Adapted from original story by Madison Smith, communications specialist, International Division
Research & Innovation has been quietly, but effectively going global. Through a collaborative partnership between the R&I division and Global Education and Partnerships – International department, Niagara College (NC) delivers critical training for the development and execution of unique applied research models in other countries.
Two members of the Research & Innovation team at NC were invited to participate in the Conference of the Americas on International Education (CAIE), held virtually from October 19 to 22. Ana Cristina Vega-Lugo, PhD, scientific manager of R&I’s Canadian Food & Wine Institute (CFWI) Innovation Centre, was invited to speak, while Lyndon Ashton, centre manager at the CFWI Innovation Centre, helped with guiding strategic planning through interactive training workshops.
This initiative is part of the Pacific Alliance (PA) program, a global development investment managed by Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) that focuses on sustainable development and skills for employment in Latin America. NC was awarded three contracts under the PA program in 2018, funded by Global Affairs Canada.
“Niagara College has a unique approach to applied research focused on collaboration and high levels of client, learner and expert engagement,” shared Vega-Lugo. “This adopts many private sector principles into public service delivery that I spoke to the group about. We have been successful in this way, and my hope is that our participants walked away better understanding the value of this approach and are motivated to find ways to incorporate learnings into their own institutional settings.”
“The applied research model at Niagara College fosters and enables collaboration through strategic partnership in the ecosystem to stimulate sustainable growth of the economy,”
~ Ana Cristina Vega-Lugo, PhD, scientific manager, CFWI Innovation Centre
After six years in a row of being ranked as a top 10 Canadian Research college and as recently as 2019, attaining the No. 1 spot, NC has recognized expertise in the development and growth of applied research centres in the post-secondary environment. In addition to showcasing NC’s model, Vega-Lugo highlighted what is possible through combined efforts from Niagara, Colleges and Institutes Canada (CiCan) and Global Affairs Canada, to provide training and support for the creation and implementation of Applied Research Centres for Latin America partners as a means to advance their own innovation agendas.
“The applied research model at Niagara College fosters and enables collaboration through strategic partnership in the ecosystem to stimulate sustainable growth of the economy,” explained Vega-Lugo. “Niagara College, in collaboration with CICan and Global Affairs Canada was able to provide training, equipment, and on-going support to Latin American countries to implement Centres of Applied Research for the first time. In this collaboration we supported five countries, seven institutes and 40 leaders that were actively involved.
“Being a Latin American-Canadian Scientist, it has been fulfilling to deliver training and support to implement centres of applied research following a collaborative business approach for the first time,” shared Vega-Lugo. “As part of the team, I helped delivered some of the training particular to business development and industry engagement in collaboration with the other departments.”
Ashton also took part in guiding Pacific Alliance colleagues through methods and approaches to establish applied research and innovation programs and centres in their institute through a comprehensive set of interactive, online training workshops. In addition, he supported the strategic planning process and was responsible for recognizing all the training participants with their successful completion of the program earlier this year.
“We are fortunate to live, work, and play in a country that has focused efforts for decades on building capacity in basic and applied research through our post-secondary educational frameworks,” shared Ashton. “Particularly in the last 10 to 15 years there has been a significant push at federal and provincial levels to increase this capability in applied research supports aimed directly at boosting domestic and global competitiveness among our small- and medium-sized businesses.
“We are now in a position, having learned from our mistakes and our successes, to be able to share our approach with the world. This training is significant because it has the potential to fast-track our international colleagues along the same continuum we are travelling, and assist in avoiding some of the pitfalls, while benefiting from proven concepts to employ customized research and innovation programs in their own communities and institutions.”
“With respect to research and innovation, this can be seen through sharing of best practices and learnings focused on increasing capabilities and capacities for post-secondary applied research centres to collaborate effectively with target local industries in need of commercialization and training supports,”
~ Lyndon Ashton, centre manager, CFWI Innovation Centre
Ashton explained that knowledge exchange and capacity building are at the heart of NC’s approach to research and innovation, so, it only makes sense that they extend this belief to their work in the international arena. “In our line of work, the target audiences for this support are industry partners, students, and staff – fulfilling our economic, workforce, and talent development mandates.
“In this case, our audience is more akin to a ‘train-the-trainer’ approach where we are helping build knowledge capacity with our institutional colleagues from across the globe.”
As a professional economic developer, the initiative spoke to Ashton on a very deep level. “I’m always looking for ways that my ongoing learning and leadership experiences can be leveraged to assist others in ways that benefit our communities in the pursuit of opportunity and accessibility to improved socio-economic and workforce development tools and success,” noted Ashton. “With respect to research and innovation, this can be seen through sharing of best practices and learnings focused on increasing capabilities and capacities for post-secondary applied research centres to collaborate effectively with target local industries in need of commercialization and training supports.”
As Canada’s leading global college, Niagara College has successfully completed more than 100 capacity building and training projects in more than 25 countries over the past 20 years, including Barbados, Bhutan, Chile, Colombia, Grenada, Jamaica, Malawi, Mexico, Saint Lucia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Vietnam. For more information on Global Education and Partnerships and how to get involved, visit ncglobal.ca.