22 May 2007

George Brown building applied research capacity

The following appeared in this month's George Brown News. It contains information written by Joy McKinnon, Vice President International and Applied Research.

Ontario colleges, including George Brown, are opening applied research offices in direct response to faculty interest and a demand for research support. The applied research offices represent a recognition that the unique and close ties colleges have with industry offer excellent incubators for building and testing prototypes, demonstrating proof-of-principle projects, expanding market opportunities for companies, and carrying out laboratory testing or field studies that have application potential. This is an exciting opportunity to help build research capacity at George Brown.

In May 2006 the Association of Canadian Community Colleges published the “Applied Research at Canadian Colleges and Institutes” report, which concludes that colleges need to “develop education and training programs to meet employer needs with direct input from business, industry and community partner organizations. Colleges’ and institutes’ role in applied research, development and commercialization is reflective of this mandate and is an extension of institutions’ collaboration and partnerships with business, industry and community partners.”

Applied research is about solving problems and generating ideas for immediate and real-world applications, whether for the marketplace, or teaching and learning. The college setting, with our close connections to industry partners, offers a nimble environment for applied research. This means that the pace of innovation can swiftly move projects from mind to market.

GBC’s strategic plan for applied research focuses on encouraging research projects that develop new and enhanced products and processes, industrial research partnerships, and links into teaching and learning. This last point is a key facet of our work. We want to encourage and engage students in sponsored, applied research projects.

George Brown’s Office of Applied Research and Innovation was established to answer the call for a more focused strategy, as the College moves toward supporting applied research in general.

Our faculty are already engaged in many exciting applied research projects. My team’s role is to work with interested faculty in devising and conducting applied research projects. Faculty will be given the support and services needed to find and secure funding opportunities, work with industrial partners, involve students in research activities, and build our applied research community and capacity.

The Internet will be a key feature of our communication plan. We are using so-called web 2.0 technology to communicate, collaborate and share information. One example of this is a blog and a del.icio.us bookmarks page. Such social networking offers us key advantages, as we map and match expertise, for peer support and mentorship, and for industrial research partnerships.

George Brown is also part of Colleges Ontario Network for Industry Innovation (CONII) a consortium of eight Ontario Colleges offering a research cluster partnership model that is designed to strengthen point-of-access for industry. CONII is busy establishing a database of researchers and their expertise.

On 15 May, we’re hosting “Applied Research 101,” an event to introduce the services of the Office of Applied Research and Innovation to faculty. We’ll also showcase some of the innovative projects already underway at the College, such as our unique industrial and academic partnerships in engineering technology, the work investigating emotional intelligence, digital literacy learning modules for breast cancer survivors, the Compliments Culinary Centre, and the Institute without Boundaries.

No comments: