York-led CONCERT consortium gets to work

The future of Canada is about to change, with new media, film and entertainment replacing the natural resource sector and the automobile industry as economic drivers in the nation’s economy. That sentiment is shared by the partners in the newly formed Consortium on New Media, Creative and Entertainment R&D in the Toronto Region (CONCERT). A public-private sector GTA consortium of small and large companies, academic institutions, government and industry associations, CONCERT was created to support research and development, commercialization and economic development within the entertainment, screen-based and other creative industries.

Led by York University, CONCERT is one of 14 initiatives to share in $1.8 million in funding announced by the Ontario government on Feb. 15. (See the Feb. 16 issue of YFile.) As a follow-up to the funding announcement, the consortium partners formally launched CONCERT on Feb. 28, at a reception hosted by Cinespace Film Studios, fittingly held at a trendy Queen Street West bar in the heart of Toronto’s art and design district.

In his opening remarks, the event’s master of ceremonies, York alumnus Jim Mirkopoulos (MBA ’98), vice-president of Cinespace Film Studios, said: "All of us recognize how important it is that the GTA becomes a globally competitive centre of R&D and we all recognize the importance of the ‘spill-over’ effect that CONCERT can have across different sectors and into our own organizations. We are here today as partners to provide the strategic direction that will be required to ensure that the GTA will remain a global player in innovation within the new media, entertainment and creative sectors."

Left: Jim Mirkopoulos delivers his welcoming remarks. Photo by Anand Maharaj.

Mirkopoulos thanked Stan Shapson, York vice-president research & innovation, for his leadership role in creating CONCERT. In addition to York University, CONCERT’s chief founding partners include Ryerson University and the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD).

"This initiative started when the three institutions got together. We knew that while we were all doing research in this area, we really needed to form a partnership to move innovation in the new media, creative and entertainment industries in the GTA. In a very short period of time we ended up with CONCERT, over 20 partners and that list is still growing," said Shapson.

What is unique about CONCERT, said Shapson, is the collaboration between partners to advance the entertainment, new media and creative industry in Canada. "We have dropped our institutional affiliations to sit at the CONCERT table. The competition is within Canada – in Montreal and Vancouver – and from outside the country in Singapore and other places. We are not competing against each other in the GTA."

Right: CONCERT partners listen to remarks

The goal for CONCERT partners, said Shapson, is to determine how to lead Canada from a resource dependent economy into one based on knowledge. "We will work together to achieve new developments and new creativity in this industry. Canada as a country, and Ontario specifically, has relied too long on the resource sector and automobile industry. Knowledge is the new currency."

York alumnus Patrick Crowe (BFA ‘90), producer, writer and consultant for Xenophile Media, one of the industry partners in CONCERT, spoke about the industry perspective of the consortium’s mission. Crowe agreed with Shapson’s remarks, adding, "We have found that our major competitors and our closest collaborators are overseas. It is important that we expand globally.

"There is an innovation crisis occurring right now in the entertainment media," said Crowe. "Xenophile Media is delighted that there now is a broader focus and an industry-wide initiative in partnership with academia. This is important if Ontario, and Toronto, are going to regain their place as an entertainment centre in the world."

The event provided an opportunity for the CONCERT partners to celebrate the consortium’s launch and to connect with each other. Following the official presentations, Sara Diamond, president of the Ontario College of Art & Design (OCAD). met with Shapson. During discussions at the reception they agreed to develop a collaborative research proposal under the auspices of the CONCERT partnership for submission to the second round of the Ontario Research Fund – Research Excellence program.

Above: Jim Mirkopoulos, VP Cinespace Film Studios (left); Lucille Roch, deputy minister of culture, Province of Ontario; Sheldon Levy, president, Ryerson University; Patrick Crowe, Xenophile Media; Stan Shapson; Sara Diamond, president, OCAD; and, Cinespace Film Studio President and event host, Steve Mirkopoulos. Photo by Anand Maharaj. 

Utilizing the strength of the partnership, staff at York University were able to bring together researchers from York, OCAD, Ryerson University and Seneca College and draft a Notice of Intent for a multi-institutional, multi-million dollar research proposal titled ‘Entertainment and Creative Industry Outcomes from Motion Capture Technologies’. With less than 48 hours to meet the program submission deadline, the group set to work and put together the poposal.

"This is the kind of tangible benefit that the CONCERT consortium brings, opening new opportunities for York researchers," said Chris Buhagiar, manager of research policy & government relations at York. "And researchers from other institutions wrote to say ‘now, this is teamwork’. They were surprised by how quickly and efficiently the proposal was pulled together through the CONCERT partnership. That really enhances York’s reputation and gives weight to the partnership."

For more information on CONCERT, visit the Ministry of Culture Web site or click here to view the media release. A video of the CONCERT launch is available here.