Fostering innovation and collaboration in Northern BC through “Ideas to Market”

August 25, 2020

When you meet Graham Stanley (SFU CED ’10), general manager of Community Futures Stuart-Nechako, the first thing you realize is that he is a fountain of ideas. Within minutes he can rattle off dozens of undeveloped opportunities in the northern BC interior and all the ways they need to be nurtured to grow.

For many businesses in the region though, there has been a lack of capacity to bring good ventures to scale. “We have had clients come to our office with an idea for a product, service or system,” says Graham. “And we were unable to provide direct help due to a lack of program to address idea commercialization.”

So Graham and his colleagues developed the “Ideas to Market” (ITM) platform as an online portal which brings together innovators, manufacturers, marketers and advisors with the specific goal of commercializing their products or services. This collaborative approach assists participants in mitigating risks associated with bringing a product to market.

For example, an individual who may not have much expertise or capacity for leading a business venture, but has an interesting idea, can connect with a network of business leaders to develop the idea. Through the sale of the idea, the innovator can earn royalties that can provide supplementary income. To support this process, CF Stuart-Nechako has developed an ITM planning guide, which directs collaborators through an Exclusive Business Cooperation Agreement to formalize the partnership, along with tools to help determine product pricing and to encourage community-driven investment.

A great example of an initiative to come out of the CF Stuart-Nechako office is the Ag Maximizer Hay Dryer, by Agri Green Enterprises, Inc. This hay dryer was developed by forage producers to mitigate the wet weather, extreme heat and limited harvesting windows due to challenging weather conditions in the North. The Ag Maximizer can dry six bales of hay simultaneously, reducing moisture level from 25% to 12% in around fifteen minutes. By preserving the quality of forage, this machine has created a new grade of hay for export.

 “This project by definition is a CED tool,” notes Graham. “All aspects of the CED curriculum at SFU have inspired this initiative. The plan depends on the collaborative approach to the economy as well as effective marketing through story telling.”

So far, collaborations through this initiative have contributed over $1.2 million to the community’s economy in the first year alone. The program intends to bring around 20 projects to market through the use of this plan in the next two years. More information on the program can be found at


Update, Oct. 13, 2020: The ITM business network is now live and can be accessed here.

Graham Stanley is the General Manager for Community Futures Stuart-Nechako.