New funding means more research, training opportunities for B.C. grad students


Vancouver, BC – May 10, 2011 – A $3.5-million grant announced today by Premier Christy Clark will generate jobs and promote innovation by creating new research opportunities in the province.

The grant – awarded to Mitacs, a Vancouver-based research network which creates and manages unique research and training programs – will enable B.C. graduate students and new PhDs to connect with businesses and apply their research to real-world challenges and attract top international undergraduate students to local universities.

“Research and innovation are key to economic growth in our province, and to providing jobs for B.C. families into the future,” Premier Clark said. “With this announcement, we are working with our partners to take great ideas from our university labs and turn them into excellent jobs, driving progress in every sector of our economy.”

The funding will create up to 300 new graduate internships through the Mitacs Accelerate program and 19 fellowships for recent PhD graduates through Mitacs Elevate, as well as foster better linkages between BC’s universities and some of the brightest international talent through the Globalink program.

Established in 1999, Mitacs is a not-for-profit research organization which partners with government, universities and industry to recruit, train and retain graduate students in B.C.

“Mitacs has far exceeded our expectations by connecting almost 1,000 graduate students with B.C. businesses and organizations to create innovative products and practices,” said Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation. “Today’s investment will help build the highly-educated workforce we need to be a leader in innovation and commercialization.”

Through the Mitacs Accelerate program, Aaron Phillips, a graduate student in experimental medicine at the University of British Columbia, is doing research to help commercialize a “smart” wheelchair for spinal cord injured people. Developed by SOC Robotics of North Vancouver, the chair takes the user’s blood pressure, heart rate and other feedback, combines it with information about the terrain, and provides extra help when needed.

“Support for this program is great for students, because we can put our research to use in the industries where we’ll find jobs after we graduate,” Phillips said.  “My work is helping people with spinal cord injuries or those who have had a stroke to actively engage in the community through smart-adaptive wheeling assistance that lets them be more active and independent.”

As a result of a unique partnership between the Chinese Education Council and BC’s universities, for the first time the Mitacs Globalink program is expecting up to 20 undergraduate students to come to B.C. from China this summer. This is in addition to 28 of the brightest students from India who are expected to begin arriving here later this month.

“When these international undergraduates get a taste of the research going on at our world-class universities, B.C. becomes top of mind for graduate school,” said Advanced Education Minister Naomi Yamamoto. “Usually, these students look at universities like Harvard, MIT or Oxford – but after interning here, 85 per cent of them say they’re considering B.C. instead.”

Today’s funding brings the Province’s investment in Mitacs to more than $14.1 million.

“Mitacs programs improve retention rates of our most highly educated students by a phenomenal 20 per cent, and have protected probably $225 million worth of government investment in education in B.C. alone,” said Brad Bennett, Chairman of the Mitacs board. “We thank the Province for continuing to invest in our work to make the most of B.C. talent and technology.”

The provincial funding announced today is expected to attract another $7 million from federal and industry partners. To date, government has invested $1.8 billion in research and innovation since 2001.