News

College applied research is about building companies, not just technologies

August 28, 2013

On August 23, a small sampling of what Algonquin College's Applied Research department has to offer could be found at the college's second annual Summer Applied Research Day. More than 40 companies, innovators and student projects, including six supported by Ontario Centres of Excellence, were on display at Algonquin's main Woodroffe Campus.

When companies in Ottawa and across Eastern Ontario are looking to solve technical problems, there’s a good chance they’ll tap into the expertise and knowledge of students within Algonquin College’s Applied Research department.

On August 23, a small sampling of what the department has to offer could be found at the college’s second annual Summer Applied Research Day.

More than 40 companies, innovators and student projects, including six supported by Ontario Centres of Excellence OCE, were on display at Algonquin’s main Woodroffe Campus.

“This is the premier industry engagement event in this city,” said John Fielding, OCE’s Regional Director for Eastern and Northern Ontario. “It’s where the work of all the players in the collaborative innovation space – industry, academia and funding partners – can be seen in one place.”

One of the OCE successes on display at the event was a collaboration between EODC Inc., an Ottawa-based military hardware subcontractor, and Algonquin College that was the recipient of a $25,000 Technical Problem Solving award from OCE.

Two Algonquin College students were hired over the summer to help the company find efficiencies in its manufacturing processes. They created a new way to spray-coat washers that are used to attach armour to the outside of military vehicles. The improved process could lead to savings of nearly $100,000 once implemented.

According to Fielding, that’s the kind of commercially beneficial innovation and applied research that Algonquin has become famous for and what makes the Applied Research Days so special.

Although just the second summer event, the showcase events have been running every spring for 11 years with numbers of attendees and projects in a steady increase. In 2009 there were 32 exhibitors in the spring and now that event tops 80. When combined with the smaller summer and winter events, more than 150 Algonquin College-associated projects are being exposed to wider audiences including industry partners, angel investors, venture capitalists and the Ottawa community at large.

“We want the external community to see what’s going on here,” said Mark Hoddenbagh, the college’s Director, Applied Research and Innovation. “Colleges are not typically looked at with the same eyes (as universities) but when you look at what the students do from a hands-on perspective it blows that theory out of the water.”

But more than just a showcase for the college’s success, the event gives students real-world practice at pitching their product to the public and prospective investors.

“It’s about business and developing something that’s going to be sustainable with a good business case,” said Hoddenbagh. “We want (students) to understand that’s it isn’t just about building technologies, it’s about building companies because if you build something nobody wants, you haven’t built anything.”

OCE’s John Fielding agrees: “Algonquin College recognizes that, yes, you have to get students out the door but these collaborative projects lead to jobs as well,” he says. “A lot of the students that work on these projects go on to work for the companies longer term.”