COLLABORATION

Collaborations for tomorrow: How Canada is investing in its own future

SOURCE: Zia Syed/Unsplash
The Canadian government is pouring millions into research collaborations to future-proof industries.

Universities are under greater pressure today to fix the so-called skills gap crisis plaguing industries everywhere, against a backdrop of uncertainty over the future world of work.

According to some key studies on the matter, at least 85 percent of jobs in 2030 don’t even exist today, presenting a major dilemma to learning institutions: how do you prepare students for such an uncertain future?

It’s a dilemma that continues to confound experts everywhere. And despite the best efforts of educators, keeping pace with innovations in industry is not something they can do alone. It’s only through working collaboratively with businesses are they able to understand the challenges facing industries and how to tailor their educational offering to meet these demands.

Fostering and growing such collaborations, however, requires more than the will to do so–it requires funding.

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In Canada, the government has been pouring millions of dollars into research collaborations between colleges and entrepreneurs through the College and Community Innovation (CCI) Program, one of the largest funding vehicles for applied research at the nation’s learning institutions.

Launched in 2008, the CCI Program has today invested more than CA$553 million in 3,158 projects at post-secondary institutions across Canada. The investment helps recipients at colleges, cégeps and polytechnics partner forge key collaborations with local employers to fuel research and create the products and services on which tomorrow’s industries will be built.

The program is essentially Canada’s investment into its own future. Using collaborations to bridge the gap between academia and industry, the government is creating a new platform where ideas are turned into innovations that help businesses grow.

“Our government is committed to returning science and research to their rightful place,” Science and Sport Minister Kirsty Duncan said.

“Through these projects, colleges, cégeps and polytechnics will be making a real difference in the lives of Canadians in their communities.”

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Last month, the government committed CA$73 million to the program. It also confirmed Georgian College would receive a CA$2 million grant over the next five years to improve manufacturers’ competitiveness using smart technologies like 3D printing, automation and robotics. The collaboration will see students work on over 100 projects with local SMEs in the region, helping them take advantage of these technologies.

Last week, Niagara College became the latest recipient of CCI funding.

According to a press release, the college will also receive CA$2 million to help the manufacturing sector keep pace with technological advancements. In addition to that, the funding will also be used to procure equipment for researchers looking into agricultural factors that impact the production of cannabis.

“The recipients at Niagara College are building strong partnerships with local companies and industries so that businesses can take advantage of the latest innovations,” said Minister of Seniors Filomena Tassi when announcing the funding.

“At the same time, these partnerships are ensuring young Canadians get the on-the-ground skills needed to succeed in the economy of tomorrow. This is all part of our government’s work to strengthen the relationship between science and research and our economy and society.”

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Niagara College President Dr Dan Patterson thanked the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) for the funds injection.

“Our regional collaborative innovation model continues to achieve great success, providing industry partners access to advanced technologies, services and expertise, and has had a strong impact on manufacturers in the Niagara region,” he said.

The NSERC leads the CCI Program in collaboration with the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Funding support for infrastructure is provided by the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

This investment is part of Canada’s Science Vision and the government’s commitment of more than CA$10 billion to science and research. 

The following is a complete list of program recipients for the year.