31 May 2010

Productivity, research, standard of living

I've been remiss in commenting on the recent announcement of the $190M Canada Excellence Research Chairs (CERC) Program, particularly in light of a couple of opinion pieces in the Globe and Mail. The first by Sumitra Rajagopalan ("When science gets political, long-term knowledge is lost") raises the question of why there were no women candidates in the pool of CERC researchers. However, she also laments the federal government's focus on applied research and the setting of national research objectives and priorities. This is flawed thinking. As I've noted many times before, Canada is first in the G8 (second in all of OECD) for Higher Education R&D (HERD) spending. We lag in Business Expenditures on R&D (BERD). Failure to reorient this imbalance will continue to skew our overall productivity. Jeffrey Simpson offers praise for the CERC program, but also points out that such a focus on research at the university level may be a detriment to teaching undergraduates.

The College focus on applied research sees undergraduate teaching and learning as core to our applied research mandate. That is, we integrate students in all of our applied research projects because it gives them innovation literacy - key problem solving skills relevant to their future jobs.

I was reminded of the importance of these issues when I read an editorial in today's Globe. "Wealthy, healthy and wise" points to the recent report by TD Economics that details the need for further post-secondary education spending in Canada as a key way to arrest falling productivity. The TD report is excellent; however, the Globe gets it wrong by focusing only on university education. Canada may be 11th in OECD university participation rates, but we are first in tertiary education when Colleges are included in the mix. We need to realize that a focus on complementarity for both research and education is necessary - where all facets of the PSE system are combined in a single, focused innovation system that links the provision of advanced education at the college and university level matched to both applied and fundamental research capabilities. Both inquiry based research and the support of industrial applied R&D needs are essential to resolving Canada's overall innovation and productivity malaise.

21 May 2010

GBC Research at OCE Discovery

The Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery conference was held this past week, bringing together industry and academic partners in the Ontario innovation system. MRI/MTCU Minister John Milloy gave the luncheon keynote address, and used the event to announce the website launch of the Ontario Network of Excellence. Many GBC faculty and students attended, including GBC graduate Sharon Booy, who did an excellent job representing the applied research product development of the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts. Sharon worked with GBC food scientists and chefs under the direction of Winnie Chiu and Moira Cockburn to develop recipes for N2 Ingredients. Her presentation was selected from the GBC student projects sponsored by the OCE Connections funding program.

Also in the news is a story about the CHCA work with Mill Pond and the development of fruit butters (as featured in this space previously).

17 May 2010

Polytechnics AGM focuses on social and economic productivity

The Polytechnics Canada AGM was held at Conestoga College last week, and featured speakers from government - including an opening keynote by Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear. His speech outlined the anticipated impacts of the Applied Research and Commercialization Initiative FedDev announced recently. Minister Goodyear's comments presaged the day's panel on Regional Economic Development, which featured a discussion about the culture change in Canada as we work collectively to enhance social and economic productivity through targeted applied research investments. An industry panel featuring John Keating (Comdev) and GBC partner Niall Wallace (Infonaut) echoed the value of connecting students to industry through applied research as having an overall positive effect on the industry partners and the students themselves. Of particular note was a comment on the need to broaden the definition of innovation, as we work across the country to link our highly qualified and skilled personnel into the industry sectors the polytechnics serve.

07 May 2010

First annual GBC Research Showcase a success

Applied Research and Innovation and Staff Development jointly hosted yesterday the first annual GBC Research Showcase yesterday. Over 70 faculty from across the academic divisions attended to hear presentations and view posters of scholarly and applied research activity. The day was a great success, highlighting the many innovative projects conducted over the past several years at the College, and making explicit the links between scholarship and the pursuit of advanced degrees and how this positively affects our students. A panel discussion in the afternoon made these connections very clear. Marlene Slopack (Centre for Construction and Engineering Technologies), Victor Wroblewski (Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts), Bruno Fullone (Centre for Business), Jamie McIntyre (Centre for Construction and Engineering Technologies), and Constantine Campaniaris (Centre for Fashion Management) discussed their own research, be this the pursuit of advanced degrees or applied research projects with their students, and how this has enhanced the connection between their own learning and their role as professors. They nicely echoed Michael Cooke's (VP Academic and Advancement) opening remarks about the necessary connections between scholarship, research, teaching and learning.

A keynote presentation was delivered by Winnie Chiu, Managing Director of the Compliments Culinary Centre, whose work has appeared often in this space, and Donna Carmichael, President of Mill Pond Cannery and Preserves Company Ltd, who we recently featured as a result of GBC's work in helping Mill Pond produce and take to market a line of (very delicious) fruit butters. The Mill Pond story is a great success story for GBC Research, as it is an example of our multidisciplinary approach to industry problem solving: faculty and students from the Chef School, Design and Business all had a hand in helping Mill Pond take their products to market.

A highlight of the day was a  "Dragon's Den" where five faculty pitched their innovative ideas in a competition for $2000 in seed financing to kick-start a research project. All five presented excellent ideas, judged by a panel of peers from the audience. The winner was “From Cooking School to Professional Kitchen: The Experience of the Female Chef” presented by Chef Debora Reid and Lauren Wilson. Congratulations Deborah and Lauren.

Another highlight was the presentation of achievement certificates to graduating students for their outstanding contribution to research at the college. All of these students have been involved in at least one research project. These students are from Graphic Design, Culinary Arts, Fitness and Lifestyle management, Fashion Studies, Nursing, Business and Architecture Studies. They have contributed significant time to research activities providing analysis, documentation, and mentoring to other students. They have demonstrated innovation literacy - problem solving and critical thinking skills - and exemplified team work. Congratulations to all of our students for their excellent work - we know that your applied research experience will give you an advantage in the marketplace.