Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic
Image Credit: Saskatchewan Polytechnic

DICE is helping industry gain a leading edge with data

Today’s business currency is data. But how does an enterprise use it to gain a competitive edge? Meet DICE — Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s Digital Integration Centre of Excellence.

DICE is Saskatchewan’s first Technology Access Centre (TAC) funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and Innovation Saskatchewan.

With its focus on data-driven applied research, DICE works collaboratively with various industry partners to help solve their data challenges — particularly those related to data integrity, data transmission, and data analysis and storage.

Developing partnerships to build solutions

Businesses, industries, and even non-profits go to DICE with a particular data issue or challenge. It can be as basic as to how to identify usable business statistics or as complex as using machine learning and artificial intelligence to ensure constant process optimization on a production line.

By partnering with DICE, organizations have access to exceptional computational facilities, faculty expertise, and talented student researchers, along with research and development funding and a vast network of connections. The DICE team of specialists and technologists are all experienced in providing digital solutions focused on data across a spectrum of industries. “If you have a business challenge you need assistance with, Saskatchewan Polytechnic is ready to help,” says Dr. Terry Peckham, Director and Research Chair at DICE.

DICE TAC expansion allows for greater reach

The industry spectrum that DICE serves recently got a little broader thanks to the 2020 DICE TAC expansion. Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s researchers will now be able to bring innovations to Canada’s agriculture and mining industries. Some exciting new projects include creating an app to help farmers and businesses get the most benefit out of Ag in Motion: Western Canada’s Farm Expo in Langham, SK. and Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock, ON, and developing sensor technology to keep mine workers safe and reduce mine tailings.

Whatever the resulting innovation from partnering with DICE, it’s the industry partner that gets to keep the intellectual property (IP). “Saskatchewan Polytech doesn’t retain any IP,” says Dr. Peckham. “We sign all the IP back to the organization, so they own it all.”

Industry partners Sophie Howe and Winston Blake share their insights on the value of DICE at Sask Polytech.

  • Sophie Howe: CEO & founder, Xesto (Toronto, ON)
  • Winston Blake: executive director, Restorative Action Program (Saskatoon, SK)

How did you get involved with the Digital Integration Centre of Excellence (DICE)?

Sophie Howe: I connected with DICE last summer through a Technology Access Centres (TACs) initiative. Xesto has long-standing collaborations in both applied and advanced research and we’re always seeking new collaborative partnerships. I searched for colleges with specific expertise in applied research in data and came across the DICE TAC at Saskatchewan Polytechnic.

Winston Blake: In 2018, we needed a new database system at the Restorative Action Program that increased our measurement and reporting capabilities. A partner recommended DICE. We quickly discovered that DICE is one of the industry’s best-kept secrets. Their ability to understand our needs and objectives has resulted in our organization developing a long-standing and beneficial relationship with DICE.

What value does DICE bring to industry partners?

Howe: Working with DICE provides us with partners who have deep industry expertise in data networking and management. DICE acts as an extension of our team, making sure to understand our challenges, then to present and integrate the best-suited solutions. They ensure throughout this process that we develop a strong knowledge of the applied research and are entirely confident in taking over.

Blake: Businesses are always better together. DICE’s ability to provide cost-effective, operational, and strategic capabilities in one location is an industry standard. Helping clients understand and make sense of their own needs and priorities related to their project is a welcome by-product offered by DICE. Having the support and expertise of DICE made our projects run smoother with better results.

Why is it important to collaborate with TACs such as DICE?

Howe: Startups in Canada have the unique opportunity to create applied research collaborations with TACs and to expand their capabilities well beyond their resources. These research collaborations are often underutilized in the startup space, and they can really level up a start-up without a significant financial investment. The projects are a strategic mechanism to provide partners with access to specialized knowledge while expanding their digital capabilities.

Blake: Collaborating with TACs such as DICE is essential and invaluable. They possess the knowledge and experience to navigate the technical, logistical, and privacy concerns related to sophisticated projects that involve multiple stakeholders and priorities. Our decision to work with DICE increased our measurement and reporting capabilities required by the corporation, facilitated continuous improvement in program delivery, and demonstrated the value-added benefits of our services to funders and sponsors.

To learn more visit saskpolytech.ca/dice.

This article was originally published by Mediaplanet Canada as part of the 2021 Canada’s Most Innovative Partnerships campaign with the National Post. The campaign showcases the impactful partnerships between academia, industry, agriculture, technology, government and non-profit organizations.