College plans $1.6-M research lab

Tuesday, December 7, 2004

College plans $1.6-M research lab
Red River centre for infrastructure a major milestone

By Martin Cash

Red River College is building the first-ever dedicated research laboratory at a Manitoba college, an indication of the college’s growing role in the technology commercialization process, school officials said yesterday.

The $1.6-million Centre for Applied Research in Sustainable Infrastructure (CARSI) at RRC will undertake applied research and testing of concrete and asphalt, advanced composite materials, large light frame wood structures and the building envelopes.

CARSI has grown out of a Canada Foundation for Innovation grant of $550,788 that was matched by the province. In addition to partnerships with other research institutions like the Sensing for Innovative Structures (ISIS) research centre at the University of Manitoba and the Composites Innovation Centre at Smartpark, CARSI also has private sector partners.

Most prominent is Homenko Builders which has developed pre-cast, pre-insulated wall panels that will be used in the construction of the 9,000-square-foot research laboratory. Some of CARSI’s research will include a study of the performance of those pre-cast pieces.

In addition to the CFI grant, it was announced recently that RRC has become one of only six Canadian colleges now eligible for Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) grants.

RRC’s new president, Jeff Zabudsky, who was appointed this summer, said the NSERC eligibility is an important milestone for the college.

“In the past, colleges really had no access to NSERC funds,” Zabudsky said. “But there is greater interest in opening the door to get faster, more innovative research into the market by developing more ideas into real businesses.”

Zabudsky characterizes the work that a college like RRC might do as “development” more than pure research.

Zabudsky said those kinds of linkages to the private sector ultimately help RRC grads become more employable and also help the college diversify its revenue base.

Another indication of RRC’s interests in doing more research and getting more connected to the private sector through technology commercialization was the appointment earlier this year of Ray Hoemsen as director of applied research and commercialization. It is a new position created for Hoemsen, who has worked in the technology commercialization field for many years.

Hoemsen said the college needed to develop a full research policy detailing ethics and integrity guidelines and must still co-apply with universities for NSERC grants. He said the college is also seeking to get similar status with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and Canadian Institutes for Health Research (CIHR).

© 2004 Winnipeg Free Press. All rights reserved