BY JUSTIN FORD
Conestoga College’s applied research program is set to receive $2.3 million over the next five years from Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, (NSERC).
The applied research department applied for the grant so students could reap the benefits of new state-of-the-art labs. The money will also pay for existing ones. The grant will also help establish the new Centre for Smart Manufacturing at Conestoga.
“It’s important to have our students have state-of-the-art equipment,” said Barbara Fennessy, executive dean of entrepreneurship and applied research.
Conestoga’s applied research program is dedicated to finding enhanced solutions. The program investigates ways to get answers to problems more efficiently. It does so in health, data management, business and mechanical fields.
The $2.3 million Conestoga received is the maximum amount that NSERC grants to applied research. It is the first NSERC grant the college has received, and is an extremely prestigious one. This fiscal year, NSERC gave out $47.5 million to colleges across Canada.
“These grants support applied research and collaborations that facilitate commercialization, as well as technology transfer, adaptation and adoption of new technologies,” said Kasia Majewski, manager of external relations for NSERC. “Colleges can request up to $2.3 million for a five-year grant.”
It wasn’t just a matter of “ask and you shall receive.” Conestoga’s applied research program had to prove they had the capacity, resources, quality researchers, relevant programs and the knowledge to fully utilize the grant by being able to create opportunities to make their students more employable.
“The new Centre for Smart Manufacturing will also provide our students with additional opportunities to develop the advanced skills that today’s employers are seeking as they propel their businesses forward,” said Conestoga President John Tibbits in a press release.
According to the applied research department, the CSM will serve as a focal point for industry, faculty, students and academic institutions, as well as government and community partners. The CSM will focus on high-performance manufacturing and information and communication technology.
The grant won’t just help the applied research program financially, it will also help put Conestoga on the map. The facilities will be recognized and sought after as a destination for future engineering and trades students according to Fennessy.
The new facilities are almost complete. Conestoga received the grant back in April, and immediately began the planning and construction.
“We’ll be opening up the labs over the next few months,” Fennessy said.
In the new applied research facilities is a 3D printing lab. 3D printers can construct things as simple as a fork, to things as complex as tools for aerospace technology.
“To me, it’s not just a lab here, or a teacher there,” Fennessy said. “It’s about a way in which a centre in excellence enables us to bring many resources together, collaboratively.”
The financial aid will ultimately help Conestoga’s faculty get an inside look into the work-world, help make Conestoga competitive and recognized, maximize students’ employability and integrate all these aspects in a collaborative way to put Conestoga at the forefront of what’s going on in the industry today and in the future.
Fennessy said over 30 letters of support were sent to NSERC to positively reinforce that they deserved the $2.3-million grant. Letters were sent from government officials, the industry and other universities.
“This couldn’t have happened without the faculty team and the support of the administration,” Fennessy said.
Applied research is about finding enhanced solutions, and the department will undoubtedly be able to do so in a more efficient way with this grant.