Global Minister in Kelowna to announce $6-million for research internships

The province’s advanced education minister was at UBC Okanagan in Kelowna Monday to talk up B.C.’s strategy for the tech industry and announce $6-million in funding for research internships.

Minister Andrew Wilkinson said that B.C. plans to give the money to a non-profit called Mitacs, which coordinates research internships and fellowships. The internships pair students and postdoctoral researchers with businesses and not-for-profit organizations.

The injection of funds is expected to allow Mitacs to fund additional internships.

“What our students do is they provide knowhow, they increase the [research and development] capacity of the company and at the same time they learn what it is to work in a company. A number of our students are then hired by the company or they go on themselves to become entrepreneurs,” says Mitacs CEO Alejandro Adem.

UBC Okanagan postdoctoral researcher Jonathan Smirl benefited from a Mitacs internship. He was on hand Monday to demonstrate the concussion research he is involved in. However, if it wasn’t for that opportunity, he might have left the Okanagan to seek out other opportunities.

“It has also let me stay in town where I have my family with my wife and my young child,” says Smirl. “[I’m] able to do research that I find fascinating and hopefully make meaningful impacts.”

The province believes the money spent on internships and fellowships now will create jobs in the future. However, this type of funding isn’t new – over the last 12 years the province has given more than $29-million to Mitacs alone.

“This is actually a substantial enhancement of the Mitacs program.,” says Wilkinson. “We’ve been at it for 16 years. It’s proven to be effective.”

By: Megan Turcato