16 November 2014

Polytechnics Canada Student Applied Research Showcase and the "How To" economy

The 11 members of Polytechnics Canada assembled at BCIT this past week to celebrate the Student Applied Research Showcase. The event is always a highlight, and this year was impressive as 11 leading students from across the country pitched their projects to a panel of judges. Each did an excellent job of articulating their research experience, but I think what was most impressive was when they were all called to the stage as a group to answer questions from the audience. When asked what they had gained from their experience on applied research, several spoke up about the application of skills and knowledge gained, the benefit of working for a real client, and how the experience prepared them well for the world of work and helped them get a job.

Earlier this year Polytechnics Canada CEO Nobina Robinson wrote about the "how to" economy in a Globe and Mail op-ed, in which she articulates the value of applied research as a unique way in which the knowledge economy is aided by the ability to translate knowledge directly to the needs of society. She writes: "In an economy with a growing demand for innovation talent in all sectors, we need to train people to know not just the “why” of knowledge, but the “how-to” of technical talent." Resilient economies are those that have the capacity to innovate and to add value to products and services. When students learn through our academic programs and work with industry partners on applied research projects – developing real products and services – they gain innovation literacy, key skills that amplify the technical skills they acquire in our programs. The multiplier effect of innovation skills was evident in all of the student presentations.

The Polytechnics Canada Student Applied Research Showcase is an excellent window into the world of applied research and the value it brings - to our partners, our education programs, and especially our students. Our economy is in good hands with people like those 11 who presented to the audience at BCIT, who is celebrating 50 years as an institution and 25 years of applied research. It was a fitting celebration, of BCIT, Polytechnics Canada, and the students, who very ably represented not just their home institutions, but our future ability to innovate.

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