says. “It was a perfect match. But we weren’t sure how to go forward and what was feasible and what wasn’t. Did we have the resources? Was it something we could turn into a multi-year project?” 

With the help of the province’s Productivity and Innovation Voucher Program, Copol was able to answer “yes” to these questions, and ensure all parties were in place and committed to the project. The program lets businesses seek out expertise within post-secondary institutions to improve productivity, develop a new product, service, process, and create growth.

Does your business want to access academic research and resources? Reach out to a Business Development Advisor in your area to learn how the Productivity & Innovation Voucher Program can help grow your business.