A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held on July 28 to mark the official opening of the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Centre at Niagara College’s Welland Campus: Pictured (from left): Andrew McCuaig (grad, research associate, Research & Innovation); Marc Nantel (associate VP, Research & Innovation); Dan Patterson (NC president); John Scott (NC Board of Governors); Charles Sousa (Ontario minister of finance); Geordie Walker; Norris Walker; St. Catharines MPP Jim Bradley; Jackie Phelan (Walker Industries); Mike Watt (Walker Industries); Daniela Cortes (student, research associate, Research & Innovation)
Niagara College today celebrated the official grand opening of its Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, a facility that has already enhanced the College’s capacity for research projects that help manufacturers innovate and provide students with real-world experience.
While advanced manufacturing innovation programs began in 2013, led by Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division, the new Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre has enabled the College to expand its role in applied research, and offer the manufacturing sector world-class equipment and expertise.
For example, the manufacturing sector in Ontario now has a rare opportunity to utilize a new cutting-edge 3D printer; the Fortus 900mc at the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Centre is the first 3D printer of its kind in Canada and the Centre is the only beta-testing facility in the country.
At 15,000 square feet, the Centre represents an investment from the provincial government of $4.2 million; and the Walker family and its company, Walker Industries Holdings Limited, for whom the Centre is named, contributed $1.2 million to the project – the largest corporate donation in Niagara College history.
After attending the ground-breaking ceremony just two years ago, Charles Sousa, Ontario’s Minister of Finance, returned to the campus for the ribbon-cutting ceremony to officially open the building. He was joined by several members of the Walker family and other dignitaries, who all spent time touring the facility and getting to know the students, faculty and researchers who work on projects that solve the research and development challenges of local small- and medium-sized businesses.
“Ontario’s dynamic manufacturing sector is a key component of our diverse economy. The Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre is a shining example of a company that has taken advantage of home grown talent to drive success, while providing custom work for businesses throughout the region. These investments are among the many significant measures we’ve taken to help the sector grow and compete as we build and nurture the workforce of tomorrow.”
— Charles Sousa
Minister of Finance
“By supporting the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, students in the Niagara Region will have access to modern learning spaces and equipment that will help them develop the skills they’ll need for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”
— Deb Matthews
Minister of Advanced Education and Skills Development
“It’s an exciting day for Niagara College as we formally recognize how the province of Ontario’s investment and the donation from the Walker Family has made it possible to provide manufacturers with increased access to leading-edge facilities, equipment, technical expertise, training and services.”
— Dan Patterson
Niagara College President
“The applied research partnerships with the College allow companies access to researcher expertise, state-of-the-art facilities, technology and equipment. At the same time, it creates opportunities for students to get real-world experience working on innovative projects that have a measurable impact on a business’ productivity.”
— Marc Nantel
Niagara College’s Associate Vice President of Research & Innovation
The Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre, located at the Welland Campus of Niagara College, specializes in engineering design, 3D digital scanning technology, lean manufacturing processes and additive manufacturing. Research teams work with small- and medium-sized manufacturers to bring ideas to life from concept through to the development of working prototypes.
The facility offers 15,000 square-feet for innovation: the ground floor includes specialized labs with 3D printers, scanners and other state-of-the-art equipment; office space for student and staff scientists; flexible lab space utilized by industry partners as incubation space; and space for ncTakeOff – the College’s entrepreneurship hub. The second floor houses the R&I offices and its digital media and web solutions team, along with meeting and conference space.
The Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre is one of two of NC’s Technology Access Centres (TACS) – the other being the Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre. TACs are specialized applied research and development centres affiliated with Canadian colleges or cégeps and help Canadian businesses – especially SMEs – advance their products, processes and services by: conducting applied research and offering specialized technical services and objective advice and providing training related to new types of equipment and processes.
Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division provides real-world solutions for business, key industry sectors, and the community through applied research and knowledge transfer activities. Teams of expert faculty, students and recent graduates conduct projects that deliver innovative solutions in advanced manufacturing, agriculture and the environment, food and beverage innovation, and commercialization solutions, including digital media and business solutions.
Walker Industries is a fifth-generation family business with its roots in Niagara, and facilities across Canada and the U.S. It is comprised of a diversified group of companies, including aggregates and road building, emulsions and waste management businesses. The company’s head office is in Niagara, as well as several of its operating facilities.
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