30 March 2011

George Brown College awarded NSERC ARTI funding

George Brown College has been awarded NSERC funding under the Applied Research Tools and Instruments Grants program. $150000 has been awarded to Winnie Chiu, of the Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts to advance the CHCA Culinary Innovation Institute food research program. Professor Leo Salemi of the Centre for Construction and Engineering Technology has been awarded $85000 for equipment for his green energy innovations: the “Vertical Axis Wind Turbine: From Concept to Commercialization.”

29 March 2011

Applied research and the goals of education

Lat Friday I attended a very interesting and informative event: Brain Power - Science Meets Media. The event was sponsored by NSERC and organized by Dr Sylvain Moreno, lead scientist at Rotman Research Institute. George Brown College collaborated with Dr Moreno on the development of MusiQKids: our Game Design faculty and students worked on the prototype for this innovative product. The focus of Brain Power was on the application of brain science to education, and the use of innovative media to increase educational development. It was a fascinating look into the mind and how leading scientists are working toward building better educational systems through brain science application. Also presenting at the event was Dr Tom Chau, with whom GBC faculty (and CCET Innovation Coordinator) Jamie McIntyre collaborated several years ago on the development of a microelectronic-enabled pen designed to give feedback on a child's ability to grip and so use the pen. Projects like these show the value of articulating complementary expertise between universities and colleges. The application of brain research to education as a theme supports the judicious allocation of resources into our education system in order to maximize effectiveness - a worthy goal. As attendee John Godfrey, head of the Toronto French School put it: "The goal of education is to make people privately happy and publicly useful."

25 March 2011

More on the Multiplier Effect

As per recent posts on the multiplier effect, an entire workforce with innovation literacy puts complementary skills to work on common innovation issues. Students develop innovation skills  through applied research project work as linked to workforce skills and education. The articulation of workforce skills development and innovation literacy is made in the OECD report on Workforce Skills and Innovation referenced here in earlier posts (this report is a must-read for anyone engaged in education and innovation). The Globe and Mail today published the Report on Campus Research 2011, which includes many good stories on applied research at Canadian colleges, and basic research from our universities. The online version has a few other stories, including an interview I did in "How Canada can get more R&D bang for its buck." I refer to the multiplier effect of using granting council funding for the development of HQSP to more broadly spur the diffusion of innovation. The point here is that we need STEM and nonSTEM working together. We can expand the idea of the multiplier effect - which I've previously used this to refer to graduate and undergraduate students with innovation literacy working together for improved productivity - to include the idea of adding value to work teams via multidisciplinary collaborative problem solving. This point is alluded to in Budget 2011, where funding for both NSERC and SSHRC can work together to promote the college research chairs through a mixture of business and technical skill-sets oriented to applied research problem solving.

24 March 2011

Innovation, entrepreneurship and future-proofing Canadian productivity

I've just returned from the ACCC Applied Research Symposium, which featured excellent discussions, dialog and debate on the state of college applied research, our collaborative efforts at building our capacity, and how we can work together - and with other actors in the Canadian innovation system - to ensure growth in Canadian productivity. This is the third year I've attended the symposium, and I am very impressed with how we've come together. Innovation support continues to evolve across the college sector.

Panelists and presenters gave delegates a good overview of policy needs as well as practical measures that will build system capacity and let us show our strengths in supporting business innovation. The Symposium was nicely foregrounded against the Budget backdrop, which recognizes the key role colleges play in supporting the diffusion of innovation across the country. As the highlights in my last post show, the recognition achieved in the Budget is a strong signal of the applied research advantage offered by colleges and polytechnics. As I've noted earlier, our advantage is our ability to integrate and link workforce education and innovation literacy. The ACCC and Polytechnics Canada press releases show the value proposition we offer to Canadian innovation.

The ACCC Symposium featured speakers from NSERC, SSHRC and CFI, all of whom spoke about the crucial support these granting councils give to the college applied research sector. The Innovation Enhancement Program (formerly CCIP) administered by NSERC on behalf of the Tri-Council is a key vehicle for developing the applied research capacity in Canada. The CFI's new College Industry Innovation Program, launched last December, is helping us to collectively modernize the Canadian college system while building industry innovation support linked closely with education. SSHRC is a key vehicle for linking applied research and business innovation with downstream social and economic productivity improvement. Innovation is a social act, and it is the human sciences that enable us to bridge technical disciplines with business and entrepreneurship--and to develop "user-oriented" participatory innovation with wide applicability.

