Canada’s largest research granting council has added Okanagan College’s name to the list of colleges eligible to receive and administer federal research funding.
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council has reviewed and accepted the college’s application to join the growing list of community colleges that will help propel Canada’s innovation agenda.
The decision followed an NSERC review of college policies and practices that pertain to research.
“This is extremely positive news that comes at an opportune time,” said Okanagan College president Jim Hamilton.
“Increasingly, colleges are being regarded as a key component in the innovation and commercialization initiatives in Canada.
“In the latest budget, for example, the federal government set aside funds specifically intended to spur college and community research initiatives and partnerships.”
Among the announcements in the June budget, for example, was allocation of 30 new Industrial Research Chairs at colleges ($3 million in 2011-12, and $5 million a year permanently beginning in 2012-13).
A further $12 million over five years was earmarked for an Idea to Innovation program that supports joint college-university commercialization projects.
“Okanagan College’s accreditation is welcome news,” said Kelowna-Lake Country MP Ron Cannan.
“Our government is investing in innovation, and we see colleges as vital contributors and partners to help us realize Canada’s potential on this front.”
While the NSERC accreditation will ensure the college is able to apply for those funds and others, Hamilton says it is important to realize that the research and innovation agenda has always been a part of what happens at Okanagan College.
“We have many professors, instructors and students who have been engaged in innovation and research, whether it is a biology professor who is working with a developer to ascertain the effects of a marina on a fish population, or business students who are helping companies or non-profit agencies find better ways to conduct business,” Hamilton said.
“There is more applied research that goes on at a college than most would imagine.
“The federal government is seeing the close connections that colleges such as ours have to industry and community, and is coming to recognize the opportunity to leverage that by fast-forwarding innovation.”
The funding opportunities won’t distract Okanagan College from its mission, added Hamilton.
“We have been, and always will be, primarily focused on education and training,” he said.
“Research funding will help create more learning opportunities for students, and will strengthen those ties between community and college and add further capacity for us to contribute to regional development.”