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Mayor's Innovation Awards salute businesses on cutting edge

'Innovation is at the heart of what makes a city great,' Mayor Alex Nuttall says at fifth annual awards ceremony

Some of Barrie's top businesses and innovators were put in the spotlight Thursday night.

The winners of the fifth annual Mayor’s Innovation Awards were announced Dec. 7 during a ceremony at the Sandbox Centre in downtown Barrie.

Nominees and runners-up were also honoured at the event, which recognizes the year's most innovative solutions from Barrie businesses, individuals and community groups.

“Innovation is at the heart of what makes a city great,” said Mayor Alex Nuttall at the event.

“Over the last year, I’ve had the opportunity to see first-hand just how innovative Barrie businesses are and the creative solutions they’re implementing for the benefit of our community. Thank you for helping to build a resilient foundation for our city,” he added.

The city says it received a record-breaking 80 nominations, which were evaluated by 17 judges from various industries and business backgrounds on criteria such as creativity, innovation and the nominee’s wider contributions to Barrie’s development.

Local innovators were recognized in six categories, with three new awards joining three returning categories at this year’s event.

DriverDX won the Pivot Point Award, which “recognizes a company or organization that has discovered and pursued opportunities to grow in unexpected directions when faced with market or operational challenges."

The Scale Up! Simulation Academy, presented by Michael Badham, Stuart Morley and the Henry Bernick Entrepreneurship Centre, won the Creative Collaboration Award, which is described as recognizing two or more companies or organizations that have forged a partnership and reached new heights or achievements that they couldn't have alone.

Miski Brewing won the Research and Innovation Contribution Award. This new award “recognizes industry and academic researchers as well as entrepreneurs whose innovative research and development activities have had high impact on their individual business or sector, engaging knowledge users throughout the process."

“(This award) reminds us that we are a little bit on the right track," Miski Brewing founder Ricardo Irivarren told BarrieToday.

“The idea 'from concept to reality,' we’re not alone in this,” he added. “We have a lot of help, we had a lot of challenges, but at the same time, we had system supporters. And when they recognized that at the end, it is incredibly satisfying for us to win this award.”

Wesley O’Leary, founder of North Pro Home and Cottage Services, won the Youth Innovator Award. This new award recognizes youth who are challenging the status quo and showcases some of the incredible learning that comes through entrepreneurship.

“It’s fantastic, it’s liberating and inspirational for me,” O’Leary told BarrieToday after picking up his award.

His advice for young entrepreneurs starting out as he has done?

“Just go for it,” O’Leary said. “Fail a ton, learn, do the hard work and figure it out, because it’s definitely worth it.”

Sara Bentham, director of programs with Canadian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association, won the Shift Disturber Award. This award “recognizes an individual who has championed innovation in their organization or community. Where others see opposition, they see opportunity. This individual is a powerhouse of creative problem solving, shaking up norms and spearheading strategic solutions amid uncertainty."

The City of Barrie recreation and culture department won the Municipal Innovation Award for its electric ice-resurfacing units project. This new award “recognizes the individuals, teams, and departments in the City of Barrie that have gone above and beyond to drive innovation, streamline processes, and deliver more effective and efficient services to the community."

About the Author: Kevin Lamb

Kevin Lamb picked up a camera in 2000 and by 2005 was freelancing for the Barrie Examiner newspaper until its closure in 2017. He is an award-winning photojournalist, with his work having been seen in many news outlets across Canada and internationally
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