Innovation, collaboration key to our collective success

By Dr. Larry Rosia, president and CEO

Business leaders, educators and politicians like to point to innovation as the solution to today’s greatest challenges, from climate change to improving health care. But what they often fail to add is that innovation does not happen on its own.

Innovation requires collaboration. It’s one thing to have an idea, or even an invention. It’s quite another to bring them to reality.

How many great inventions are still sitting on the shelf because no one took the next step and figured out how to apply them to real-world problems?

Fortunately, innovation is part of Saskatchewan Polytechnic’s DNA. We have the facilities, equipment and applied research expertise to deliver solutions to actual problems for enterprises and organizations across a wide range of sectors. At the same time, we work collaboratively with companies to leverage innovation know-how—and involve students whenever possible. This focus on the needs of the innovator is a key feature of a polytechnic education.

Impactful innovation can occur as a result.

Collaboration is critical to the success of our new Digital Integration Centre of Excellence (DICE). DICE is helping industry partners solve a breadth of data challenges, including data integrity, transmission, analysis and storage.

For example, DICE researchers and agriculture technology company VeriGrain are collaborating to enhance the functionality of an app that will give grain producers and buyers better information on grain quality and quantity. The goal of the app is to help maximize profits and improve food quality.

In a separate project, DICE researchers have been collaborating with the International Minerals Innovation Institute (IMII), Nutrien and BHP on a prototype that uses a system similar to GPS technology to identify the positions of people and equipment in an underground mine, within 30 cm of their actual location. The use of such technology could dramatically improve underground mine safety.

On the environmental front, a project at our Hannin Creek Education and Applied Research Centre shows promise for improving soil in areas where tree growth is difficult, such as in Canada’s oilsands.

Collaborating with industry partners Reclaimit and Airterra, researchers in 2019 chose a sandy gravel pit close to the Hannin Creek Centre as the research site because it mimicked oilsands deposits. There, a total of 600 pine seedlings were arranged in blocks with experimental treatments consisting of different soil treatments.

Says David Halstead, Research Chair of the School of Natural Resources and Built Environment: “After three years, we couldn’t believe the extent of the growth on some of the plots. The soil was showing high biodiversity. Trees were growing well, with some even sporting open pine cones.”

Expanding Saskatchewan’s economy through innovation is a central to the Provincial Growth Plan. This is especially important in Saskatchewan’s key sectors, such as agriculture, and an important reason behind our new partnership with the AgTech Accelerator.

Our partnership with this venture-capital backed program to advance agriculture technology in Saskatchewan was a natural fit. Our applied research team has the expertise and facilities to help companies in this space become more productive and innovative, as they test and pursue new ideas and solutions. As well, we have talented faculty and student researchers and a vast network of connections in Canada’s technology and agriculture sectors to help drive innovation. When our students collaborate on these applied research projects, they gain the innovation skills that will continue to grow in demand.

Companies seeking to be innovative—and the truth is, innovation is the only way to remain competitive these days—must embrace collaboration and view Saskatchewan Polytechnic as an innovation enabler. As Henry Ford once said, “Coming together is the beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.”

Sask Polytech is in the innovation space. A space that is thriving because of collaboration.

Published December 2021