01 December 2008

Polytechnics Canada Research Showcase a Success

The Third Annual Polytechnics Canada Science and Technology Showcase was held last Friday at Sheridan. The theme of this year's conference was "Creating and Maintaining Sustainable Environments". Presentations from all seven Polytechnics outlined important work in the green economy, and student poster presentations showcased innovations in curricula. GBC students in the School of Design won an award for their poster on Road Ecology. The Proceedings are available online.

Common themes from all speakers included capacity development for sustainable development, and innovation literacy - fostering an innovation mindset in our graduates to participate proactively in the emergence of the green economy. For example, where SAIT is working on innovative building envelopes as part of sustainable construction practices, their students gain valuable experience in working not just on emergent technologies and building practices, but in (re)thinking how we build in the first place.

Other common themes included customization - of power grids, landfills, homes and human interfaces, and how incremental innovation leads to the adaptation and adoption of new technologies and practices commensurate with the development of new ideas.

Bill Mantel, Director, Commercialization Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation gave a closing address on open innovation, and how Ontario is fostering an "innovation ecosystem." The ecology of innovation is an important concept that supports the notion of complementarity, and the role of college and polytechnic applied research has in the overall R&D continuum. The ecosystem metaphor is very apt, and we would do well to remember that a healthy ecosystem is determined by the overall health of its constituent parts. Mantel spoke about how we are moving in Ontario to a more market-focused innovation system where our students enter the workforce as "demanders of innovation." Creating these "demanders" is the purview of GBC's Research Commercialization and Innovation program. Innovation literacy is the cornerstone of this demand.

In times such as these with the economic downturn, many commentators are calling for spending on infrastructure as a way to stimulate economic growth while investing in the future. Similarly, we must invest in the "infrastructure of the mind," and create graduates from college and Polytechnic programs that promote a sustainable environment for applied research that supports environmental sustainability.

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