The weekend of August 19 to 21 was an exciting one for TACK10, as our team had the opportunity to explore the Canadian National Exhibition’s first-ever Innovation Garage. This event was created as a means of bringing the CNE back to its roots; before carnival rides and crazy food concoctions, the exhibition was known as the first point of contact between consumers and new inventions, showcasing products like the telephone and the microwave.

Fast-forward to the CNE Innovation Garage in 2016 and the new products shown include virtual reality goggles, 3D pens and printers, child-proof outlet covers, worm farms, 3D body scans, food made from crickets, and so much more.

One of the exhibitors was MAKO Invent, North America’s leading consumer product development firm with over 15 years in the industry. MAKO is a full service firm that helps inventors turn their early ideas into successful businesses, so innovation is something they work on and in every day. Together, MAKO’s Founder Kevin Mako and President James Chalmers, are changing the game when it comes to product development. Chalmers, who has a proven track record in taking products to market and expanding companies for global success, had much to say about innovation in the Garage. 

What was your experience like at the CNE Innovation Garage over the weekend?
The team and I at MAKO had an incredible experience at the CNE Innovation Garage. It is always inspiring to see such advanced innovation and invention happening right in our backyard. I’ve been fortunate enough to be front row center within the innovation space at some of the biggest events globally and I can tell you that the CNE Innovation Garage will become one of the must attend events on the annual calendar for us as well as other leaders in the space. This year, the event put itself on the radar and it will only get better as it grows over the coming years. On a personal level I have to say I loved seeing kids and kids at heart interacting with the technologies MAKO was showcasing. With such a diverse audience, we interacted with everyone from speechless adults to children who asked us great, inquisitive questions; it genuinely made my three 12-hour shifts a lot of fun. 

Why do you think it’s important for MAKO to participate in these types of industry events?
It is import for us at MAKO to support these events because they foster innovation. Whether it is a start-up winning prize money in the competitions, kids experiencing technology for the first time and in a hands on way or visitors feeling inspired to explore their own ‘what if’. Not everyone who walks through will have a product idea. Our goal is to support events which inspire people to take action, whether it be developing a new product, starting a business they have always wanted to or looking for a new job they would enjoy more. We all have those ‘what ifs’ and events like this inspire us all to take action in some way, shape or form. 

You have a pretty niche client base of inventors. Do you see value in reaching the broader, or different, audience at the CNE? Why?
I’ll actually have to disagree with you on this one. While our one company MAKO Design focuses on product design and engineering for business clients, MAKO Invent works with private individuals and early stage start-ups to help take ideas from concept through to design and prototyping, to patenting and manufacturing, to store shelves. As such, visitors to the CNE Innovation Garage are all potential clients. We all have an idea at some point for a product that may solve a problem or make a task easier. This event however wasn’t about selling our services. It was all about showcasing technologies such as 3D printers, table top CNC mills and plotters that are already available on the market and having the opportunity to show people how they work. It’s one thing to see them on TV or online, but it’s another thing to see them in person and learn how to use them. 

Did you see any new products or innovations at the CNE that made you say “wow”? What were they and why?
I’d be remiss if I did not mention MAKO clients and start-ups who have been on our radar for some time now. Our clients PINCH Safe Outlet had a remarkable showing and interest from visitors in a product they developed to make homes safer for our kids. Our friends at HelpWear also did extremely well, winning both the medical product category and the overall finals in the product pitch competition. While they may be young and the name is not known to all, they are a start-up that will be making major waves in the medical and consumer product markets in the coming years. I was also extremely impressed with the founder of a social enterprise called Wastenot Worm Farms. What we’re seeing today is that it isn’t just about having a great product or service. To have success in such a competitive business environment, companies need strong founders and great support teams behind them. 

Are there any emerging industry trends that you’re excited about?
Well, we all see VR and AR (virtual and augmented reality) as an exciting area of growth for both entertainment as well as professional applications. At MAKO we’ve been focused on wearable technology, IoT and medical products. The showcase highlighted that these are definitely areas of tremendous growth. One market however that often gets overlooked is what we call Product 2.0. It’s about making products better. Our clients at PINCH fall into this category and are proof that the market still loves seeing and buying ‘the better mouse trap.’ 

What does innovation mean to you?
To me innovation goes hand in hand with invention. It means being a leader, not a follower. Innovation means pushing the boundaries or challenging one’s self and the status quo to look beyond what we believe to be the limits of possibility.