15 March 2010

Two stories from the George Brown College Kitchen

Here are a couple of good news stories from the George Brown College Chef School:

The first is from today's Globe and Mail, and showcases the Community Health Education through Food (CHEF) program. This program is one way the GBC Chef School is giving back to the community by working with our community partners to find ways to make nutritious and healthy food to the city's poor and homeless. Chefs and volunteers convene at the Chef School to learn how to make healthy meals from standard food bank items. It's a great story, and one more example of how George Brown College supports social innovation in Toronto.

The second story is about Mill Pond Cannery and Preserves. Our chefs and food scientists have been working with Mill Pond over the past year or so to help them develop their fruit butter products. In the interest of applied research I have tried several of these, and they are delicious! The good news here is that the fruit butters have been picked up by McEwan's (see below for a picture of the products on the shelf). This is a real mark of success for Mill Pond and their innovative products - congratulations!

12 March 2010

Canada's innovation deficit

An article in today's Globe and Mail outlines the well worn path of Canada's innovation deficit. Kevin Lynch calls for increased business investment in R&D, which as I've written about before is very low compared to our higher education R&D spending. His point about the need to focus on commercialization and to foster R&D in specific sectors resonates with the Science and Technology Strategy and Canada's need to get away from a "business as usual" approach to innovation and to support "Stronger research collaborations between business and publicly funded research." He points out that "Sweden and Finland have much to teach us. Consideration could be given to targeting a portion of new government R&D funding to research that helps Canada solve specific challenges." I also support his assertion that "A broader public dialogue is essential. We need to make the question “What would it take for Canada to be an innovative economy for the 21st century?” part of our public narrative – partly because our innovation deficit is a threat to our competitiveness and living standards, and partly because we can be a world leader in innovation. We should aspire to be a nation of innovators. We should rebrand Canada as technologically savvy, entrepreneurial and creative."

Lynch does not mention the complementary R&D role that colleges and polytechnics are increasingly playing in the national innovation system. But his call for a dialogue on the innovation economy reflects our focus on education that supports what we call innovation literacy - creativity, problem solving and entrepreneurial thinking that adds value to product and process development.

As I noted in my response to Budget 2010, the federal government is continuing its support of the applied research and experimental development aspect of the R&D continuum. GBC's press release outlines in more detail how Budget 2010 is supporting the commercialization side of things, which will foster greater social and economic productivity in the long term.

05 March 2010

Colleges, Polytechnics and Applied Research: Notes from Budget 2010

The Federal Government's Budget 2010, while modest, shows a fairly positive outlook for applied research.

Notably, the NSERC College and Community Innovation Program gets its budget doubled and is mentioned for its contribution to innovation and industrial competitiveness. An additional $15M per year is allocated to support its expansion, doubling the program to $30M annually. This is good news for those colleges (like GBC) that are well positioned to deliver on this program. The three granting councils also got a good boost; most notable is the “$5 million per year to foster closer research collaborations between academic institutions and the private sector through NSERC’s Strategy for Partnerships and Innovation.” The SPI was announced by NSERC President Suzanne Fortier at the Polytechnics Showcase last November

There are also good programs for fostering greater links to industry R&D partners. Infrastructure funding for education and research is also good to see. Colleges are listed as core R&D assets in the country – a good evolution in keeping with the direction of the S&T Policy.

The Polytechnics Canada press release on Budget 2010 contains more information on what this means for the applied research capacity that we represent.

04 March 2010

GBC Green Building Project Receives Funding

The George Brown College/Evergreen Brick Works Applied Research Green Innovation Lab Experience (ARGILE) has received $1M in funding from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation. Led by GBC faculty Christopher Timusk from the Centre for Construction and Engineering Technologies, this five year program of research will see students working with industry partners at the Evergreen Brick Works site. ARGILE will be a “Living Lab” dedicated to investigating Building Construction, Restoration, Energy Efficiency, Product Testing, and the Development of Innovative Environmental Building Solutions.

Cities are responsible for 75 per cent of all the energy we use and the greenhouse gases we emit, with buildings accounting for nearly 40 per cent of that. To achieve urban sustainability, new technologies must be developed to re-construct our cities. That is the goal of research being conducted by Dr. Christopher Timusk and a team of students at George Brown College. Using selected heritage buildings at the historic Don Valley Brick Works site in the heart of downtown Toronto, the team is developing cost-effective, sustainable, durable and healthy renovation and retrofit techniques aimed at making old buildings energy efficient. What they learn will help Ontario-based companies become world leaders in the construction of products and processes of the future – and Ontario cities leaders in urban sustainability.

Here's the MRI press release:
Ontario distributes $40 million under Research Excellence program: Following recent investments in research at the Universities of Guelph and Waterloo, the Ontario government announced Monday nearly $40 million under the Ontario Research Fund's Research Excellence program to be shared by researchers at Queen's, UWO, uOttawa, George Brown College, uToronto, and York U. The province is investing close to $69.5 million to support 21 projects and over 214 researchers across Ontario.

03 March 2010

Micro-Financing the Innovation Ecosystem

College/polytechnic applied research offers complementary R&D capacity to the Canadian innovation system. Funding programs such as the NSERC College and Community Innovation Program and the Colleges Ontario Network for Industry Innovation (CONII) are part of a public+private partnership funding model (P3RD) that support the innovation ecosystem.

We see our role as not only supporting SME innovation capacity, but also in preparing industry partners to move along the innovation chain. An ancillary effect of our applied R&D efforts is the graduation of our SME partners into more developed funding programs such as the Ontario Centres of Excellence.

A majority of our work involves Proof of Principle projects with short time horizons that cost $10-$20K. A member of the GBC Research Innovation Advisory Board  put it succinctly: We engage in micro-financing of applied R&D for Canadian SMEs.