Industrial engineering interns to solve health system challenges

Health Innovation Hub drives largest-ever Mitacs health authority grant

Halifax, NS — Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub and Mitacs are partnering on a $1.4 million grant to embed 42 of Dalhousie University’s top industrial engineering interns and two post-doctoral fellows within the provincial health care system to solve some of our biggest health care problems.

The grant includes $740,000 from Mitacs, a national non-profit that brings innovation within reach for organizations of all sizes and across all sectors by providing access to highly skilled talent, a deep network of research experts, and co-investment in research and development. Nova Scotia Health is contributing $660,000 towards the project.

“IMPROVE Research Network is the largest project Mitacs has ever undertaken with a hospital or health authority in Canada. The five-year project will result in more effective and efficient health care services that improve the quality of care received by Nova Scotians,” said Health and Wellness Minister Michelle Thompson. “Now is the time to invest in long-term research to innovate health care delivery in Nova Scotia and train the next generation of health care engineers and industrial researchers.

These highly trained specialists, under the guidance of some of Canada’s leading academic experts in operational efficiency, will design and implement innovative processes, tools, and technologies. These innovations will enable Nova Scotians to receive better care with the process and system improvements developed through this project, ensuring the right resources are utilized at the right time.

The IMPROVE Research Network builds on an internship program established by Dalhousie industrial engineering researcher Dr. Peter Vanberkel that has seen numerous Dalhousie graduate students make valuable contributions to efficiency at Nova Scotia Health.

With dedicated funding from Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub and Mitacs, Dr. Vanberkel and his students will expand their work to directly benefit patients across the province through state-of-art research and innovative care processes that can be replicated and commercialized across Canada and the world. These successes will enhance Nova Scotia Health and Dalhousie University’s ability to attract, train, and retain skilled talent.

“The Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub is partnering with leading researchers and innovators to rapidly implement and scale initiatives that enhance access to care and health outcomes for Nova Scotians,” said Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy, Vice President, Research, Innovation and Discovery and Chief Nurse Executive. “The IMPROVE Research Network project will bring the brightest scientists and learners into our system to further our work in transforming health care.”

Mitacs Chief Executive Officer Dr. John Hepburn said Nova Scotia is leading the way when it comes to health care transformation. “By connecting the Nova Scotia Health Innovation Hub with highly skilled talent, industrial engineering expertise, and research funding, Mitacs is making it possible for health care facilities across the province to tackle waitlist backlogs, streamline patient flow, and explore new models for primary care.

“Through this partnership, Nova Scotia will continue to be a leader in health care transformation, create game-changing, system-wide solutions, and deliver better care for Nova Scotians,” Dr. Hepburn said.

Quick facts:

The IMPROVE Research Project has seven themes, each building on previous research and industrial engineering studies performed at Nova Scotia Health:

  • Seamless integration with Emergency Medical Services to ensure the safe, efficient, and cost-effective flow of patients
  • Alleviating the waitlist backlog created by COVID-19
  • Redesigning hospital units to improve patient flow
  • Improving workforce planning and scheduling to support staff working in their areas of expertise
  • Developing innovative models of primary care delivery and integration across Nova Scotia that reduce physician wait times
  • Developing methods to use economies of scale to improve efficiency, save money, and improve access
  • Dedicating Nova Scotia Health resources and interns to support research and implementation


Brian Wong, Minister, Advanced Education

“When we provide university students with more research opportunities, we’re sending them a clear message: we’re letting them know Nova Scotia needs them and we want them to build a life and career here. This grant for highly skilled industrial engineering internships will accelerate economic growth, and improve health care for all Nova Scotians.”

Dr. Alice Aiken, Vice President Research and Innovation at Dalhousie University

“Dalhousie’s longstanding partnership with Nova Scotia Health creates a powerful synergy with substantial impact on the health and wellbeing of our community and beyond. With support from Mitacs and Nova Scotia Health, our student researchers will gain valuable applied learning experiences and in turn they will make significant contributions to improving the efficiency of health care in our province.”

About the Health Innovation Hub

The Health Innovation Hub is leading innovation and research within the health care system to deliver high-impact solutions for patients and providers. Through strategic partnerships with clinical champions, industry, health care foundations, governments and academic partners, the Health Innovation Hub is transforming health care through the best available evidence and innovative solutions. It’s also a catalyst that is fostering an innovative mindset and approach to bring about positive system change. For more information, visit

About Dalhousie University

Dalhousie University combines high-impact research, meaningful teaching and a deep sense of social responsibility that inspires our diverse community to make a difference here in Nova Scotia, across Canada and around the world. Our 13 faculties expand understanding through teaching excellence and a drive for discovery that results in more than $210 -million in external research funding each year. As Atlantic Canada’s leading research-intensive university and a member of the U15 group of Canadian universities, our research and innovation strength supports world-leading researchers dedicated to driving our positive impact on society. Learn more at

About Mitacs

Mitacs empowers Canadian innovation through effective partnerships that deliver solutions to the world’s most pressing problems. Mitacs assists organizations in reaching their goals, funds cutting-edge innovation, and creates job opportunities for students and postdocs. A not-for-profit organization, Mitacs is funded by the Government of Canada, the Government of Alberta, the Government of British Columbia, Research Manitoba, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Ontario, Innovation PEI, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan, and the Government of Yukon. Learn more at