The Budget shows we all have a role in ensuring that Canada remains competitive and productivity increases. Key here is the development of innovation and entrepreneurship skills - people-centred innovation and the balancing of STEM and non-STEM skills and attributes essential to building a healthy and robust innovation economy in Canada. More on this in the days and weeks to come: the development of an entire workforce with innovation literacy requires an "and" approach - not a zero-sum this-or-that approach, but rather this and that--complementary research capacity working to build complementary skill-sets to future-proof Canadian productivity.

22 March 2011

Budget 2011 has strong support for applied research, complementarity

Budget 2011 includes many measures that will strengthen Canada's capacity to compete by leveraging the college and polytechnic applied research layer of the Canadian innovation system. I'll post details and analysis later, but for now here is a highlight:
  • Strong focus on investments in education and R&D, following leading OECD indicators
  • $80M in new funding for IRAP to link businesses with colleges
  • $37M each year ongoing for the Tri-Council
  • $10M for Indirect Costs
  • Most significantly: Supporting 30 new Industrial Research Chairs at colleges with $3 million in 2011–12 and $5 million a year on a permanent basis starting in 2012–13.
  • Allocating $12 million over five years, starting in 2011–12, through the Idea to Innovation program to support joint college-university commercialization projects.
  • Good support for international applied research through a Canada-India Research Centre of Excellence, linked to an international education strategy
  • Digital Economy strategy supports, including for business innovation and content creation

16 March 2011

"no one is as smart as everyone": crowdsourcing and virtual research clusters

Here is a good article that looks at crowdsourcing with a keen discussion on its benefits and limitations. An open source approach to IP generation and innovation generally is clearly the model for building innovation systems such as what I've proposed in the discussion about a virtual or distributed research cluster, using the precepts of open innovation. But the point made in this article about balancing crowdsourcing with the encouragement of individuals is very trenchant. This illustrates the principle of innovation literacy at all levels of the workforce, what we call the multiplier effect. Conspicuous contribution in open innovation systems is the new normal for the innovation economy.

15 March 2011

ORION Summit to promote Open Innovation

Mark your calendar for the annual ORION Summit, Innovation Needs a Backbone, being held at the MaRS Centre on 18-19 April 2011. This annual event convenes "distinguished Canadian and global leaders and innovators in science, research, education and information technology to discuss and showcase new and innovative technologies that are transforming the way we conduct research, collaborate, teach and learn." George Brown College President Anne Sado, who is also the Chair of the ORION Board of Directors, is giving the welcome address.

I am convening a panel discussion on "Colleges & Applied Research: Key to Innovation Success in Ontario." Panelists include:
  • John Breakey, CEO, Unis Lumin; Chair, Industry Advisory Committee, Colleges Ontario Network for Industry Innovation
  • Darren Lawless, Dean, Sheridan Applied Research
  • Ken Ono, Vice President, NexJ Systems
  • Dan Munro, Senior Research Associate, Conference Board of Canada
Each will speak to their experiences with the start-up nature of college applied research, success factors and industry engagement, and the role of engaging students and mobilizing our institutions for a future workforce enabled by innovation literacy. We'll end with a discussion about virtual research clusters, such as can be enabled by ORION, that would let us address industry needs where and when needed through advanced collaboration and communication technologies. A virtual R&D cluster would enable distributed work teams to collaboratively address R&D needs emerging from basic research labs for market entry, as well as addressing the applied research needs of industry. Such a portal is a point made in George Brown College's submission to the R&D Panel, wherein we advocate for an articulated innovation system with an "any point of contact" approach to industry innovation support. This is a logical extension of what CONII does, but would take it one step further and leverage the capabilities of the ORION network and offer tools and protocols for triaging industry requests and mechanisms for fostering cooperation and collaboration.

Creating virtual "regions of knowledge" and crafting the Canadian innovation system as an open innovation network will have positive downstream productivity effects. The ORION backbone is a key enabler of this future, a point made very well in ORION CEO Darin Graham's talk to the Greater Toronto Marketing Alliance last September.

13 March 2011

Soft Landings and International Applied Research

I traveled recently to Brazil as part of George Brown College's international education outreach. While there, I met with the research offices and faculty of three institutions with whom we are developing international education partnerships. Our core mandate of giving students applied research experience as a vital component of their education fits the Brazilian context very well. The development of innovation literacy is a global core competency for international economic and social development.

