By Tyler Follett

Algonquin has recently launched a voucher program unlike any other currently at the school.

The program was launched at Algonquin and eight other schools in Ontario this year, with vouchers offered to businesses after a series of screening and proposal processes.

“We haven’t ever done one of these before, so we’re in the middle of the process right now,” said John Omura, project manager of Applied Research and Innovation.

The vouchers will allow the school and students to work with the selected companies in a working environment to both learn on the job, as well as further the company as a whole.

Some $45,000 has been given to Algonquin alone to fund up to 18 projects in any of business, commercialization, innovation or research and development.

The $45,000 will be divided by granting up to $2,500 to individual companies or businesses for their ventures.

Some of the areas where students and faculty will be assisting businesses will be to strengthen their online presence, using the web to further promote.

“They’re meant for smaller, for-profit main street-type businesses looking for help going digital, using online technologies to improve their business from websites to mobile apps,” said Omura.

The process begins with businesses sending proposals through an in-class project intake process, by submitting an idea submission form.

“The intake process begins with anyone with any project ideas submitting a project application to our office online, at which point we will review them and approve doable ones,” said Feiran Zhou, project coordinator of Applied Research and Innovation.

Currently in the preliminary screening process, Omura, Zhou and the team will be looking to see which project proposals are potentially viable.

Projects deemed potentially viable are then invited to an in-person short pitch session with the Applied Research team in a scene similar to a hit CBC show.

“We invite them to a 10-minute pitchfork session, which is essentially our miniature version of Dragon’s Den, with project managers as the dragons,” said Omura of the similarities.

The projects chosen after the pitchfork sessions are then distributed to teams of students and faculty. One project manager from Applied Research will oversee each individual team.

“Teams consist of usually five students, with one faculty member as supervisor,” said Zhou.

The voucher for e-business is just one of four vouchers offered, with vouchers for innovation and productivity, commercialization, as well as research and development. Currently the voucher for e-business is the main focus, but any suitable proposals will be accepted.

“While I’m specifically keeping an eye on the business voucher, we’re eligible for all of them, so any project manager in Applied Research can engage in one of them if it’s the right match for a client,” said Omura.