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Winners find exceptional solutions to everyday problems

From left, HackerYou’s Heather Payne, surgeon Dennis Filips, Feathercraft kayaks’ Douglass Simpson, TalentEgg’s Lauren Friese.

The Globe and Mail's Innovators at Work contest recognizes talented Canadians who not only have great ideas, but also turn them into reality.

Thank you to Globe readers who nominated people from across Canada.

The panel of judges has selected the top 12 Canadian Innovators. Over the next three weeks, the judges will explain why they were chosen.

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Today, meet the first four.

The 12 winners of The Globe and Mail's inaugural Innovators at Work contest think big in diverse industries, but they all have one thing in common, says judge Sheldon Levy, president and vice chancellor at Toronto's Ryerson University.

They are solving everyday problems with practical solutions.

"You have the sense that you could execute on [these ideas], and that there would not only be a market, but an instant demand for their product or service," Mr. Levy says.

Dennis Filips

The iTClamp, created by Dr. Filips, is a prime example of this kind of practical problem-solving. Dr. Filips, a winner in the Health category, is a retired Canadian Forces surgeon and trauma specialist. He designed the inexpensive, easy-to-use iTClamp so that anyone can stop a wound from bleeding in about three seconds.

It's a clever solution to a problem anyone can relate to, Mr. Levy says.

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"In the case of the iTClamp, I just wanted to know where you could buy it," Mr. Levy says. "I thought, 'I've had that problem, and he found a solution for me.' "

Judge Annette Verschuren, chairwoman and chief executive officer of NRStor Inc., was also impressed by Dr. Filips's ingenuity and the iTClamp's potential.

"This is a product that really has international applications," she said.

"You can see it serving our society in North America, but also serving war zones, something that could mitigate deaths by bleeding. I think it's a brilliant idea."

Heather Payne

Ms. Payne, a winner in the Science and Technology category, is helping to solve a critical problem affecting Canada's technology industry: the lack of women working in tech. Ms. Payne is the co-founder of Ladies Learning Code, a series of workshops in 18 cities that teach women coding skills, and HackerYou, a programming boot camp whose participants are 75 per cent women.

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Ms. Payne has hit upon a smart way to correct the gender imbalance in tech education, Ms. Verschuren says.

"I spend a lot of time at the DMZ [Ryerson University's Digital Media Zone] and Waterloo and McMaster [universities], and I say to people, 'Why is it that women are not more involved?' " Ms. Verschuren says.

"That's what I love about what Heather's doing here. Let's make women more comfortable working with code, because they have the same capability as men in this area. I'm a big believer in recognizing that Canada could be so much more productive if it used all its resources more effectively, and brains are the best resource we have in this country."

Lauren Friese

Ms. Friese, a winner in the Finance and Professional Services category, is also trying to help maximize Canada's productivity, while solving a problem that many young people face. She created TalentEgg, a website that rolls a student career fair and a corporate recruiting site into one.

In addition to talent searches and job postings from some of Canada's biggest companies, TalentEgg features job-hunting advice and recruiting challenges – tests that job seekers can complete to showcase their talent.

"I think [TalentEgg] is something that people would use," says judge Paul Waldie, editor of The Globe and Mail's Report on Business.

"It's a one-stop shop. If you're a young person coming out of university and looking for a job, where do you find these resources? It could be all over the place on the Internet, but the fact that Lauren has organized a lot of these useful things in one area, I think it's going to be very handy for young people."

Ms. Verschuren says her favourite part of TalentEgg is the challenge section. "I think it's so smart. People like me want to hire people who are comfortable in who they are and in what they are doing, to find that person who has great discipline and can accept and manage a challenge in your industry."

Douglass Simpson

Mr. Simpson, a winner in the Manufacturing and Retail category, is helping to solve a problem for nature enthusiasts. His lightweight Feathercraft kayaks fold up small enough to fit into a backpack.

"If you want to go kayaking, you have to figure out how to get it from Point A to Point B, and if you don't have a roof rack, you can have a problem," Mr. Levy says. "Douglass Simpson said, 'I can make a difference, I can improve upon this design.' He saw the problem that others didn't see, and he went about finding a practical solution for it."

It's the kind of innovation that will get more people into kayaks, Mr. Waldie says.

"Clearly, it's Douglass's hobby, but he's turned it into something that other people can use. The spark of innovation often comes from this kind of thing – people who have a hobby they are passionate about and who want to find a better way of doing it. Douglass has found a way to make his hobby into something that is a little more accessible for everybody."

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About the Author

Shelley White is a freelance writer, editor, video producer and mother of twins. Before taking the plunge into the wild world of freelance work, she produced educational programming at TVO, explored digital culture at the late lamented Shift magazine and entertained young minds at MuchMusic. More

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