Applied research on the upswing at R&I division

Applied research at Niagara College is thriving once again. Buoyed by additional student co-ops and expert researchers across the Research & Innovation (R&I) division, industry partners have increased opportunity for R&D, while students gain career-ready skills development.

Last spring, the pandemic forced R&I to cancel the majority of its student positions and on-site research due to campus restrictions. Over the past year, however, with implementation of physical safety protocols and an increase in remote-applied research, the team has steadily continued to flourish, says Krystle Grimaldi, director, Research & Innovation.

“We have gradually increased the number of projects we are taking on and growing the team in key areas,” she explains. “We are continuing to support industry, deliver on our commitments to funders/partners and once again providing students with valuable professional experiences and training.”

The division’s team members have continued to work remotely where possible, such as within the Business & Commercialization Solutions (BCS) area, and we have instituted safety processes to resume on-campus research in other areas, including: the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre (AETIC), the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC) and the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre.

As for staffing, a research lead has been hired to support BCS projects and the CFWI Innovation Centre has added an expert for its recently established cannabis edibles research.

AETIC has increased capacity to support applied research projects for the greenhouse, horticulture and cannabis sectors. A research lead has been hired for greenhouse technology applied research, to work alongside full-time faculty experts, and the team is currently seeking a research technologist to to support all project work and research spaces.

An advanced manufacturing scientist, is being sought for the WAMIC team to act as research lead in advanced manufacturing technical service and applied research activities.

“We are continuing to support industry, deliver on our commitments to funders/partners and once again providing students with valuable professional experiences and training.”
~ Krystle Grimaldi, director, Research & Innovation

The division has hired 19 summer students to work across the division. “While that isn’t the number we would typically have in a COVID/restriction-free world, given capacity issues related to physical space, we are thrilled to once again have teams in place at all of our Centres,” adds Grimaldi.

While the applied research and technical services provided by the R&I team is vital for small- and medium-sized businesses in order to continue to innovate and commercialize, at the same time, such research provides an invaluable opportunity for students to put theory from the classroom into real-world action.

For Kyler Schwind, a Culinary Innovation and Food Technology graduate, he says his time with the CFWI Innovation Centre as a research assistant was key to his landing a position as product development scientist at Rich Productions Corporation soon after he graduated last year.

While at R&I, Schwind had a primary research role with projects that have become commercially successful. Working on the Sobrii “Zero Gin” project – Canada’s first ever non-alcoholic gin product – he was involved with the entire product lifecycle, from brainstorming and development phases, to scale-up and commercialization.

“Being able to work with customers directly and develop products that suit their needs helped me to understand the product development process,” explains Schwind. “Gaining this experience [at R&I] has made a world of difference in my current role.”

For information on how to partner with Research & Innovation, access to funding, or learn about the state-of-the-art technical services available, contact Elizabeth Best, business development coordinator at [email protected] or visit the website.