The federal government’s recent announcement of $32.5 million to support applied research at Canadian colleges is evidence of a renewed focus on the important role colleges play in stimulating economic growth.
In their latest budgets, both the federal and Ontario governments have committed to increasing support for this type of research, a move that is being applauded by the college system.
Traditionally, research funding has gone almost exclusively to universities for academic research, but in today’s entrepreneurial environment, governments are now recognizing the importance of applied research – research that is aimed at developing new products and innovations that have commercial value, can help businesses grow, and can support job creation and economic prosperity in communities across the country.
Applied research projects range from the development of specialized software for 3-D games to the development of customized maps that improve farming.
At Cambrian College, research has primarily concentrated on renewable energy/mining technologies and environmental impact and monitoring. Specifically, the funding received from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s College and Community Innovation (NSERCCCI) fund has enabled the College to focus on projects in phytoremediation, wind hydrogen electrolyzer fuel cells, and optimization of a ground-source heat battery.
The recent allocation of $32.5 million to community colleges is designed to fund the purchase of research equipment that colleges and businesses will use to bring new innovations into the marketplace. Science and Technology Minister Gary Goodyear, who announced the funding, said the government is looking to help fuel private sector innovation.
“The Government of Canada is investing in science and technology to create jobs, strengthen the economy, and improve the quality of life of Canadians,” Goodyear said.
“This new program will help attract world-class researchers to Canada’s colleges and provide the research capacity that local businesses need to develop new technologies and innovations.”
Ontario’s colleges welcome the announcement and applaud the federal government for taking a leading role in promoting research that has economic value. In Ontario, the colleges have already been working in partnership with businesses to actively promote applied research initiatives.
Twenty colleges belong to the Colleges Ontario Network for Industry Innovation (CONII), which helps small- and medium-sized businesses solve technical problems and develop new products and processes. To date, the network has established more than 140 industry-led applied research projects. These projects have led to innovations in areas such as alternative energy, environmental technologies, and health and life sciences.
Cambrian College is a member of CONII and actively engaged in research partnerships with local businesses to prototype and test sustainable energy technology. In addition to supporting our economy, our students benefit from the opportunity to gain hands-on experience as project participants – an invaluable addition to their learning portfolio.
Applied research is important to Canada’s and Ontario’s long-term prosperity. Governments have played an important part in promoting applied research, and it is essential that this work continues.
Cambrian, along with all of Ontario’s colleges, is pleased to receive support for its research activity, and is excited at the opportunities for growth that lie ahead.
Sylvia Barnard is president of Cambrian College.