Construction is evolving into a tech-savvy industry with an ever-increasing appetite for innovation.

To support this, the Canadian Construction Association (CCA) launched the CONtact innovator mentorship program, creating a platform for aspiring entrepreneurs and innovators to connect with industry leaders to help hone their solution for industry adoption.

First piloted in Spring 2019, the CONtact mentorship program received funding last June to support a larger intake of entrepreneurs. Three of the companies accepted for the expanded program hailed from the Lower Mainland.

In recent weeks, VRCA hosted a trio of meetings, giving the entrepreneurs the opportunity to present their innovations to a curated panel of industry experts and ask questions about where their solution might fit in the marketplace and how best to bring it to market.

The products presented included a natural wall system developed by Calmura Natural Walls, 3D concrete printing technology from CARPA 3D Construction Group, and a cloud-based project delivery platform for multi-family residential developments from Sitepay Sytems.

“The CONtact Innovator Mentorship Program was a fantastic knowledge building opportunity for our startup,” said Monty Chong-Walden, Cofounder/CEO of Calmura Natural Walls. “Being able to sit down with a range of industry professionals to gain insight from their perspectives was really valuable, and hard to replicate otherwise. It really helps to clarify our direction and where to best place energies.”

By mentoring emerging entrepreneurs with promising new solutions, the industry has an opportunity to influence those products, services or processes that will help construction firms in their continued success, while providing emerging entrepreneurs and innovators the opportunity to access industry expertise to refine their product or service offering for early adoption.

“This was a new experience for me and have to say that it was very intriguing and enlightening,” said Darren Purdy, a project superintendent for Bird Construction who served as a mentor to CARPA 3D Construction Group. “I see this and other new technologies as the future of construction and am very interested in keeping my finger on the pulse of what is coming for our industry.”

In announcing the CONtact mentorship program last June, CCA president Mary Van Buren said the goal is to spark innovation and accelerate the use of new solutions to improve the industry’s productivity, safety, profitability and contribution to building sustainable communities.

“One of the biggest challenges for innovators and entrepreneurs developing new solutions is gaining access to executives in the industry to get feedback on their solutions,” Van Buren said in a news release. “Equally, it can be difficult for the industry to learn about leading-edge solutions that can dramatically improve their businesses. CONtact provides the perfect platform to overcome that challenge.”

The program also provides a new opportunity to attract young, tech-savvy workers to the industry.

CONtact is supported with funding from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC IRAP).

CCA is planning a to release details about the next intake of mentees this spring.

More information about the CONtact mentorship program is available on the CCA website.