Selkirk College students and staff gather with industry partners at Trail-based MIDAS Fab Lab where much of the $2 million BUILD Innovation Enhancement grant project funding will be focused in the coming year. Photo submitted

Selkirk College awarded $2 million to support technology and innovation

‘Selkirk College will help advanced manufacturers improve productivity and competitiveness’


Selkirk College will help advanced manufacturers in the region improve productivity and competitiveness through applied research and innovation thanks to a $2 million BUILD Innovation Enhancement grant from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

As part of the council’s college and community innovation program, the funds received are part of an announcement by former Minister Kirsty Duncan of $57 million awarded to 77 recipients. The program develops highly skilled individuals, builds research knowledge and provides opportunities to share this expertise with local businesses. The program places particular focus on small and medium sized companies to improve processes and technologies.

Selkirk College is the only college in the country to secure $2 million in BUILD Innovation Enhancement funding for the second year in a row and one of only three colleges outside of Quebec to receive funding. In 2018, Selkirk was one of five outside of Quebec and the only college in BC to receive BUILD Innovation Enhancement funding to support innovation in the region’s forestry cluster.

“This truly is a remarkable opportunity and game changer for technology and innovation in the Kootenays,” says Dr. Terri MacDonald, Selkirk College’s director of applied research and innovation.

“Our industry partners committed an impressive $270,000 at the time of application, demonstrating tremendous support for our collaborative efforts. Most recently, the national research council invited our college to propose the establishment of the Selkirk Technology Access Centre in Advanced Manufacturing and Materials. We are one of 10 colleges in the country and the only college in BC invited to submit. If successful, we would be bringing another $1.75 million into the region to support technology and innovation.”

The advanced manufacturing research program will focus on large format 3D printing, additive and subtractive manufacturing, by-product utilization and rapid prototyping over the next five years. It will include more than 20 co-op student placements, 200 capstone and class projects, 40 course releases for faculty researchers, industry training and new course development, and $400,000 in specialized equipment.

“This research program directly links to our new digital fabrication and design program that is set to launch in Trail in fall 2020,” says Jason Taylor, advanced manufacturing lead researcher. “This research grant allows us to work alongside our industry partners to advance their research and development goals through access to faculty, students and specialized equipment.”

Equipment includes a six-axis robotic arm, five-axis CNC machines, and one of the largest 3D printers in Canada. If Selkirk’s proposal to the Canada Foundation for Innovation is funded in November, it will bring the value of the college’s advanced manufacturing research infrastructure to well over $1 million.

The majority of research will be conducted at the Kootenay Association for Science and Technology (KAST)’s MIDAS Fab Lab in Trail through a collaborative partnership that includes the sharing of college and MIDAS space, equipment and expertise.

“The KAST-Selkirk College collaborative partnership is allowing us to pool resources in ways that support a sustainable future for the MIDAS Fab Lab,” says Dr. Cam Whitehead, KAST’s executive director.

Selkirk College is collaborating with partners — including UBC-Okanagan, Lower Columbia Initiatives Corporation,and KAST in ways that will support hands-on learning for students and provide industry partners with access to specialized equipment and expertise.

Partnerships between Selkirk College and industry leaders like Teck and FortisBC have already proved successful and this multi-year funding will build on innovative work that is making a difference for the future.

“Teck Trail operations is pleased to support Selkirk College’s efforts to help build a competitive advanced manufacturing cluster in the region,” said Thompson Hickey, general manager, Teck Trail operations.

“This initiative is based on developing a focused cluster of innovation and technology adopters in the regional manufacturing sector that will enhance other economic development opportunities. At Teck, we have a long history of innovation and we are proud to further this heritage through the support of new community initiatives aimed at technological progress.”

“FortisBC is pleased to again be working with Selkirk College faculty and students— our last projects together resulted in two Clean Energy BC Awards in collaboration with Austin Engineering,” says Blair Weston, community and Indigenous relations manager with FortisBC. “For our current project, we’ll be collaborating with the College and I/O Design and Engineering to determine the benefits of applying emerging digital twin, virtual and augmented reality technologies to our Salmo substation expansion.”

Applied research and innovation has become a cornerstone of both learning and outcomes at Selkirk College in recent years. Through government and local industry support, the college continues to help lead actions that build a stronger economy in the region.

“Our new strategic plan includes a commitment to community development through collaborative, innovation-driven projects that address shared challenges and opportunities,” says Selkirk College president Angus Graeme. “Our college and region are emerging as provincial and national leaders in the area of applied research and innovation – something for all of us to be incredibly proud of.”

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