NSERC announces almost $2 million for Niagara College Technology Access Centre and cannabis research unit

Hamill Machine Co. owner and president Bob Benner (left) credits the Niagara College (NC) partnership for his company’s ability to expand into new markets, and doubling his machine shop and workforce. Pictured with the Microgreens Harvester Dryer: Lucas Howe, Mechanical Engineering student and former Research Assistant with NC’s Research & Innovation division (centre); and James Dahl, NC Mechanical Engineering graduate and now Hamill lead engineer.



June 13, 2019

Funds to support advanced manufacturing innovation, cannabis production research unit

 Niagara College will continue to expand its services and applied research to support businesses in key economic sectors of Niagara as a result of today’s announcement of nearly $2 million from the federal government.

The Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science and Sport, delivered the news as part of a nationwide announcement of grants through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) College and Community Innovation (CCI) program. During today’s event, Duncan announced the $1.75-million renewal of Technology Access Centre (TAC) funding for the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC), as well as another $149,918 in funding for equipment to support a cannabis production research unit for the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre.

“Our government is committed to returning science and research to their rightful place,” noted Duncan. “We’re investing in students and small- to medium-sized businesses so they can work together on a diverse range of research projects to boost economic development and create jobs across the country. With these projects, colleges, cégeps and polytechnics will be making a real difference in the lives of Canadians in their own communities.”

“We are grateful for NSERC’s significant investment in research and innovation at Niagara College, which enables us to further enhance the work we have been doing since the inception of the TAC in 2014,” said Marc Nantel, PhD, NC’s vice-president, Research, Innovation & Strategic Initiatives. “Our TAC has established itself as a go-to place for technical services and applied research projects for manufacturers in Niagara, and its continuation is key to the economic development of our region.”

Nantel added that, in addition to its current project and technical service offerings for small- and medium-sized businesses, the TAC will expand to include industrial automation, machine learning, robotics, sensors, and generative design with this five-year renewal. In doing so, WAMIC will continue to help accelerate the adoption of advanced manufacturing technologies and new product development, while creating a competitive business environment in the region and beyond, he said.

“Our regional collaborative innovation model continues to achieve great success, providing industry partners access to advanced technologies, services and expertise and has had a strong impact on manufacturers in the Niagara region,” added Dan Patterson, president, Niagara College. “Importantly, one of the most vital products that the TAC has offered industry partners are the job-ready, highly qualified graduates we train for them to hire.”

The additional $149,918 was awarded by NSERC from the Applied Research Tools and Instruments Grants (ARTI), to support the purchase of a cannabis production research space and specialized equipment to support the unit and complete applied research trials for the cannabis industry. The space, which will be ready in the fall of 2019, will enable the testing and utilization of sensors, unique lighting arrays, and other innovative concepts that require applied research work prior to use in licensed producers’ spaces, and commercial adoption.

“Since legalizing recreational cannabis on a federal level in October 2018, Canada has an opportunity to be the world leader in cannabis production and related innovations,” said Patterson. “Leading in cannabis production will include innovating and executing applied research in growing methods, production technologies, crop management, support products, crop inputs, pest and disease management, sensors, and a combination of those elements.”

The news was well received by the College’s industry partners. “We’re thankful that we have an R&D partner like the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at Niagara College,” said Bob Benner, owner of Hamill Machine Co. “It has been integral to our innovation success, demonstrated through our collaborations both in tech services and applied research projects.”

NSERC aims to make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency supports university students in their advanced studies, promotes and supports discovery research, and fosters innovation by encouraging Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects. NSERC researchers are on the vanguard of science, building on Canada’s long tradition of scientific excellence.

Duncan’s national announcement included funding of more than $73 million through the CCI program, and the College-Industry Innovation Fund, which is run by the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

Celebrating 20 years of research excellence, NC’s Research & Innovation division provides real-world solutions for business, key industry sectors and the community through applied research and knowledge transfer activities. This includes conducting projects that provide innovative solutions, such as producing and testing prototypes, evaluating new technologies, and developing new or improved products or processes for small- and medium-sized businesses. Visit ncinnovation.ca

Niagara College offers more than 130 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Part-Time Studies courses. Areas of specialization include food and wine sciences, advanced technology, media, applied health and community safety, supported by unique learning enterprises in food, wine, beer, horticulture and esthetics. Visit niagaracollege.ca.



Hamill Machine Co. owner and president Bob Benner (left) credits the Niagara College partnership for his company’s ability to expand into new markets, and doubling his machine shop and workforce. He is pictured with the Microgreens Harvester Dryer along with Lucas Howe, Mechanical Engineering student and former research assistant with NC’s Research & Innovation division (centre); and James Dahl, NC Mechanical Engineering graduate and now Hamill’s lead engineer.

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  • Funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and housed at colleges or cégeps across Canada, Technology Access Centres (TACs) provide access to specialized technology, equipment, and expertise to local industry – particularly small- and medium-sized enterprises –with the goal of enhancing their productivity and innovation.
  • In 2014, Niagara College secured a five-year funding grant to establish an advanced manufacturing TAC at NC’s Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre (WAMIC), part of the Research & Innovation division, to showcase, test, and de-risk new advanced manufacturing technologies for industry in the Niagara region. The team specializes in engineering design, 3D technologies, lean manufacturing processes and additive manufacturing.
  • Since its inception, NC’s TAC has engaged with diverse sectors, ranging from food, agriculture, consumer goods, health, mining industry, transportation, aerospace, public sector, utilities, and energy. To date the centre has assisted more than 250 companies, with more than 200 technical services and nearly 100 applied research projects.
  • WAMIC was the first TAC for the College and the second was granted by NSERC in 2016 to the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre. In both cases, the TACs enable Niagara businesses to advance their products, processes and services.



  • In September 2018, Niagara College became the first educational institution in Canada to offer a post-secondary credential in the production of commercial cannabis. The one-year Commercial Cannabis Production (CCP) academic program operates at the Niagara-on-the-Lake Campus, and includes five 20’ x 8’ secure shipping containers.
  • Thanks to this new funding under NSERC’s Applied Research Tools and Instruments Grants (ARTI), a new 40-ft segregated container and equipment will be installed next to the academic areas, and will include growing space that is controlled, sterile, and isolated in order to perform safe, secure, and dependable research projects that will not negatively impact the academic crops.
  • Applied research project outcomes will achieve and help: improve and maintain cannabis quality; prevent and reduce crop losses; commercialization support for cannabis production technologies and techniques; and safe and sustainable production (organic) and integrated pest management (IPM) techniques.
  • The equipment and associated research will help to support the more than 2 million square-feet of cannabis growing space in Niagara – and 8.7 million across Canada – in an industry that is anticipated to have legal recreational sales of as much as $4.34 billion in 2019, and medical cannabis that is expected to generate an additional $0.77 to $1.79 billion in sales in 2019.