Niagara College Gaining Ground as Research Arm for SMEs


Niagara College helps companies innovate and achieve competitive advantage while also providing students with valuable experiential learning opportunities.


Since Canadian SMEs (small- and medium-sized companies) often lack the time, expertise, or equipment to innovate their products or technologies, many seek partnerships with applied research colleges. 

Niagara College is one of them. Currently ranked the number one research college in Canada, the College’s Research & Innovation division offers SMEs facilities, expertise, and funding to help address their innovation challenges. “We tend to consider ourselves their research arm,” says Dr. Marc Nantel, Vice-President, Research, Innovation & Strategic Enterprises at Niagara College.

“The industry partner gets a solution and the intellectual property, while the students get great experiential learning opportunities.”

Thanks to government funding from various sources and the services available within the College’s four Innovation Centres, Niagara College helps SMEs get their products to market cheaper and faster. For each project, the industry partner gets expertise through a faculty or on-staff researcher, equipment, and student help. “The industry partner gets a solution and the intellectual property, while the students get great experiential learning opportunities,” says Dr. Nantel.

Four innovation centres supporting four key areas

Applied research projects take place in four key areas: Business & CommercializationFood & BeverageHorticultural & Environmental Sciences, and Advanced Manufacturing. Each sector has its own innovation centre, and funding is secured mostly through long-term funding envelopes which allows for ongoing intake. 

Niagara College continues to expand its offerings to SME industry partners. The Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre (HESIC) will soon enjoy the addition of a new, 13,540-square foot, research greenhouse and laboratory. “This will enhance our capabilities and capacity for project delivery and position us as a leader in horticultural research and innovation in Canada,” says Kimberley Cathline, HESIC’s Research Program Manager. 

Though at the forefront of innovation, Dr. Nantel notes that colleges receive only about 2.5 per cent of the post-secondary research funding available. “It would be nice to have more given our close relationships with industries that develop new products,” he says. 


 This article by Anne Papmehl was originally published on Innovating Canada.