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(December 14, 2000, Gazette)

Navigating high-tech success
Chair helps student startup

(L-R) Intrignia members Lloyd Smith, Jamie King, Brad Suter and Mike Wrinch standing in a load haul dump machine at the MINExpo 2000 in Las Vegas, Nevada.(L-R) Intrignia members Lloyd Smith, Jamie King, Brad Suter and Mike Wrinch standing in a load haul dump machine at the MINExpo 2000 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

By Megret Yabsley

Just a year ago, Intrignia Solutions was a mere concept. Four Memorial students had an idea – take one of the group members’ engineering research projects and develop it as a commercial opportunity. The research project chosen involved the technology required for robotics and more particularly multi-robotic systems. They were convinced that the application of the technology could have a huge market potential in harsh environments such as underground mining where there is a need to make operations safer and more efficient.

It seemed like a bit of a dream for PhD engineering student Jamie King, M.Eng. students Lloyd Smith and Mike Wrinch, and MBA student Brad Suter. The dream quickly became reality when Dr. Ray Gosine, director of intelligent systems with C-CORE, suggested that they contact the Hubert W. Kelly Memorial Chair in Youth-focused Technological Entrepreneurship in the Faculty of Business Administration.

Well in advance of its formal announcement in April, the business research chair was actively working and meeting with Memorial students interested in beginning new technology ventures. When Dr. Bob Richards, chairholder, met with members of Intrignia Solutions in January 2000, he was so convinced of their success potential that he immediately began to work with them. By mid-February, Intrignia Solutions was incorporated and had established a board of advisers consisting of Dr. Gosine, Dr. Richards, and Dr. Siu O’Young, director of the Centre for Instrumentation and Control Automation (INCA).

“Incorporation was very important for this new business venture,” said Dr. Richards. “It helped to formalize loose relationships and build a cohesive group.”

Part of the chair’s mandate is to act as a catalyst for burgeoning business ideas by connecting business-minded youth with business, technology, and research resources on campus. C-CORE, the Genesis Group, the Faculties of Business Administration, Engineering and Applied Science, Medicine and Science represent just a few of the resources available to support entrepreneurship and innovation on campus.

“One important role of the chair is navigational in nature,” explained Dr. Richards. “We provide direction and advice for fledgling technologically-able entrepreneurs, by effectively connecting them with the right resources at the right time, with the preparation required to articulate their idea effectively.”

For Intrignia Solutions, their needs were simple. They required continuing technical advice and support for their technologies as well as support for business development.

The company has come a long way since its early beginnings. A recent visit to MINExpo, the premier technology showcase for the international mining industry in Las Vegas provided extra incentive for the young entrepreneurs. While there, they learned their hunches were right — there is a huge demand for their technology. Currently no other company in the world is developing technology to service high harsh environments. In essence, Intrignia Solutions is sitting on the proverbial goldmine.

“Bob’s energy and passion as an entrepreneur is unmatched,” said Mr. Suter, vice-president of marketing for Intrignia Solutions. “Not only is he a major motivation and inspiration for Intrignia, but he provides us with good advice, and most importantly, he takes time to help us become successful entrepreneurs.”

While Newfoundland may not appear to be the hub of robotics, don’t let appearances deceive. Memorial University and
C-CORE are fertile feeding grounds for Intrignia Solutions and its leading-edge technology. While the technology behind the movement of a single robot is relatively simple, the complexity increases exponentially as a second, third or even fourth robot is used. In fact, Intrignia Solutions has developed technology for the interaction of six robots. With all this technology behind them, Intrignia is now at the point of establishing industry partners that will help them further their research and development. Taking this technology to the market place is where Dr. Richards role fits in.

“Dr. Richards has proven an indispensable addition to the Intrignia team,” added Mr. Suter. “From seemingly simple questions to issues regarding Intrignia’s strategic direction, the guidance of the chair and advisory board is honest, unbiased and wise.”

Intrignia Solutions is poised to make its mark in international business and the chair is behind them all the way. Furthermore,
Dr. Richards sees Intrignia as representative of an impending wave of start-up companies arising from the university environment; a wave that, in the very early formative stages, requires structures to energize and sustain it.

“Intrignia is an excellent example of the innovative thinking and the entrepreneurial energy resident in a university environment,” said Dr. Richards. “A research university is a cauldron of ideas. On any day of the week untold numbers of commercially viable technologies and innovations are on the laboratory tables, or in the inventive heads of students and faculty. The challenge is to provide the navigational devices that connect potential entrepreneurs, at the very early stages of invention, with the many human, material, technical and financial resources available to help them.

“Intrignia’s work with intelligent mediation systems is leading that exciting robotics field. The supporting role is to see to it that Intrignia has the very best opportunity to succeed. Remember the name. Intrigina is one brilliant tip of a very large and multi-faceted star.”

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