Niagara College is applauding a significant investment in research and innovation that was included in today’s provincial budget.
The Ontario government has committed to providing $20 million over three years for college-based applied research projects.
“As we’ve seen right here in Niagara, the applied research that colleges provide helps businesses to become more innovative, productive, and create new jobs,” said Niagara College president Dan Patterson.
Patterson noted that the Niagara region’s economy is made up largely of small and medium sized businesses, who face challenges in growth, productivity and efficiency, and don’t always have the resources, expertise or equipment required to increase their competitiveness.
“That’s where we come in – helping these companies through applied research projects is one of the major ways that we support economic growth in Niagara,” he said. “Today’s investment enhances our ability to work with these local companies to help them find innovative solutions and to bring new products and processes to market.”
“We are extremely pleased to see Ontario’s recognition of the key role college applied research plays in accelerating economic development in our province, through innovations that support business growth and create new jobs,” added Marc Nantel, Niagara College’s associate vice president, Research and Innovation. “This investment will allow colleges to continue the great work of helping businesses innovate.”
Colleges are increasingly playing a critical role in encouraging more small businesses to innovate. Each year, Ontario colleges work with more than 750 companies to pursue market-driven applied research activities and with about 80 organizations on projects which address provincial socioeconomic priorities.
Through its Research & Innovation division, Niagara College conducts research projects with industry partners through its Agriculture & Environment Innovation Centre, Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre, and Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. The division also offers support in the areas of digital media and web solutions and business and commercialization solutions.
In 2014-2015, Niagara College was involved in 168 applied research projects that involved 91 faculty and 1,847 students – who also benefit greatly from the real-world experience that these opportunities provide.
This spring, the College will officially open a new 15,000-square foot home for the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at the Welland Campus – a leading-edge facility that was built in part through a $4.2 million investment by the Province of Ontario. The specialized facility will house labs, equipment and student and faculty research teams that assist local manufacturers. The facility also drew the support of Niagara’s Walker family and its company, Walker Industries Holdings Limited, for whom the Centre is named. The Walkers contributed $1.2 million to the centre – the largest corporate donation in Niagara College’s history.
Other items in today’s budget that will strengthen college education include new measures to help low-income students access postsecondary education – including a measure that ensures that average tuition will be free for students with a family income of $50,000 or less, and that these students will have no provincial debt – and an increase in funding for aboriginal education.
Niagara College offers more than 100 diploma, bachelor degree and advanced level programs at campuses in Welland, Niagara-on-the-Lake, and Niagara Falls; as well as more than 600 credit, vocational and general interest Continuing Education 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. For more information visit niagaracollege.ca.
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Through its Research & Innovation division, Niagara College conducts research projects with industry partners through its Agriculture & Environment Innovation Centre, Canadian Food & Wine Institute Innovation Centre, and Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre. The division also offers support in the areas of digital media and web solutions and business and commercialization solutions. Recent projects and partnerships in Niagara include:
- MADD Virgin Drinks partnered with Niagara College to create a craft lager to add to its lineup of non-alcoholic drinks. The lager, which has twice won gold at the US Open Beer Championships, has been commercially released to more than 4,000 outlets across North America, and was a practical way to create new exports.
- Niagara College partnered with numerous Niagara SMEs to enhance their digital presence and increase their competitiveness, through a variety of e-business solutions, such as adding e-commerce, customer relationship management tools, website development, or enhancing responsiveness across mobile platforms.
Niagara College’s food and beverage team developed four new recipes for a Community Living social enterprise, in which clients with developmental disabilities are provided employment in their commercial kitchen. The Niagara College research team developed two new barbecue sauces and two salsas; created Nutrition Facts Tables (NFTs) that met Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulations; and provided on-site training for each of the new products, which are now being sold commercially.
- Niagara College partnered with Grain Growers of Ontario to develop a crop portal for growers. The cloud-based service uses yield data from growers to store, clean, grid and divide the fields into management zones. Using the management zones for planting enables increased efficiency and environmentally friendly growing practices.
- Niagara College partnered with Niagara Composites, a Welland-based company that designs and manufactures custom composite bows used in wire-twisting applications worldwide. The research team developed a 3D prototype bow clamp, which in early testing has shown its ability to reduce change-over time for replacement bows by at least 50 per cent. Based on that success, new projects are in the works with Niagara Composites and Niagara College.
- Niagara College partnered with Niagara-based Easily Moved Machines to design the world’s first 10-tonne aluminum gantry crane, in response to customer requests. The company, which already manufactures five-tonne aluminum gantry cranes, is now able to expand its product line, and is currently manufacturing its first 10-tonne crane for a client.