In 2004 Brazil enacted the Law of Innovation, an explicit attempt by the government of Brazil to foster business innovation and academic and industry partnerships. I was struck by the parallels with Brazil and Canada - each are encouraging academic-industry partnerships as mechanisms to foster productivity improvement and the diffusion of innovation across their national economies. Brazil's Law of Innovation offers funding and political support for business innovation as linked to academic knowledge transfer and expertise deployment.

The parallels between Canada's and Brazil's fostering of business innovation makes international education an attractive proposition for Brazilian students wishing to learn in Canada about how we promote innovation literacy through industry applied research. Students acquire innovation literacy and entrepreneurship as a by-product of the development of the core skills relevant to their job-ready programs. We have an incredible opportunity to learn from and with our Brazilian counterparts in the applied research space. Canada has perhaps more history of academic-industry collaborative applied research - this is something international students will gain through study in Canada, particularly if this study includes the opportunity to work on industry applied research. These students can then apply what they learned to Brazilian social and economic development. Canadian polytechnics and colleges can learn from the emergent nature of the Brazilian economy, and add value to applied research through a deeper understanding of contexts such as exists in Brazil. The sheer magnitude of Brazil's population makes their markets very attractive for Canadian companies. It is the opportunities in the Brazilian market, contiguous with providing education that will foster innovation throughout international study, that are key for international economic cooperation and development.

One institution I visited was the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS), which is home to TechnoPUC - the technology transfer and business innovation arm of PUCRS. What impressed me most about TechnoPUCS - besides their impressive track record in a short time and the quality and number of partner firms working there - was their commitment to business innovation as a driver of social and economic productivity development. Most importantly, I learned about what they call the "soft landing" for companies seeking to enter Brazil's markets. This is an interesting and innovative approach to economic development, one that acknowledges the emergent role of Brazil's economy, and leverages the interests of academic institutions as oriented toward enabling international companies to understand and thus succeed in Brazil. There is a direct correlation between the idea of the soft landing in Brazil and conducting applied research using the principles of human-centred design. That is, both offer an avenue of applied research and social and economic development through keen understanding of local conditions that will enable success. This is a form of people-centred innovation laudable for its focus on the development and support of international companies and the development writ large of Brazil's economy, and so social infrastructure. This is a very forward-thinking approach that mobilizes the innovative capacity of academic institutions to support national productivity growth goals. It mirrors the instrumental approach we take to aiding business innovation through applied research here in Canada:
The key for college applied research is instrumentality, or the intentional application of applied research and innovation services to industry needs and contexts. This means that we are focused on addressing the industry problems faced by firms who are seeking to innovate and create new value in their sectors. We are an explicit instrument for addressing these industry problems, meaning that we respond to what is needed, fitting into the R&D continuum for latter stage innovation support.
CONII, and indeed the entire Ontario Network of Excellence, is similarly oriented to providing soft landings - and/or launchings - to Canadian companies. This concept is one that needs deployment on a national scale, something George Brown College and many others have pointed out in submissions to the R&D Review Panel.

The connection between national approaches to integrating business innovation within economic development activities and the connection to education, as noted above, are important here. Entire workforces equipped with innovation literacy are a main driver of national economies and a strong predictor of future productivity and innovation. The multiplier effect that college and polytechnic graduates provide to our own national workforce is a key component of the college and polytechnic advantage, and a signal opportunity for international students to learn from while studying here in Canada. The global innovation economy stands to benefit from this approach.

10 March 2011

George Brown College supports emergency preparedness with Tenet and Bridgepoint

Here is a link to a press release outlining an innovative project GBC Research is supporting. Tenet Computing and Bridgepoint Health are testing Tenet's Blackberry software for managing disasters. Our School of Emergency Management has been involved in supporting the project. The project has been funded through the NSERC College and Community Innovation Program and CONII.

08 March 2011

George Brown College Research Collaboration in the News

Here is a link to a recent press release on a project GBC Research is engaged in with Memotext. This is a great example of giving our students valuable innovation training while helping an industry partner address innovation challenges.

And while you're surfing the web, check out GBC's new website.  GBC Research will be revamping our own pages (content, not look and feel) over  the next while. Please feel free to send us your comments.