Research & Innovation: a worldly year in review

This past year saw both national and global praise for Niagara College’s Research & Innovation division.

Most recently, R&I was presented with the 2018 Gold Award of Excellence in Applied Research and Innovation from the World Federation of Colleges and Polytechnics (WFCP). Marc Nantel, PhD, associate vice-president, R&I, accepted the award at the WFCP World Congress in Melbourne, Australia in October.

The R&I division was in the national spotlight, winning a Silver Award of Excellence for Applied Research and Innovation from Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) – the highest level of the award granted to any Ontario college in this category – for its impact on industry, students, faculty and the applied research ecosystem of colleges across Canada. NC president Dan Patterson, PhD, accepted the award in April at CICan’s annual conference in Victoria, B.C.

In line with its streak of wins, the College earned the honour of being in the top 10 colleges in Canada for research funding for the fourth year in a row. In its national report “Top 50 Research Colleges,” Research Infosource Inc. announced the rank of eight for NC, based on total research funding numbers for 2017.

Some of that exciting research funding includes $94,000 in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) College and Community Innovation (CCI) Program for smart farming technology to advance the College’s precision agriculture strategies to help industry. The grant helped purchase a complement of unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and modern high-performance computing, along with an advanced rugged land robot (named RoamIO Jumbo) able to patrol vineyards and help farmers increase profitability or even save their crops from damaging weather.

As well, the College has been awarded more than $1.6 million in federal and provincial funding for state-of-the-art beverage research equipment for the Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, which will be housed within the new Marotta Family Innovation Complex, a 49,000-square-foot facility at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus set to open soon. Construction of the building was also made possible thanks to a donation from the Marotta family, and funding from the federal government’s Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) towards the College’s infrastructure.

The Marotta Innovation Complex will directly support applied research and world-class training specifically for the wine, beer, spirits and non-alcoholic beverage sectors in Niagara. Through the CFWI Innovation Centre’s Beverage Innovation Excellence research program, CFI funding will equip three distinct research labs. And, as NC helps SMEs innovate, students are provided with valuable real-world research opportunities.

Speaking of helping SMEs, the R&I division grew both in projects to help companies and in capacity as it added three more partners to the NC-led consortium of the Southern Ontario Network for Advanced Manufacturing Innovation (SONAMI). The network now includes: McMaster University, Mohawk College, Sheridan College, Fanshawe College, Conestoga College and Lambton College; all helping the advanced manufacturing sector innovate.

The R&I division has also seen national recognition this past year with its many invitations to Ottawa. In February, two research students were invited to participate in a national Parliament Hill Showcase, part of CICan’s Applied Research Symposium, while another student was featured in a video campaign by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI); the CFI also hosted a Parliament Hill Showcase unveiling the videos. In November, another research student took part in a CICan student applied research showcase.

Several NC researchers were also called upon to provide expert testimony to senate committees this past year. Researchers from the Agriculture & Environmental Technologies Innovation Centre provided expertise to a federal Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-food in September, and the CFWI Innovation Centre Manager made a presentation in November, regarding the food sector, to the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry.

Finally, and back by popular demand, the WTF (World Trivia Federation) belt stayed in the hands of the NC librarians. The team reclaimed the belt at the fifth annual R&I Trivia Night, which raised $2,300 for the NC United Way Campaign.