British Columbia’s wine, beer, cider, and spirits industries have a new source of support, courtesy of an initiative by Okanagan College and funding from the federal government.
Canada’s Minister of Science and Sport, the Hon. Kristy Duncan, announced federal funding for 12 technology access centres on Thursday at Georgian College in Barrie, Ontario. Okanagan College’s proposed BC Beverage Technology Access Centre (BCBTAC) is among them. With $1.75 million in federal funding over five years, it will be headquartered at the College’s Penticton campus and will be providing testing and business services and applied research assistance to the wine, beer, cider and spirits industries in the region and throughout the province.
“This is very exciting for the industries and for Okanagan College,” notes OC President Jim Hamilton. “We have developed a significant track record of training and support for the wine industry over the past quarter century and have been focused on how we could leverage college expertise and personnel to assist all these growing industries. The industry support for the proposal we developed has been phenomenal and the input that organizations, businesses and individuals provided was invaluable.”
“From the perspective of a co-owner of a small winery, I know the BCBTAC will be a valuable asset in the development of the industries it is setting out to serve,” says Daniel Bibby, co-owner of Nighthawk Vineyards. “Whether it is consumer research or analytical services, having this asset in the region will be one of the ways that we advance the agendas of quality and reputation.”
“There were a host of people who rallied around the idea of this technology access centre – both at Okanagan College and externally – and brought it to life,” notes Dr. Andrew Hay, the College’s Vice President Education. “From our faculty researchers, to our Deans and Directors, along with many leaders in these industries – there were so many people who worked diligently to make this real I can’t begin to name them all.”
One person Hay gave special credit to was Sandra Oldfield, former co-owner of Tinhorn Creek Winery and organizer of the Fortify conference in 2018 who was brought in as a consultant to help Okanagan College put the pieces together and to ensure links with the appropriate people in the industries.
“Now there’s even more work to be done,” notes Hamilton. “We have already started renovations and been advertising for key personnel. Our goal is to have the BCBTAC begin operations early this fall.”
Okanagan College research shows that within its catchment area, there are 19 craft cideries, 219 wineries, 16 craft distilleries, and 24 craft breweries. The numbers are growing weekly. The BCBTAC will be providing analytical and sensory services, along with a full suite of business services to assist this vibrant and growing sector of the economy.
TACs are centres established by colleges to address the applied research and innovation needs of local companies. The federal TAC Grants are awarded for five years and are renewable. Okanagan College will receive $350,000 annually for each of those five years. The BCBTAC will be British Columbia’s second TAC. The other is at Camosun College.
TACs provide capabilities that serve applied research and innovation needs of regional firms. TAC capabilities may include advice on specific company challenges, specialized technical assistance, applied research and/or development projects for companies, and/or specialized training.
The BCBTAC was chosen for federal funding after a thorough process (overseen by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada – NSERC) which drew applications from across the country. Initial proposals last summer were winnowed down to proponents who were asked to develop full business plans for review by NSERC. A two-day onsite visit at Okanagan College involving five NSERC-appointed experts followed in February at OC.
For more information contact Allan Coyle, Public Affairs at Okanagan College.