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What is Applied Research anyway? We asked a guy at Cambrian to explain it to us

Cambrian director of Applied Research explains the nuts and bolts of his field
(File photo)

By Mike Commito 

What is Applied Research?

Whenever I tell someone I work in Applied Research at Cambrian College, I usually get the following question, ‘what is Applied Research?’ 

For many, it may be an unfamiliar term. In simple terms, it is using the latest knowledge and technologies to create new products and processes, or to improve existing ones. So, whether you want to build something new or fix an issue you are having, applied research at Cambrian can give you that competitive advantage you are looking for. 

As many business owners tell us, the most significant barrier to innovation for small to medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) is access to capital. By working with postsecondary institutions, we can help our partners access funding from agencies such as the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). Sounds complicated, but we make it easy by handling the paperwork and red tape. 

These funds provide industry partners with a team of Cambrian’s expert faculty, student researchers, and state-of-the-art equipment. When the project is completed, the industry partner receives the results, prototypes and any associated Intellectual Property (IP), as most colleges believe that IP is best left in the hands of the private sector.

Recently, we concluded a research project with Current Solutions Group Inc. (CSG), a local company that sells USB-rechargeable wearable LED lights for high visibility in the workplace. 

Recognizing a charging need for their own devices and the growing number of smart phones and tablets being used underground and in industrial settings, CSG wanted to develop a ruggedized charging station for mines. 

After Cambrian secured funding for this project, the College’s faculty and students worked with CSG to develop the product that they are now bringing to market. Known as the UXB, it is a multi-port charger that makes the workplace better by providing simple, dependable and simultaneous power for USB-powered devices and equipment.

A collaborative effort between Cambrian’s Electrical, Welding and Fabrication, and Graphic Design programs, the UXB highlights what’s possible when companies engage with colleges on applied research. 

While Cambrian is one place where companies can turn to for solutions, the College is part of a much larger innovation ecosystem in the area. This network includes Laurentian University and College Boreal, as well as NORCAT, community partners like the Regional Business Centre and the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation, and funders. 

Each of the players does something different. For example, NORCAT offers an underground test facility and supports innovation and commercialization activities through specialized training, programs, and events. 

Cambrian, Laurentian, and Boreal work together to promote entrepreneurship on all three campuses. Laurentian’s newly opened Jim Fielding Innovation and Commercialization Space, which provides an environment for students, staff and faculty to advance and enhance their digital literacy, develop new technologies, and create new business start-ups, is a great example of how innovation and entrepreneurial ventures on campus for students are supported.  

On top of all that, the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation (CEMI) focuses on facilitating commercialization in the mining sector.

The great thing is, we all work together. 

For example, if a company wants to create a prototype or process improvement for the mining industry, they can engage Cambrian to design or build it and then test it and showcase it at NORCAT’s world-class underground facility in Onaping.

In order to commercialize and bring that new technology to market, CEMI would be the next destination for industry partners. 

The future is bright for local SMEs looking to solve their business problems by engaging Sudbury’s innovation ecosystem. As industries increasingly turn to new technologies to become more efficient, productive and safe, Cambrian will be at the forefront of helping them innovate and stay on the cutting edge.  

Mike Commito is the Director of Applied Research and Innovation at Cambrian College. Follow him on Twitter at @mikecommito  


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