Collège Boréal unveiled its 2020-2025 strategic plan on Monday, March 9 and officially inaugurated Research & Innovation Boréal (RIB), its new centre of applied research for innovation.
The centre is both a physical building and a commitment to fostering innovation and maintaining a focus on applied research projects.
The range of expertise offered by Research & Innovation Boréal reflects and strengthens the college’s traditional fields of expertise. Some of the projects currently underway are in areas such as agricultural sciences, new agri-food technologies, biodiversity protection and health in general.
Other projects deal with wider societal issues such as immigration, the Francophone community, Indigenous communities or early childhood education.
"Depending on the type of research, for example, if it's forestry or agriculture, we have a research centre where we have actual greenhouses in the back of our facility," said Collège Boréal president Daniel Giroux.
"We have an applied research centre with (RIB director) Robin (Craig) and her team who actually coordinate these things, so depending on the type of research we have the physical labs that we're actually doing the research in, but that person, that actual centre, the coordinator is the heart and soul; they're the ones applying for funding and doing the administrative stuff."
Collaboration and community partnerships are essential to RIB, but also essential to companies in Sudbury looking to find new and innovative ways of doing business.
"Let's say a company is trying to develop a new product or service, they can work with us; we do a lot of the innovation," said Giroux. "A lot of times, companies are so focused on the operational side and they can't focus on new technology and testing new methods. Our faculty and students have the time. The companies own the intellectual property, but we crash test it."
The research themes are always evolving. Focusing on priorities identified in collaboration with its partners, Research & Innovation Boréal responds to current and emerging challenges faced by clients in their development and modernization goals.
Applied research is also a valuable educational resource for the college. It provides opportunities to confront the challenges that businesses face in adapting programs to realities in the field while offering students with meaningful experiential learning opportunities, allowing them to collaborate directly with employers, and to develop skills and competencies to meet the needs of the future workplace.
"I think this forces our students to look at things as though 'here's a problem, we want to find the solution' so that question of innovation becomes critical," said Giroux. "We push them to look at the way things have been done and find if there's a better way. It's also a great package deal because now they're working with employers who could potentially be their future employers and it gives them a great lesson in salesmanship and how to sell an idea."
Research and Innovation Boréal contributes to the economic, social and cultural vitality and well-being of our communities through applied research collaborations with businesses, industries, and community organizations.
"I think one of the great things about Boréal is that obviously, our head office is here in Sudbury, but we have campuses all across the province so the potential for partners is just neverending," said RIB director Robin Craig.
"We needed a model that could be deployed across the province, so being able to give (RIB) a structure, having a home for it and a point of contact is very important for the college."