Canadian colleges, institutes of technology, polytechnics, cégeps and university-colleges graduate learners with the advanced skills, problem solving abilities, and entrepreneurial instincts key to Canada's social and economic development for the 21st century.

Partnerships with local businesses and industries, economic development authorities, school boards, Canadian and overseas institutions, and community leaders amplify their ability to make a difference.

Partnerships are at the heart of how colleges deliver programs and services. Community representatives on college Boards of Governors and private sector employer representatives on program advisory committees ensure curriculum is continually updated to respond to the needs of industry. As the most accessible, and often the only postsecondary institution in the region, rural colleges are a focal point of community engagement and life-long learning.

Colleges foster the creation and renewal of the local knowledge base, providing a competitive advantage for business by developing a rich talent pool and an entrepreneurial culture. These institutions are leaders in applied research and technology transfer. They help businesses innovate through the adoption of new processes and products.

For three decades, colleges have partnered with developing countries to provide the advanced skills needed to grow businesses, while building the entrepreneurial capacity to drive global economic success and therefore expand markets for Canadian products. International partnerships also offer Canadian students learning experiences abroad and opportunities for international students to study in Canada. As the most trade dependent economy on the planet, international engagement is a necessary condition for Canada's continued prosperity.

Through a wide variety of partnerships, Canadian colleges, institutes of technology, polytechnics, university-colleges, and cégeps are positioned to contribute effectively to global sustainability.

In this age of increasing global competitiveness, the Canada Foundation for Innovation plays a vital role in helping businesses succeed. Not only does it fund the cutting-edge research infrastructure businesses tap into to help solve their problems, but it is also enabling thousands of students — trained on this equipment — to transfer their know-how to the private sector.

Working with top researchers in the world-class research facilities funded by the CFI, students acquire the skills they need to bring new ideas and innovative approaches to the workplace.

This is a winning combination for Canadian business. And universities and colleges are supporting it by building programs and centres that encourage entrepreneurship and cross-sector collaboration — a move that is helping bridge the gap between research and business.

By exposing today's students to cutting-edge technology and encouraging them to collaborate and develop their entrepreneurial skills, we are inspiring the next generation to become true 21st-century innovators.

Such 'door-opening' opportunities are often an overlooked benefit for smalland medium-sized firms when they hook up with community colleges. Colleges can serve as conduits to government funding sources, other government departments, agencies and Crown corporations.

"Community colleges with their focus on practical research or what I call 'small R&D' can have more of an impact on startups as well as small and medium size businesses because they can offer affordable, timely and flexible services," says Chris Beaver, vice-president, REGEN Energy in Toronto. "They offer short to medium term research while university based-research is more long-term."

Beaver speaks from actual experience thanks to the firm's decision to engage Centennial College as a third-party validator to confirm the performance of EnviroGrid its wireless, energysaving load-management tool. In 2006, before REGEN patented the IP and introduced EnviroGrid to a larger market, the Ontario Centre for Excellence (OCE) arranged a meeting between Centennial College's Energy Institute at the School of Engineering Technology and Applied Science and REGEN.

That led to a $95,000 OCE grant sponsored by the Ontario Power Authority, which enabled REGEN Energy to ask the college's Energy Institute to assess the EnviroGrid installations at a four-storey, 40,000-squarefoot electrically heated office building in Toronto. "That resulted in a report indicating that our system helped reduce peak demand and over all electrical consumption by 30 per cent," says Beaver. "The system is based on 'swarm logic' algorithms that decentralize decision making so that the system is constantly adjusting and levelling the use of energy without software or operators instead of the more traditional, static 'command and control' approach."

"The (AGRG) at the Nova Scotia Community College's Centre of Geographic Sciences in Middleton, Nova Scotia, provides us the framework within which we can work to attract government sponsorship,"

Since 2000, Gina Brown, director of Marketing & Communications for Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) estimates that it has received about $24 million in total revenue from its applied research activities including government grants, industry collaboration and earned income.

