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College graduates’ project to improve care for people with disabilities wins innovation contest


(TORONTO, Nov. 26, 2017) – A unique proposal by some Ottawa college graduates to help people with disabilities get improved access to developmental services has won the $15,000 first prize in the Ontario colleges’ William G. Davis Innovation Fund contest.


“This project will make a real difference in improving care for people with disabilities,” said Fred Gibbons, the chair of Colleges Ontario and president of Northern College. “It is a meaningful example of how colleges prepare graduates to launch their own ventures and bring imaginative and essential problem-solving ideas to the workplace and community.”


The proposal was created by DSW Cooperative, an entity established by Algonquin College graduates Claire Maxwell, Lisa Murray, Dawn Tail and Elisabeth Van Kooy. Their first-prize win was announced Sunday at the Higher Education Summit in Toronto.


DSW Cooperative’s proposal will use the internet to better connect patients and their primary caregivers with developmental support workers who have the right skills to provide help over the long term. It will also improve professional development and networking opportunities for developmental support workers.


“We’re looking to transform the way developmental services are offered across the province,” said Lisa Murray, one of the co-founders of DSW Cooperative. “With the support of Algonquin College, we have proven the idea works in the community and can make a tremendous difference in the lives of families and workers.”


The William G. Davis Innovation Fund launched in February as part of the celebration of the Ontario colleges’ 50th anniversary. As a tribute to the former premier’s bold vision in creating Ontario’s college system, the fund encouraged students and alumni across Ontario to submit innovative and creative proposals that competed for cash prizes.


Eighty-three proposals were submitted from across the province. In October, 10 semi-finalists were announced as determined by a panel of experts and through online voting. The top two submissions were judged earlier this month and announced Sunday.


Ripple Farms, a plan submitted by Steven Bourne, Brandon Hebor and Sam Chow – graduates of Seneca College in Toronto – was awarded $5,000 for second place.


That pilot project may one day revolutionize farming by growing plants using recirculated water that has been fertilized by fish. Its two-storey growing unit, which is the size of a small trailer, combines a fish farm on the first level and an aquaponics growing bed on the second floor in a closed system with almost no waste.


“The support we received from all departments at Seneca College – from their facilities to the college’s incubator HELIX, to the executives and everyone in between – really helped make this project a success,” said Brandon Hebor, a co-founder of Ripple Farms. “We’re really pleased with the interest and enthusiasm we’ve received for Ripple Farms and we have high hopes for the future.”


The judging panel that selected the final winners were:

  • Karl Baldauf, vice president, policy and government relations, Ontario Chamber of Commerce

  • Nathalie Cook, president, Cimoroni & Co.

  • Ian Howcroft, senior vice president, provincial operations and corporate counsel at Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters

  • Tyler Epp, manager, alumni relations and events, Sault College of Applied Arts and Technology

  • Debbie McKee Demczyk, dean, office of research services, innovation and entrepreneurship, Durham College

  • Joel Willett, president, College Student Alliance


Judges assessed the candidates’ applications based on criteria that included the idea’s impact and originality, the sustainability of the project, its likelihood of success, and the number of votes it received online.


The Higher Education Summit is an annual high-powered event that explores the top issues affecting post-secondary education. Highlights include featured remarks from world-renowned leaders and educators, and networking opportunities at the most senior level. The 2017 conference runs Nov. 26 and 27 at the Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel.


For more information about the William G. Davis Innovation Fund, go to:




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For more information, please contact:

Kim Race
Senior Communications Advisor
Colleges Ontario
(647) 258-7688