Interview: Mr. Jerry Evans, CEO of Nia Technologies Inc.

Mr. Jerry Evans graduated from The University of Toronto with a BASc and a MASc in Engineering.  He went on to get his MBA from The University of Western Ontario. Jerry has spent most of his professional career working in finance, corporate strategy, and governance.  Today he is CEO of Nia and travels extensively in support of Nia’s efforts. Mr. Jerry Evans will be a speaker at the #3DHEALS2018 conference on April 20-21st, 2018. 
Jerry will be discussing how Nia Technologies Inc. (Nia) is leveraging 3D printing to increase the efficiency of P&O device production in resource-poor countries. The hope is that Nia’s innovations will allow existing orthopedic workshops to help more people.
Jenny: When was the first encounter you had with 3D printing? What was that experience like? What were you thinking at that moment?
Jerry: I had read about 3D printers and first saw one in action at a consumer electronics show.  My initial thought was, ‘hmmm, a molecular assembler’; and quickly came to realize this is just the beginning for 3D printing. As this technology matures, I believe it will revolutionize our ability to produce anything our imaginations can conjure up.
Jenny: What inspired you to start your journey/company/career/research in 3D printing (bio-fabrication/bio-printing)?
Jerry: As an investment banker, I became disenchanted with the pursuit of alpha (return margin).  When I was presented with the opportunity to head up Nia Technologies Inc. and to develop new digital technologies that would help children in resource-poor countries walk, play and attend school, I knew I had found my calling.
Jenny: Who inspired you the most along this journey in 3D printing? This can be a mentor, a patient, a celebrity, anyone basically. You can name more than one as well.
Jerry: When we first started exploring the idea of using 3D printers to produce prosthetics and orthotics, we came across a 4-year-old (congenital amputee) girl in Uganda, named Roseline.  She and her 12-year-old brother traveled an epic 35 hours to see us at CoRSU hospital where we were conducting our first clinical trials of 3D PrintAbility (our prosthetics and orthotics 3D printing toolchain).  Roseline was the first patient to receive one of our 3D printed transtibial devices.  This was also the first time that Roseline would walk on her own two feet.  Witnessing Roseline take her first steps ever was an overwhelming experience, bringing tears to everyone’s eyes who had seen this joyous moment.
Jenny: What motivates you the most for your work?
Jerry: Seeing the joy on the faces of disabled children when they can play with their able-bodied friends.
Jenny: What is/are the biggest obstacle(s) in your line of work? If you have conquered them, what were your solutions?
Jerry: We face many technical and bureaucratic challenges in the work we do. But, more often than not, our challenges come from a shortage of funds.  Nia Technologies Inc. is a non-profit organization.  We are supported by CBM Canada (a disability charity), along with other foundations and donors.  We are currently speaking with equity investors and exploring the idea of a Nia for-profit spin-off to support our non-profit efforts.
Jenny: What do you think is (are) the biggest challenge(s) in 3D Printing/bio-printing? What do you think the potential solution(s) is (are)?
Jerry: Within the context and use of FDM printers, some of our challenges include: speed of printing, interlayer adhesion, choice and availability of materials.  The solution? Time.  It seems that every year brings new printers with more features at lower costs.
Jenny: If you are granted three wishes by a higher being, what would they be?
-That the stigma and limitations posed by disabilities would disappear. Better yet, that these debilitating disabilities wouldn’t occur in the first place. Children living with disabilities face challenges that able-bodied peers don’t.
-That corporations will intensify their efforts to value a triple bottom line and partner with local communities, researchers, and change-makers to create lasting social value.
-That organization like ours could have access to consistent funding to allow us to scale technology quicker and help more children with disabilities walk, run and play with their friends.
Jenny: What advice would you give to a smart driven college student in the “real world”? What bad advice you heard should they ignore?
Jerry: Be tenacious in the pursuit of your dreams.  Don’t believe those that say it can’t be done and don’t quit too early.
Jenny: If you could have a giant billboard to promote a message to millions and even billions of people in our community (i.e. healthcare 3D printing and bio-fabrication), what message would that be?
Jerry: Almost 90% of people living with disabilities in resource-poor countries don’t get access to the prosthetic devices they need to help them walk. It doesn’t have to be this way. 3D printing offers the potential of transformative change.
Jenny: What were/was the best investment you made in 3D printing?
Jerry: Hiring talented, passionate individuals.  Not only are they good at what they do, but they also inspire me. Additionally, covering non-essential travel costs allows our employees to meet with the disabled children, living in the resource-poor countries, that Nia’s innovations support.
Jenny: What were/was the worst investment you made in 3D printing/bio-printing/bio-fabrication?
Jerry: Outsourcing work because of term constraints on grant funding; resulting in the lost opportunity of accumulating in-house knowledge.
Jenny: What was/is the biggest risk you took in your career?
Jerry: Moving away from work on Bay Street (Canada’s equivalent to Wall Street) to work in the non-profit sector.
Jenny: What do you enjoy in your spare time? What are you passionate about outside of your work/3d printing?
Jerry: Hiking, biking, fly-fishing, photography, and reading.
Jenny: What is your favorite quote? Why?
Jerry: “If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together” (an ancient African proverb).  I have always been a firm believer that scale and sustainability can only be achieved through effective partnerships and collaboration.
Jenny: What does the word “3DHEALS” mean to you? =)
Jerry: To me, 3DHEALS is similar in meaning to Nia Technologies.  Four-year-old Roseline was the first child to receive one of our 3D printed prosthetics. Roseline’s native tongue is Swahili.  “Nia” in Swahili means for good intention.  Putting it together, we are ‘For Good Intention Technologies’.  I believe that 3DHEALS also pursues technology with good intentions.