Over that period, its engagements have included various sectors including viticulture (grape cultivation) to help the province's budding wine industry map the temperatures within the Annapolis Valley to find the most suitable places to grow various types of grapes. Currently there are 11 wineries in the province.

Similarly, NSCC's Applied Geomatics Research Group has also helped Green Power Labs identify the best locations -- the places that enjoy the most sunshine throughout the year -- for placing solar panels. According to Brown, the method of payment from business partners depends on parameters of each individual project, the problems the partners need solved and the deliverables the college has to produce.

GeoNet Technologies Inc. has benefitted from NSCC's expertise. Established in 1994, it currently has 12 employees. The firm provides climate-change decision support software tools related to the effects rise and fall of sea levels on coastal erosion. The systems are linked into long-term planning models used by all three levels of government as well as firms in insurance and financial services sector.

The modelling software helps organizations dealing with sea levels and coastal regions to visualize the impact of climate change as well as the probability of such events. Currently the firm is active in Barbados and India. "The Applied Geomatics Research Group (AGRG) at the Nova Scotia Community College's Centre of Geographic Sciences in Middleton, Nova Scotia, provides us the framework within which we can work to attract government sponsorship," says Mike Pearson, the firm's director of research and commercialization in Summerside PEI. Mapping

If we look at Canada's research enterprise just over a decade ago, what was it like? Many labs were aging and equipment was outdated, researchers rarely ventured outside their fi eld of study and many bright minds were leaving the country seeking better opportunities.
But enter any one of Canada's colleges, universities or teaching hospitals today, and you will see a strikingly different environment — one with researchers working across disciplines and in collaboration with colleagues at home and abroad, equipped with cutting- edge infrastructure, and involved in remarkable research that only a few years ago would have been considered science fi ction.

This change did not happen spontaneously. According to a recent independent study by KPMG and a panel of internationally renowned experts, the creation and evolution of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has been a driving force in this change. In fact, the experts suggest the CFI has had a ''catalytic role'' in transforming Canada's research landscape, and — more than that — they see it as the most successful research funding organization of its kind in the world.

In an era when innovation and ingenuity are key to building a strong economy, this evaluation is a remarkable accomplishment for Canada.

The Government of Canada created the CFI in 1997 to fund the tools — the modern labs, equipment, databases — researchers need to conduct globally competitive research. Since then, successive governments have recognized the value of the CFI by entrusting it with more than $5.2 billion to invest in research infrastructure in 130 institutions across the country.

Because the CFI funds up to 40 percent of any given research infrastructure project, it facilitates unprecedented leveraging of support from governments, other research funding agencies and industry. The funding formula has given research institutions across Canada an incentive to engage with these other sectors and has helped them forge collaborations that would otherwise not be possible.

This made-in-Canada model has worked beyond expectation. The CFI is an independent corporation that develops programs in response to the needs of the research community as well as the priorities of the nation.

Free of political interference, its funding decisions are based on rigorous merit-review processes that allow only the best projects to succeed and ensures the most effective use of public money. Unlike more complicated funding mechanisms in other countries, the CFI has become an effi cient "one-stop shop" for federal research infrastructure funding.

Today, a country's economic prospects are closely linked to its research performance. And to be successful, its research must be directly relevant to its needs and national interests. But no single discipline can answer today's modern research challenges, such as climate change or disease pandemics. The CFI has encouraged the Canadian research community to become more collaborative across institutional, disciplinary and international boundaries — a shift that is now the norm.

But most importantly, ask any researcher in Canada about the signifi cance of the CFI to their work, and most will say it has allowed them to think more creatively and achieve outstanding results that are recognized internationally. With the best tools and facilities at their disposal, they have been able to aspire beyond their dreams. And Canada is stronger because of it.

It's not just spring in the air. It's energy. The economy is returning to growth; jobs are being created. Despite being hard hit by the recent economic crisis, Canada's universities remain centres of learning, discovery and the innovation needed to address the challenges we face as a country.

