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New program to Accelerate research and development growth

By Marcia Porter

A national internship program for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows that connects companies and organizations with research expertise at Canadian universities was launched this month in St. John’s.

“Accelerate is about connecting our university research expertise with our community, so it’s a perfect fit for Memorial,” said Dr. Chris Loomis, vice-president (academic) pro tem. at a news conference on Feb 17. “It creates wonderful opportunities for our graduate students, who gain employment experience, and the chance to apply put their knowledge and skills to work.”

The provincial department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development has contributed $650,000 to Accelerate, a program managed by MITACS Inc. The national research network brings university researchers and companies together on collaborative projects.

“Newfoundland and Labrador’s research institutions and private sector enterprises are engaged in innovative, ground-breaking work,” said Shawn Skinner, minister of Innovation Trade and Rural Development. “To support sustained activity, the provincial government is working with its partners to provide students with access to opportunities where they can acquire greater experience and training.”

Under the Accelerate program a wide variety of research projects are eligible for funding, including manufacturing, technical innovation, social sciences, information technology, ocean technologies and much more. Though officially launched this month, Memorial has been involved with Accelerate on a pilot basis since 2005.

Research projects have included internships focused, for example, on ocean technology, robotics for the mining industry, and the North Atlantic fishery, just to mention a few. Some upcoming Accelerate internships focus on modelling climate change on the Lower Churchill, researching public attitudes about managing the coyote population, and looking at the impact of participatory ergonomics on the health and safety of plant workers.

“The Accelerate program will benefit a significant number of graduate students in the province,” said Dr. Arvind Gupta, scientific director and CEO of MITACS. “The program will help turn the innovators of today into the job creators of tomorrow.”