G-PAK's hard work eventually paid off when, in December 2015, it launched the 100% compostable single-serve coffee pod, made entirely from readily renewable material.
K-Cups – the no-fuss-no-muss coffee and tea pods – have become extremely popular around the world the last few years. However, their rise in popularity has resulted in major problems for the environment, as the plastic, non-compostable pods inevitably end up in the garbage dump.
And the numbers are staggering: it's estimated that this year alone, 12 billion of them will be tossed in the trash.
Entrepreneur Darren Footz set out with the mission to develop an environmentally friendly solution to the wasteful K-Cups. But the president of Vancouver's G-PAK Technology Inc. knew he would need support and resources to help him grow his plan from idea to commercialization.
"While I was working away, fine-tuning and patenting the technology, in the back of my mind I knew that if this were to really take off, I would need to find funding, experts and resources to help make it a success," said Footz.
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In 2014, Footz founded the firm, then reached out to the Government of Canada's Concierge program to see what assistance they could provide. He was introduced to Innovation Advisor Erik Kaas, who immediately arranged a meeting to provide his expert guidance. "Erik took the time to sit down with us, review our business, and figure out what we needed to help us grow," explained Footz. "He opened the door to so many programs. We felt extremely encouraged and well supported."
Kaas immediately identified that G-PAK would be a good candidate for support from the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) and linked Footz with a local Industrial Technology Advisor (ITA). G-PAK successfully applied for NRC-IRAP funding and has received support through the Youth Employment Program, which allowed the company to bring in skilled graduates to help with the prototyping of their product as well as developing a market strategy.
"All of a sudden, we are going full-steam ahead, building partnerships and expanding our capacity," said Footz. "We now have four PhDs behind the project, providing invaluable expertise."
But NRC-IRAP was only the start. Kaas also referred G-PAK to BCTIA's Innovation Hub, which provides office and lab space for B.C.'s tech community. G-PAK was also introduced to NSERC, which provided funding to allow G-PAK to collaborate on research with two University of British Columbia professors through the NSERC Engage grant program.
"The referrals from Erik made all the difference," said Footz. "He connected us to the right people and the right programs and helped us take advantage of the relevant innovation resources the government had to offer. We need more Eriks in the city of Vancouver!"
The hard work eventually paid off when, in December 2015, Footz launched the 100% compostable single-serve coffee pod, made entirely from readily renewable material.
With G-PAK off to a flying start, there's no telling how far the firm can go. "Our biggest challenge now is how quickly we're propelling forward," said Footz. With the support of a number of Government of Canada's innovation programs, "G-PAK will be saving the world, one cup at a time."