Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

Research, innovation and funding are all tied together

By Dr. Larry Rosia, president and CEO

Canada is fortunate to have many highly regarded post-secondary institutions. The quality of our universities, colleges and polytechnics is among the best in the world.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the variety of research currently underway across the country at these institutions. For example, Canada’s universities are involved in incredible research initiatives, answering questions people have been asking for years and opening doors to new possibilities and ways of thinking. The downside, however, is that such research does not always translate into commercial applications.

That is where institutions like Saskatchewan Polytechnic come in. One of our key differentiators is a focus on applied research.

Applied research is different than the “pure” or “basic” research that occurs at universities. As the term implies, applied research is used to solve tangible challenges encountered by businesses and industry.

Here are three real-world examples of applied research at work at Sask Polytech:

  • Kasiel Solutions Inc. is working with Sask Polytech’s Digital Integration Centre of Excellence (DICE) to expand the capabilities and markets of its personal safety device called ORA.  ORA was originally designed for use by senior citizens, and can be worn as jewelry and programmed to call a customized list of contacts, transmitting a location via cellphone if an emergency occurs. It also has practical applications for those who often work alone, such as taxi drivers.
  • High-flow nozzles required by Create Café and Wave of the Future 3D to create the world’s first 3D-printed camper were developed and produced through an applied research project with two Sask Polytech Faculty Members. Named The Wave, the camper was printed in one piece. It is 13 feet long, weighs 600 pounds, and is expected to have a 100-year life expectancy.
  • Biktrix is a company that produces electric bicycles—but not the kind you may be used to seeing. A Biktrix bike gives users the flexibility of riding 200 kilometres on a charge as a pedal assist bike or switching to off-road mode to ride it as a powerful dirt bike. Sask Polytech is working with the company to design, prototype and test the various parts that must work in concert with each other.

In addition to the fact that all three companies are involved in applied research projects with Sask Polytech, they share another similarity. Each company has accessed or is accessing funding from the federal government to help spur innovation.

This is an important point. Support from government—federally or provincially—and/or businesses, is necessary to bring innovation forward. Which is why the federal government’s recent announcement that it will invest $140 million over five years in the College and Community Innovation Program (CCIP) is so significant. CCIP is the only federal research program supporting the entire college sector, including polytechnics.

Funding will help businesses that, with support of their partner polytechnics and colleges, translate ideas and knowledge into products and goods, increasing product-market fit, and accelerating time-to-market to gain a competitive edge. Through applied research projects, students will gain valuable innovation skills, and be ready to contribute to their future employers upon graduation.

The CCIP investment, part of the 2018 federal budget (#YourBudget2018), will increase the program size by 53 per cent over five years, which is a significant step in eventually doubling the program. That, in turn, is expected to boost innovation across Canada, including Saskatchewan.

I am pleased by the federal government’s commitment to CCIP. Students and Faculty will benefit from the applied research projects that will result, and companies will benefit as another mechanism will exist to solve challenges or to turn ideas into commercial products.

Everything Sask Polytech does is based on industry demand and participation. Sask Polytech’s emphasis on applied research is critical to maximizing both student and employer success. Through a collaborative applied research approach, we help companies adapt to technological advancements, respond to the changing needs of their sector, and contribute to creating a robust economy.

Published March 2018.