Innovation Monthly Newsletter
Ramped-up rowing, healing honey and other innovative R&D
"None of my inventions came by accident. I see a worthwhile need to be met and I make trial after trial until it comes. What it boils down to is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration."
While Thomas Edison first said this more than 100 years ago, it still holds true today.
So what is a person to do when they have that brilliant flash of inspiration? The Edison process of "trial after trial until it comes" is not just about having the time and resources to go through the many iterations that might be required; it is also about having the expertise to analyze the results and make adjustments. When the person has gone as far as possible on his or her own, it might be time to seek outside resources. Sometimes that search will lead to Fanshawe College's Centre for Research and Innovation (CRI).
Since its inception in 2005, CRI has been involved in over 300 research projects and worked with more than 200 companies, helping them to access funding, knowledge and person-power to test the waters and come up with ways to make things work. "I think we often come into play when a business has an idea and they need help to move it forward," says CRI's Alex Jaworiwsky. "It might be innovating a current product, introducing a process improvement or developing a back-end app to improve the end user experience – for small companies, the cost of research and development to try new things can be too financially risky. Nothing works perfectly the first time."
In addition to helping business, the research projects must provide meaningful hands-on learning experiences for students in various programs. "We are fortunate to have state-of-the-art infrastructure like our Centre for Applied Research and Innovation in Biotechnology (CARIB) and the Centre for Bioeconomy (CBE@FAN) so that students have front-line access to equipment and projects that they would see in their careers upon graduation," says Jaworiwsky. Projects range in scope—some operate in a fairly straightforward trajectory, with students working with one company over the course of one semester. Other projects may be more complicated, multi-year undertakings, involving faculty and students from more than one program.
Students and faculty from Fanshawe's School of Applied Science and Technology study the healing properties of honey as part of a project supported by the Centre for Research and Innovation.
The longer term projects are fairly diverse and run the gamut from agri-science to health care. A quick sampling: working with A&L Canada Laboratories (which provides testing services for everything from soil and water to compost and cannabis) to create an Organic Material Testing Robot; working with researchers to assess the healing properties of honey and whether it can be used for wound treatments, from burns and infections to diabetic ulcers and flesh-eating disease; working with HUDSON Boat Works to design and build a first-of-its-kind mechanical test stand capable of determining the precise stiffness of a boat, which is a key measure of performance in competitive rowing.
HUDSON Boat Works is one of the top three manufacturers in the world producing custom, handcrafted Olympic-class rowing shells. The company reports that the stand is used daily to test all new boats, repair boats and for some benchmarking. They refer to the stand as its “secret weapon” that provides a clear edge over its competitors. The company has no intention of commercializing it––although it could, because one unique feature of CRI projects is that, except in very specific circumstances, intellectual property is owned by the company, not Fanshawe College.
Externally funded research projects are administered centrally by CRI, which scopes out the project, matches the company with faculty experts, sets timelines for deliverables, applies for funding and manages the project to stay on schedule and on budget. A number of factors are considered, from the impact on the company to the value of the learning experience for students. "We are passionate about giving students ample opportunities to ensure they are entering the workforce with strong applied research skills," says Jaworiwsky.
Research projects also keep faculty engaged in their field and connected with external partners, she adds. "The R&D activities undertaken through CRI are one of the many ways Fanshawe College is connecting faculty, staff and students with business, industry and community partners to engage in innovative learning opportunities."
It's a win-win-win, and has resulted in some interesting collaborations over the years.
There are currently plans in place to create "Innovation Village", a physical space and central access point to a variety of Fanshawe resources. Among other things, it will make connecting with the Centre for Research and Innovation, the library, the Canadian Centre for Product Validation (CCPV), the Centre for Applied Research in Biotechnology (CARIB) and LEAP Junction entrepreneurial services easier for community and industry partners. Innovation Village is envisioned as "a place to disrupt the norm, push boundaries, collaborate and create… to realize potential, solve real problems and grow our economies". Edison would approve.
Doing your own R&D?