Ontario urged to invest in college-based applied research

TORONTO, Jan. 27, 2016 /CNW/ - Colleges are calling for the Ontario government to make upfront investments of $30 million into market-driven research to promote industry clusters throughout the province.

"Ontario must strengthen its commitment to innovation," said Linda Franklin, the president and CEO of Colleges Ontario. "Investments in applied research projects at colleges will develop real-world innovations for greater numbers of businesses."

In order to support competitiveness and job creation in key industry clusters, Ontario should establish a new $30-million, multi-year competitive fund for college-based industry cluster experts. This will allow colleges to work with key industry clusters on a sustained basis to solve industry-defined applied research challenges.

It is well recognized that Ontario has a poor innovation track record compared to international leaders. Indeed, only three per cent of Ontario businesses perform any research, and the record suggests their performance on other innovation indicators is also lacking.

The federal government has increased funding for college applied research. However, there is a need for increased provincial support for applied research. Providing advance investments will ensure that research gets started immediately to strengthen innovation, particularly in small and medium-sized businesses.

Colleges are increasingly playing a critical role in encouraging more small businesses to innovate. Each year, Ontario colleges work with more than 750 companies to pursue market-driven applied research activities and with about 80 organizations on projects which address provincial socioeconomic priorities.

At least half of these businesses plan to pursue further applied research with colleges, and significant numbers report higher sales and new job creation, due to new and improved products and production as a result of their college collaboration.

Participation in applied research also enriches students' experiential learning while supporting commercialization work at small and emerging businesses.

By requiring industry partners to match funds, colleges will be able to bring firms together to collaborate on new innovations. Investments in college-specific applied research projects will also strengthen the province's export opportunities.

"We need this kind of market-driven research that solves real-world business problems to remain competitive on a national and international scale," Franklin said. "This investment will strengthen Ontario's competitiveness by significantly increasing the number of innovative private-sector employers who partner with colleges."

College Applied Research Project Examples

  • George Brown College and Centennial College have worked with Clear Blue Technologies, winner of an Ontario Centres of Excellence Mind to Market award, on combining clean energy with cloud software technology to wirelessly deliver off-grid power to street lights, traffic cameras, mobile signage and other devices.
  • Lambton College was featured in a new series presented by National Geographic and GE, titled Breakthrough, about its energy-related research projects, and specifically the Atmospheric Vortex Engine (AVE) System. The AVE can produce vast quantities of carbon-free electricity at low cost and is funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and Peter Thiel, co-founder of PayPal and one of Facebook's first outside investors.
  • MADD Virgin Drinks partnered with Niagara College to create a craft lager to add to its lineup of non-alcoholic drinks. The lager has been commercially released to more than 5,000 outlets across North America, and was a practical way to create new exports.

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SOURCE Colleges Ontario

For further information: Amy Dickson, Manager, Media Relations and Communications, Colleges Ontario, 647-258-7686, dickson@collegesontario.org

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www.collegesontario.org

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