Composites Innovation Centre gets support from research council

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Composites Innovation Centre gets support from research council

By Martin Cash

WINNIPEG’S Composites Innovation Centre will now have the resources of the National Research Council to draw on as it develops into a centre of excellence for research into composite materials.

The NRC signed a memorandum of understanding with the Composites Innovation Centre (CIC) providing another signal to the many government and industry leaders in attendance at the Smartpark event yesterday that development of an industry cluster around composites was an important undertaking.

“The NRC was delighted to be a part of the Composites Innovation Centre when it was first being formed and we are happy that it has reached this state of maturity,” said David Simpson, director general of the NRC’s Ottawa-based Institute for Aerospace Research who was in Winnipeg yesterday. “Cluster initiatives are a major part of the NRC’s methodology and we strongly support this one.”

The CIC has been active in cross-sectoral projects related to composites technology and its executive director, Sean McKay, is chairing a project in which the NRC and the Aerospace Industry Association of Canada are assessing competitive technologies.

“This cements our relationship with the NRC that we started at the end of last year,” McKay said. “It will make it easier to do work with the NRC.”

McKay asked NRC to become involved in a project to develop light-weight, low-cost parts that Winnipeg’s Boeing Canada Technologies is designing for the 7E7 Dreamliner passenger jet that is now in development.

Mark Ross, Boeing’s Winnipeg president and CIC chairman, said although the centre is working on an important piece of research that Boeing will be able to use, the centre’s mandate is to engage in projects that will be applicable to several different industries.

“Technology is crucial to compete in the global economy,” Ross said. “The CIC’s mandate is to spur economic growth through research in technology and to leverage capacity across the board to help Manitoba companies successfully compete in global economies.”

Ross said the NRC connection is more important to the CIC than it is to Boeing which already has many high level technology and research collaborations on a corporate level.

Doug Ruth, the dean of the faculty of engineering at the University of Manitoba said graduates of the faculty of engineering benefit from collaborative undertakings like the CIC/NRC arrangement.

“Any time there is more connection to the industrial community, that is a good thing for our students,” Ruth said.

About 85 per cent of the new hires in the engineering field in Manitoba are U of M grads and Ruth said interest in composites is gaining momentum.

“Composites are being used in everything from aircraft to sewer tanks,” Ruth said. “Virtually anything that is made with metal can be made with composites. It has better strength-to-weight features and there are important environmental issues as well.”

The CIC was financed with $2 million shared equally by the federal and provincial governments. In addition to the aerospace industry, composites are also used in making buses, and Winnipeg is the largest bus manufacturing centre in North America. Dow BioProducts also uses a form of composite in the manufacture of its Woodstalk product at its plant in Elie.

© 2004 Winnipeg Free Press. All rights reserved

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