Kelowna Now: B.C. Government Gives Research a $6-Million Boost

The Government of British Columbia is investing $6 million in tech research and business as part of their #BCTECH strategy.

The province has partnered with Mitacs, a national, not-for-profit organization, which offers research and training programs to 60 universities across the country, one being UBC Okanagan.

The B.C. Government funding announcement was hosted by Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick at the UBCO Campus.

Andrew Wilkinson, Minister of Advanced Education, said with the grant, they hope to bridge the gap between graduate studies and industry.

“What we want to do is make sure our ideas that are formulated in our universities and colleges are actually connected with business opportunities that make employable in the marketplace,” he explained.

The funding financially supports graduate students and post-doctorates as they work with industry partners. While they’ve been partnered with Mitacs for 16 years, Monday marked a substantial enhancement in funding, because it’s been effective, said Wilkinson.

Before, they’ve done annual batches of funding, based on what they can give at the end of the year. Now, Wilkonson said it’s a core part of what they do.

Over the years, dozens of small tech companies, which have made use of the program, have ended up with products viable in the marketplace, especially in the software field, he said.

“It makes the most of our talent and our opportunities right here in B.C.,” he said.

Kelsey Bryk, a master’s student at UBC, is studying sub-concussive hits, or what can results from accumulated brain injuries.

They do research into football players who are repetitively hit over the course of a season and how that can affect their brain function.

“That kind of gives us an idea how hard they’re getting hit, how many times they’re getting hit over a game,” she explained.

At the end of the season they see if a number of hits correlates with decreased brain performance.

For those who have had full-fledegd concussions, they go through testing 72 hours,two weeks and a month later.

Bryk said as a group they meet every week, and the field is evolving drastically, with new articles coming out on the topic all the time.

“It’s been incredible the number of papers that have come out and how far research has advanced. It’s a really exciting field to be in these days,” she said.

For her, getting research is worth a lot.

“It helps so much. Not only do we get really neat equipment to run this stuff…it also allows us the chance to go out and collaborate with other labs at other universities,” said Bryk.

Also because of the funding, their research group get the opportunity to meet with people all over the world who are doing similar research and present findings.

In just two weeks they’re going to Netherlands to share information with other researchers.

“It helps you see a concussion from a wide variety of ways, instead of just what we see in our lab,” she said.

In the last 16 years, Mitacs has supported almost 500 international research collaborations in B.C , almost 3,000 research internships, trained more than 7,000 students.