Building a knowledge-based economy: Algoma University positions itself as a catalyst for community innovation.

Date01 April 2019
AuthorRoss, Ian

Pedro Antunes gets excited thinking about the possibilities to create a more knowledge-based economy in Sault Ste. Marie.

The associate biology professor at Algoma University marvels at the environmental research and science capacity both on the Queen Street campus and at two nearby government forestry labs.

"In a relatively small community, we have a huge number of people with post-secondary degrees in all areas of science and forestry," he said.

"From there it can stem into so many areas."

With an undergraduate population of about 1,000 students, Algoma University is still relatively young as an independent post-secondary institute, 10 years removed from its affiliation with Laurentian University in Sudbury.

As the executive lead of the university's research office, Antunes is promoting their on-campus talent and facilities by reaching out to local companies and organizations to help bring new products to market and open their laboratory doors to encourage more partnerships with the community.

In the last decade, Antunes explained, there's been a "cultural shift" at Algoma that's reflected in new building construction and the passage of a strategic plan in 2016, placing an emphasis on research and innovation.

Last December, the university announced the creation of an innovation space--the Experiential Learning Hub--where students, faculty and employers can collaborate on research projects.

"It's really tying all these parties together."

Antunes said they meet regularly with Lallemand (formerly BioForest Technologies), a natural pesticide company in the Sault that often hires Algoma graduates, to discuss their projects and needs.

"It's a great example of what we want to replicate."

Other discussions are taking place with Algoma Power and with an agricultural company that wants to test new products for potential commercialization.

"All these things are brewing but (until about a year ago) we didn't have a dedicated research office to think about these things," he said.

The research office is run out of the Convergence Centre, the university's new bioscience and technology building.

From there, they can manage projects, apply for external research funding, and have those conversations on how the university and its students can best serve the community through targeted research.

Antunes is plugged into the Future Sault Ste. Marie visioning exercise and is paying close attention to large natural resource projects in Northern Ontario, such as...

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