Universities educate more than 1.5 million students annually, employ 150,000 people, and perform one-third of Canada's R&D. As a $30 billion enterprise – larger than the pulp and paper or the oil and gas extraction industries – Canadian universities generate substantial economic impact in 80 communities across Canada. Moreover, a recent federal government study showed international students bring $6.5 billion to communities in which they study.

Universities provide more than ideas that generate new products, services and processes. They supply talent: graduates imbued with creativity and skills needed to adapt to a rapidly changing and dynamic global community. Two-thirds of PhD graduates and 95 percent of master's graduates work outside of academia, contributing directly to the productivity of all sectors.

As testament to the demand for university graduates more than 135,000 net new jobs for university graduates were created since September 2008. Over the same period, 770,000 jobs were lost for those without a university degree.

These are the people needed to turn today's great ideas into tomorrow's solutions. From the University of Guelph's Omega-3 egg to the Université du Québec à Chicoutimi's de-icing technology to sleep apnea products derived from University of Calgary research, Canadian universities have a profound impact on the daily lives of Canadians.

Such successes depend upon strong and productive partnerships. Whether it is in concert with government, businesses, not-for-profits, colleges, municipalities or partners abroad, strategic collaborations allow university innovations to enrich our society and lives.

Looking ahead, there is an unprecedented opportunity for Canada to demonstrate leadership as G8 and G20 leaders convene in Ontario in June to ensure the world emerges from the economic crisis. Canada's universities are active drivers of the innovation needed to bolster Canadian innovation and our leadership role in the world.

HEC Montréal's first example of academic research spun off into a separate company involved pathbreaking research based on gencol -- from the French, "Génération de Colonnes" or "Column Generation" or a branch of mathematics that can reduce the total possible outcomes from trillions to a more manageable several thousand examples. Such an approach helped speed up the development of number-crunching, problem-solving algorithms that enable schedulers to optimize their activities.

Jacques Desrosiers, an HEC professor and his research colleague, François Soumis at the École Polytechnique de Montréal focused their main research interests related to large-scale optimization into new tools for vehicle routing and crew scheduling in air, rail and urban transportation. Their research has become the backbone of modern software systems that can provide optimized scheduling of planes, pilots and passengers as well as public transit involving drivers and riders such as students and the disabled.

A spin-off company, Ad Opt Technologies Inc. helps airlines to schedule their planes and crews. According to Desrosiers, in the late 80s the firm agreed to licence the technology by paying HEC $35,000 a year for seven years after which the IP passed to the company. The fee amounted to a huge portion of the firm's yearly revenues. Today, most of the world's major airlines and cargo carriers now use the system. (In 2004, Ad Opt was acquired by Kronos Inc. for $68 million.)

Both the federal and Quebec governments have supported research at Gerad -- an umbrella research group including the four major Montreal-area research universities -- to the tune of close to $25 million over the past 20 years. In return, Desrosiers estimates that both levels of government recouped their investments, especially in the last five years from income tax revenues from about 400 employees at Ad Opt and GIRO not to mention the business taxes from the two companies.

Moreover, he also points out that the vast majority of the companies' revenues comes from foreign buyers -- overseas airlines and major cities such as Tokyo, Stockholm etc.

The pilot for the Centre for Commercialization of Research (CCR) was launched in Ottawa in 2008 as part of the Ontario Centres of Excellence. However, it will soon be expanding to other regions all across Canada. That's because CCR is financially supported by the federal government through its Networks of Centres of Excellence program.

"Our primary focus will be to support entrepreneurs and to identify their true needs," says Mario Thomas, Torontobased managing director, Centre for Commercialization of Research (OCE-CCR). "Our job is to 'de-risk' these start ups for potential investors."

"Many start-ups simply want money. But often there a few other steps involved before that happens. Through gap analysis, we can help them find the right answers so they will be better prepared to ask investors for money."

There is no cost to the program. However, before taking on the company as a client, an investment committee reviews each application and assesses the viability of the start up as well as the depth of its management and the strength of its business plan. And for those that qualify, the CCR team and its partners will then select the most appropriate resources and create a customized solution for the applicant.

