CENGN launches, promising to bridge the gap between ICT research and commercialization

A consortium of industry, academic and research leaders was launched in Ottawa Thursday, aimed at accelerating the commercialization of next generation communication solutions.

The Centre of Excellence for Next Generation Networks, CENGN for short, will support startups by bridging the gap between research and commercialization. It will address growing demand for content on multiple platforms, make effective use of cloud-based applications and prepare for the Internet of Things.

Ritch Dusome comes to the position of CENGN president and CEO with 27 years of experience, including a stint as director of product management for CISCO Systems in Ottawa.

He said it is time to put Canada back on the map in terms of information and communications technology.

He said with the launch out of the way, it is now time to get to work.

“What we’re going to be focused on is building our commercialization committee process. We’re planning to go nationwide with the project selection,” said Mr. Dusome. “We want to give everyone the ability to be able to participate and so we’re expecting to get many proposals.”

He said there will be then a sort of “Dragons Den” scenario where startups with successful proposals will be invited to CENGN’s headquarters on Legget Drive to make their pitch to CENGN members and partners.

Mr. Dusome said he thinks the first set of proposals could come in early in the new year, and in the meantime CENGN will be looking to sign up more corporate partners. As of Wednesday night, there were 12 corporate partners on board.

Mr. Dusome said he expects to have a staff of 20 under him, with around 35 interns, with project management, technical staff and business development staff. He said he expects these young staff will get valuable experience at CENGN before moving on to bigger roles with some of the corporate partners.

Invest Ottawa co-chair, and Alcatel Lucent Canada vice president David Ritonja called the centre a “phenomenal step.”

Mr. Ritonja, who emceed the launch, noted that many competitors have come together to make the centre a reality.

 “Community first matters, and I think that’s a phenomenal statement,” he said.

Invest Ottawa is a CENGN partner and its president and CEO, Bruce Lazenby, told the story of the beginnings of the consortium, at the Holiday Inn, at an early-morning meeting during a blizzard in February. Representatives from a number of companies were all in attendance.

“We got them in the room together at 7:30 and asked them ‘When was the last time you were in a room together?’ The answer Never.”

Mr. Lazenby said the second question was whether they thought there was the appetite in the city to do something of global importance.

“Immediately, the answer was yes,” he said.

The federal government announced back in August that CENGN would get $11.7 million dollars over the next five years.

Mr. Lazenby said over the last 18 months, combining public and private investment, a quarter of a billion dollars has been earmarked for projects in the Ottawa area, including the Innovation Centre and CAIP, which was announced last week.

“Any one of those could be a game changer but all of them collectively are really going to help us be on the map and the map we want to be on,” said Mr. Lazenby.

CANARIE is providing the network infrastructure that will connect CENGN partners. CEO Jim Ghadbane said it didn’t take them long get involved. He said CANARIE was working on a similar model but didn’t have the industry support Invest Ottawa has managed to put together.

“As a country, we have a huge communications need,” he said. “We are very diverse population. A very small population in a very big area. Our ability to figure out how to communicate amongst ourselves is something we should be supporting.”