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Five innovative Ontario Centres of Excellence-supported projects fighting poverty at its roots

March 20, 2013

TORONTO/OTTAWA, March 20, 2013 - Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) is joining forces with community groups and some of the province’s colleges and universities to fight poverty at its roots.

The alliance has resulted in the creation of five socially-innovative poverty alleviation projects that will be operating in the Greater Toronto and Ottawa areas.

The projects, part of OCE’s Social Innovation Program, bring together non-profit organizations, social enterprises, academic institutions and the public and private sectors in a unique partnership. They are jointly receiving $215,000 from OCE with matching funds and in-kind contributions from partners bringing this investment in poverty alleviation efforts to $500,000.

“Ontario Centres of Excellence is always looking for ways to tap into innovation and collaboration at all levels to solve problems,” said OCE president and CEO Dr. Tom Corr. “I’m proud of the positive difference these projects will in the lives of some of the most vulnerable within our population.”

Launched by the Ontario government in 2011 as a $1 million pilot project, OCE’s Social Innovation Program builds and enhances partnerships between industry, academia, not-for-profit organizations and social enterprises to develop socially-innovative products, services and business models in the areas of health improvement, the environment and poverty alleviation. The program is also a vehicle for academic engagement, leveraging research expertise to address social and environmental problems.

“These collaborations are great examples of what can be accomplished when organizations from across different sectors join forces,” says Denise Brennan, Manager of Social Innovation at OCE.

OCE’s Social Innovation Program is supported by the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment; the Ministry of Citizenship and Immigration (MCI); and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS). SiG@MaRS is a strategic partner in this initiative. The goal is to help move Ontario into an innovation-based society by bringing socially beneficial products and services to the province.

About the OCE Poverty Alleviation Projects

Business in a Box (Toronto)
Business in a box creates affordable retail space in the form of shipping container markets for low-income entrepreneurs in underserviced areas. It is a unique model which leverages the interests of private enterprises, community organizations and residents to create shipping container markets and affordable vending spaces.
Partners: Scadding Court Community Centre; Levitt-Goodman Architects; Ryerson University

Employment Accessibility Resource Network (EARN) Ottawa Online (Ottawa)
The EARN Ottawa Online initiative will bring together employers, service providers and persons with disabilities with a goal of increasing opportunities for meaningful employment through the sharing of information and collaboration. Employers will have facilitated access to information on accessibility and a virtually untapped talent pool to increase the likelihood of getting the right person for the job. The service providers will be able to market their clients in an effective manner, have access to a number of employers receptive to their clients, and will be given the opportunity to share best practices with their peers.
Partners: Hire Works Inc.; United Way; University of Ottawa; TD Canada Trust

Micro-loans for Poverty Alleviation in Ottawa (Ottawa)
Ottawa Community Loan Fund addresses the alarming rate of working poor newcomers in Ottawa by providing Credit Literacy workshops and offering micro-loans for both training and business to create more, and better, employment. Many immigrants will leverage training loans to gain the accreditation and experience required for employment in their field; others will use entrepreneurship loans to finance their own business.
Partners: Ottawa Community Loan Fund; Carleton University Centre for Community Innovation (3ci); Alterna Savings; City of Ottawa Community Funding; Catholic Centre for Immigrants; Ottawa Local Immigration Partnership

Ottawa Trees to Tables Project (Ottawa)
Ottawa Trees to Tables is a pilot project that focuses solely on harvesting public food for the public good. The Project will be the first to define, refine and implement a process to harvest food from trees maintained by the municipality.
Partners: Hidden Harvest Ottawa; CISCO; Ottawa Food Bank

upStream (York Region)
The purpose of upStream is to make nutritious food more available and affordable within York Region while offering the development of job skills to low-income community residents. upStream is an aquaponics system that raises fish and cultivates fresh vegetables and culinary herbs in a closed-loop system with fish waste naturally fertilizing the vegetables.
Partners: York Region Food Network; York University; Urban Produce Inc.; Pathways for Children, Youth and Families in York Region Inc.; Canadian Tire

About Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Inc.
Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) Inc. drives the commercialization of cutting-edge research across key market sectors to build the economy of tomorrow and secure Ontario's global competitiveness. In doing this, OCE fosters the training and development of the next generation of innovators and entrepreneurs and is a key partner with Ontario's industry, universities, colleges, research hospitals, investors and governments. A champion of leading-edge technologies, best practices and research, Ontario Centres of Excellence invests in sectors such as advanced health, digital media and information communications, advanced manufacturing and materials, and cleantech including energy, environment and water. OCE is a key partner in delivering Ontario's Innovation Agenda as a member of the province's Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE). Funded by the Government of Ontario, the ONE is made up of regional and sector-focused organizations and helps Ontario-based entrepreneurs rapidly grow their company and create jobs. For more information visit


Media contact:
Stuart Green
Manager, Media Relations
416-861-1092 x 1022