"Under the new business plan, CCR will have a national mandate to create signifi cant outcomes," says Thomas. "Ottawa has allocated $15 million for five years to deal all sectors of innovation."

Rather than simply granting money to applicants, CCR will try to signifi cantly leverage its funds 5:1 by associating with the existing innovation ecosystem including commercial organizations as well as publicly funded groups. "Our goal is to create synergies between them, not duplicate what's already out there," says Thomas.

That network includes a growing web of partnerships with research, commercialization and business organizations, including the Accelerator Centre for Commercialization Excellence in Waterloo, Toronto's MaRS Innovation Centre, the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation, the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP), and IBM Canada's Centre for Research in Adaptive Systems.

Ultimately, CCR will assist start up to tap into the network of fi nancial "angels" if they are still not ready to deal with venture capital companies. CCR is not a venture capital fund. However, it will try to match up applicants with enough capital to get the concept off the ground.

CCR does not offer grants. But it does offer loans to qualifying companies in return for equity as well as softterm loans that must be repaid. Although CCR is a not-for-profit enterprise, Thomas expects that these arrangements will enable it to leverage its government funding and reduce its reliance on such grants to fulfill its mandate.

Established in early 2008, PlantForm Corp. is a biotechnology company that leverages new platform technology to produce vaccines and antibodies in tobacco plants more quickly and cheaply than by traditional processes. Currently under development is a generic version of the breast cancer drug Herceptin whose treatment price tag today is estimated to be $50,000.

"The technology that we have licensed from the University of Guelph is the key to having the product available by 2014", says Donald Stewart, the firm's president & CEO. "By using the green fermentation process within tobacco plants, we will be able to produce the drug at about 10 per cent of the cost now incurred in conventional pharmaceutical laboratories."

It is still early days in the process. Some of the technology has been patented and others are pending. PlantForm is currently operating in Guelph with about eight employees. When the product is ready for market, those numbers will rise closer to 60.

According to Stewart, the annual Herceptin sales currently total about $5 billion. He estimates that the generic version's annual sales could reach just under $1 billion.

The total estimated cost of the project is about $70 million. However, the largest part -- $45 million for drug trials -- will be borne by a major pharmaceutical partner.

Early seed money came from Ontario Centres for Excellence's Market Readiness Program as well as funds from the University of Guelph's long-standing partnership with OMAFRA (the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Affairs). As part of the IP (intellectual property) licencing agreement, the University received a six-figure payment for the legal fees related to applying for patent protection.

As well, the university will also receive other milestone payments as the start up attracts more venture capital as well as a stream of royalties based on the revenues from the eventual drug sales.

"Our research commercialization policy since March 2009 now states that the IP belongs to the researcher", says Steve De Brabandere, associate director, business development office. "They can choose what they want to do. There are some exceptions -- arrangements made before that date, the involvement of other partners such as OMAFRA."

"Researchers can discuss plans with the university's technology transfer office and have the staff look over the possibilities and options regarding the discovery's viability etc. If researchers wish to proceed and seek patent protection, introduction to other funding agencies, they can work with the development office and agree on terms if the university puts up the money to pay for the legal fees related to patent applications."

"Our research commercialization policy since March 2009 now states that the IP belongs to the researcher", says Steve De Brabandere, associate director, business development office. "They can choose what they want to do. There are some exceptions -- arrangements made before that date, the involvement of other partners such as OMAFRA."

"Researchers can discuss plans with the university's technology transfer office and have the staff look over the possibilities and options regarding the discovery's viability etc. If researchers wish to proceed and seek patent protection, introduction to other funding agencies, they can work with the development office and agree on terms if the university puts up the money to pay for the legal fees related to patent applications."

So far, the University of Guelph has not formally documented the financial and other business impact of its commercialized research. However, its most recent agri-food success stories include the development of the OAC Bayfield soybean variety. In the 1990s, it was the most popular soybean in Ontario accounting for as much as 20 per cent of the province's total soy acreage. Other notable discoveries have been the vaccine against shipping fever pneumonia in cattle and Dairy OH, an Omega-3 fatty acid enhanced version of fresh milk.

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