News Releases

News Release - Manitoba

November 9, 2017

North Forge Technology Exchange Opens Call for Innovation to Improve Early Childhood Literacy and Numeracy

WINNIPEG - November 9, 2017 - North Forge Technology Exchange is putting out a call for innovative ideas to improve early childhood literacy and numeracy in Manitoba.

“We’re ready to put the talent and resources of the Manitoba innovation community to work on an issue that will affect the future of our province,” said Jeff Ryzner, president of North Forge Technology Exchange, which is facilitating the open challenge.

According to the Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD), at age 15 Manitoba students lag behind their Canadian peers in literacy and numeracy – ranking eighth and ninth out of 10 provinces respectively. Research shows this starts very early, before age five. Manitoba data also show that in some communities, up to 77 per cent of kindergarten students are not ready for Grade 1 literacy and numeracy curricula.

“The Manitoba government is developing a new plan to improve outcomes in our education system with a focus on literacy and numeracy interventions starting in the early years,” said Education and Training Minister Ian Wishart, who chairs the Healthy Child Committee of Cabinet. “Interventions in early childhood have the largest proportional impact on outcomes compared to school-aged and adult interventions. We are pleased to see such incredible support from the innovation community, the private sector and our post-secondary partners.”

The call from North Forge reflects the Manitoba government’s collaboration with private and community resources to uncover innovative processes to address complex societal challenges, such as early childhood literacy and numeracy, said Wishart.

“The solution to this problem will be found here in Manitoba,” said Ryzner. “It may come from an educator, a parent, a student, an entrepreneur, or any one of the amazing people who live here. The key to innovation is diversity of thought. We need Manitobans to send us their ideas. We have an incredible team of innovators, private-sector partners and post-secondary institutions that are going to help us turn the best ideas into solutions we are going to test.”

A panel of judges will evaluate the proposals put forward for their use as practical, real-world solutions to enact positive change for improving literacy and numeracy in pre-kindergarten children. The top ideas will move on to prototyping and piloting in the community.

To date, Wawanesa Insurance, TDS Law, MNP, Relish New Brand Experience, Friesens Corporation, InVision Edge, IDFusion Software, National Leasing, Permission Click, Pegboard Hosting and BitSpace Development have all committed to participate in the project.

“We whole-heartedly applaud the Manitoba government and North Forge for spearheading this initiative and are committed to working with all partners in this important endeavor to find a made-in-Manitoba solution that will benefit Manitoba children,” said Al McLeod, Wawanesa’s VP of Research and Innovation. “All of us at Wawanesa are excited by this opportunity to contribute our ideas, energy and resources to help our young people across the province succeed.”

The University of Manitoba is participating through its Game Changer idea competition initiative.

Red River College will contribute its significant expertise on the issue.

“We are pleased to be involved in this initiative as Red River College is the most significant trainer of early childhood educators in Manitoba and is a global leader in research and development of early childhood education,” said Raeann Thibeault, dean of the college’s health science and community services division.

“When academia, the private sector and government collaborate with communities, we can solve anything,” said Ryzner.

Participants are invited to submit solutions at by Jan. 11, 2018.

North Forge Technology Exchange is an innovation-based economic development agency and a powerhouse community to fuel Manitoba’s innovation economy providing entrepreneurs with award-winning mentors, rock star subject matter experts and a two-stage startup program that has helped over 60 companies access over $180 million in financings and create hundreds of jobs. Learn more at

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The Province of Manitoba is issuing this news release on behalf of the government of Manitoba and North Forge Technology Exchange.