Kelowna Capital News: Province talks cash investment in tech sector

The Government of British Columbia is investing $6 million for the next generation of talent in tech research and business to support the recently announced #BCTECH strategy.

The not-for-profit organization Mitacs will use the funding to bring students together with industry and business, giving students the opportunity to do research on real-world projects in a range of sectors, including technology, health, business and engineering.

“Our $6-million investment will help Mitacs to support trainees as they develop business and research skills in real life projects,” said Advanced Education Minister Andrew Wilkinson. “In partnership with businesses, government and universities, the projects undertaken by Mitacs support B.C.’s Tech Strategy and our skilled and talented entrepreneurs to commercialize research.”

At an event today in Kelowna, Wilkinson got a first-hand look at a partnership between students from the University of British Columbia Okanagan and industry partners Helios Global Technologies. Through the support of Mitacs funding, the partnership is researching energy-absorbing materials in helmets with the aim of reducing concussion severity from impacts during sports. If successful, the resulting liner material will be used by industrial partners to develop a prototype helmet that may have the capacity to reduce the incidence of concussions.

“Financial support from the provincial government is helping students like Jonathan Smirl get the skills he needs to develop talent while leveraging his research for commercialization,” said Alejandro Adem, CEO of Mitacs. “In B.C., we are fortunate to have a highly qualified pool of talent that is poised to have significant impact on our technology industry. Today’s investment highlights the importance of creating training and research opportunities to ensure that these young innovators can easily transition into the job market.”

Since 2004, the B.C. government has provided over $29 million to Mitacs, an organization that works with government, industry and research universities to support industrial and social innovation.

“We are very pleased to be partnered with Mitacs in our program to improve head protection in sport,” said Martin Cronin, CEO of Helios Global Technologies. “Our collaborative innovation is seeking to make a real impact on the crisis of concussion and traumatic brain injury through the use of advanced materials. The Accelerate program has enabled us, as an SME, to access world-leading expertise in the academic community to speed our development path.”

Over the past 16 years, Mitacs has supported more than 2,800 research internships, trained more than 7,000 student and postdoc career-skills participants, and supported more than 470 international research collaborations in B.C.

“My internship has been very beneficial to my training as a postdoctoral fellow, “said Smirl, a Mitacs Accelerate intern.  “It’s enabled me to expand the research I performed during my PhD into the clinical realm, and has exposed me to an industrial partner that is taking my findings and producing real-world applications to help reduce the risk of suffering from sports-related concussions.”