When Serge Colin came to Canada from France about six years ago, he had lofty goals to connect his new business with his country of origin. A Civil Engineer specialized in Building Construction and Design, Serge Colin is also a Professional Engineer and has a Master's degree in Project Management. Add this to his years of consulting with manufacturers and agribusinesses in Europe and around the world, and you have a winning combination of skills and experience for generating export business. All preparation aside, it was still a twist of fate and a chance encounter with Canada’s East Coast during a business trip to Saint-Pierre and Miquelon that led Serge Colin to his current role as President and CEO of ClairiTech Innovations.
Based in Boudreau-Ouest, New Brunswick, near Shediac, ClairiTech Innovations operates in the field of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning. They specialize in clean air technology. ClairiTech (previously known as Air Tech Equipment) has been developing innovative technologies for indoor air quality and moisture control for more than 25 years. ClairiTech designs and manufactures products for a niche market: comprehensive services for the residential market, from single-family dwellings to condominiums.
Today, ClairiTech employs a team of more than 20 people. The staff looks after production, research and development, innovation, and client services. Four ClairiTech engineers develop advanced clean air technology. ClairiTech products are available for sale through a network of distributors and specialist dealers.
Already active exporters to the United States, in 2014 ClairiTech Innovations connected with LearnSphere to get help developing its marketing plan. With the help of LearnSphere, in partnership with the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), ClairiTech received funding for the first phase of an export feasibility study to explore markets in the European Union (EU). The beneficial relationship with LearnSphere grew when Serge Colin joined LearnSphere’s ProfitLearn™ Export Series, designed for companies wanting to develop their exports. Colin saw this as the next step toward his goal of selling to the European market.
The ProfitLearn™ Export Series provided an interesting learning approach for ClairiTech Innovations. Its theoretical and practical learning components paired well with shared contributions and networking with other participants. Now that the first round of the ProfitLearn™ Export Series has wrapped up, Serge Colin hopes to find a partner in Germany and to travel to Europe to take part in industry conventions this year.
ClairiTech Innovations exports 85% of its products. Of these, 97% are shipped to the United States and a small percentage to Central and Latin America. The European market is a highly-regulated market, with different requirements than North America. Europe imposes stricter standards, different technical specifications, and a more restrictive regulatory environment. With the help of a consultant hired through LearnSphere’s E-tools for Export (E for E™) program, ClairiTech Innovations has now assessed how these regulations apply to their field. They have also used a technical and economic analysis to determine how to adapt one of their high-tech innovations to the German market, as well as how to approach marketing.
ClairiTech believes their solutions to the problems of moisture and air quality have an unrealized application in Europe. Serge Colin hopes that the Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) between Canada and the EU will lead to a harmonization of the technical specifications which apply to their products.
Finding out about the ProfitLearn™ Export Series and the other tools it connects with, such ExportNB (www.exportnb.com), reminded Mr. Colin of the importance of asking the right questions. For instance, “it's difficult to identify what you are looking for if you don't know it exists yet.” The same logic applies to exploring a new market: it is important to familiarize yourself with the new legal environment and to measure the risk factors, because this gives you a guideline to chart your path forward.
Serge Colin greatly appreciates the guidance offered by LearnSphere and the funding ClairiTech received by participating in the program. “Being an entrepreneur in Canada is a real pleasure,” according to Mr. Colin, who feels it is relatively easy to find information here and to obtain support from provincial and federal governments through organizations like LearnSphere.
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