Alumna Rina Carlini helps entrepreneurs and startups bring their inventions into the real world

Putting science and tech to work

Alumna Rina Carlini helps entrepreneurs and startups bring their inventions into the real world
Posted on July 19, 2017
By: Vanessa Bonneau

Sometimes great scientific ideas need a little help getting into commercial markets.

That’s where Rina Carlini, BSc (chem.) 93, CEO and president of Haltech Regional Innovation Centre, comes in.

Rina Carlini

Based in Oakville, Ont., Haltech supports entrepreneurs and tech startups in Ontario’s Halton Region west of Toronto with free business advice and mentorship to help them monetize their technological innovations, raise investment capital and accelerate the growth of their businesses.

“How do you get a product in the marketplace? It may be important for science and technology, but can you make it important for a consumer?” These are the kind of questions Carlini helps her clients figure out the answers to.

Haltech: Regional tech innovation

A member of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs, Haltech is one of 17 such non-profit centres that support entrepreneurs and tech companies in the province.

Haltech is run by a staff of six including Carlini, as well as six part-time Entrepreneurs-in-Residence who also have their own successful businesses, and a network of volunteer mentors who come from companies like Microsoft and Bell.

“These people are like coaches who want to pay it forward,” says Carlini. “They take part out of interest to share advice about their entrepreneurial experience; they like what we do and want to be a part of it.”

Haltech isn’t operating alone. “Every institution that’s part of the Ontario Network of Entrepreneurs is working to build one of the best startup ecosystems in the world,” she says. “Silicon Valley is paying attention to this part of the world.”

Carlini knows she’s doing her job right when she hears back from her clients with success stories: “‘We won entrepreneur of the year!’ they write to me. How spectacular is that? Whatever we can do to contribute to their success, I’m thrilled.”

Concordia Co-op experience

The quality of service Haltech provides is inspired by Carlini’s time at Concordia.

“The kind of personalized attention I give my clients is what I first experienced myself at Concordia’s Co-op program in chemistry,” she says. “Haltech’s service is a big part of our success. You attract quality clients if you give quality personalized service.”

Although it was extremely demanding, Carlini thrived in the chemistry Co-op program. In addition to maintaining an A average, students had to complete four work terms.

“Working cemented the chemistry subject matter in my head,” she says. “I could practice what I had just learned in class in real life — you just can’t learn it any better than that.”

Through her work terms, she built a professional network made up of scientists, engineers and business leaders who, alongside her professors, helped her determine the right career path.

“The program was well structured and we were tremendously supported,” says Carlini. “Professors called you by name from year one at Concordia.”

Carlini’s professors obviously appreciated her early research skills. After working on an undergraduate research project with Ann English, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry and Concordia University Research Chair, English nominated Carlini for the 2017 NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada) Centennial Scholarship for Doctoral Studies.

Carlini was one of four students at Concordia — from a total of 55 in Canada that year — who received the NSERC scholarship in 1993.

With the scholarship, Carlini could get into any PhD program she wanted, including in the United States or abroad. Ultimately, she chose to study synthetic organic chemistry at the University of Waterloo in Ontario.

“The scholarship changed everything,” says Carlini. “Had the university not chosen to nominate me, I might not have continued to pursue this career path.”

Research and consulting

Rina Carlini and Ann English

As an industrial research and development scientist, Carlini spent 14 years at the Xerox Research Centre of Canada in Mississauga, Ont.

“I grew up professionally there,” says Carlini. It’s where she discovered her passion for finding and developing real-life applications for scientific products.

In her role as Xerox principal, the highest level on the technical ladder, she set the company’s research and development strategy and invented more than 100 patents.

At the culmination of her time at Xerox, Carlini was honoured with the 2012 Clara Benson Award from the Canadian Society for Chemistry, which is given to a female scientist who has made a distinguished contribution to her field in Canada.

In 2012 founded Optimal Science Consulting. With her years of experience in tech development and commercialization, businesses were eager to tap into her knowledge base.

Carlini has stayed in touch with her mentor, Ann English, through the Canadian Society for Chemistry, and they continue to support one another in many ways. Carlini supported the successful nomination of English for the 2017 Clara Benson Award.

“She’s done so much for the society, for Concordia and for me — she’s an outstanding scientific leader and mentor,” says Carlini.

In addition to her tireless work for entrepreneurs, Carlini makes time to volunteer as a board member for organizations like the Waterloo Institute for Nanotechnology and Nano Ontario. Even today women are a minority in the science and technology world, which is why she also gives career development talks to graduates in chemistry and science.

How does she fit it all in? Carlini says, “You make time for the things you care about.”

Original Post by: Concordia University