Inco Innovation Centre official opening

Representatives of Memorial University, the provincial and federal governments and Inco Ltd. officially opened the Inco Innovation Centre, a new $17.3 million research and innovation facility located on the university's St. John's campus on Tuesday, September 20, 2005.

The impressive-looking glass and steel edifice, built over the structure of a defunct student centre, represents the university's vigorous commitment to innovation in research and teaching; the new facility will also enhance Memorial's community-oriented focus.

Inco Ltd. committed $13 million towards the capital cost of the facility and $1 million annually for seven years for operations and maintenance. The federal government - through $13.1 million announced in 2003 under the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency's Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) and an additional $10 million announced Tuesday under the agency's Business Development Program - has invested over $23.1 million in support of ongoing research and development in the centre.

Containing some 9,000 square metres, the Inco Innovation Centre houses a wide range of research, business support and educational facilities on three floors. Research related to geosciences, hydrometallurgy and the Voisey's Bay mineral deposit will be concentrated on the first floor of the building. The first floor contains labs for health, safety and risk engineering, and process engineering and corrosion reduction. The centre was also designed to house a small scale model of a hydrometallurgical plant.

Memorial's president, Dr. Axel Meisen, stressed the significance of the bright new structure at the centre of the campus.

“The Inco Innovation Centre is a beautiful new facility, but the true value of the new building will come from the innovations that the centre will foster at Memorial,” he said.

“Thanks to the generosity and vision of Inco and the government of Canada, the Voisey's Bay deposit will not only provide the jobs and economic growth one would typically expect, but will also pay other critically important dividends for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador by making Memorial University a stronger, more research intensive and innovative institution.”

“Inco is extremely proud to be associated with Memorial," said Scott Hand, chairman and CEO of Inco Ltd. "Our Voisey's Bay project has demanded some of the most innovative partnerships this country has ever seen among private industry, government, aboriginal peoples and educational institutions like Memorial University. We believe that this centre will help to foster and promote the kind of partnerships and innovation that have made Voisey's Bay possible; not just technical innovation, but social, political and economic innovation as well."

"The $23.1 million in federal support for this project is a worthwhile investment on many levels," said Todd Russell, member of Parliament for Labrador on behalf of Joseph McGuire, minister of the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.

"It is worthwhile in terms of meeting the Government of Canada's commitment to the Voisey's Bay Development, increasing Memorial University's research and development capabilities, and maximizing economic benefits associated with the project. It also underscores the Government of Canada's commitment to increasing the amount of R&D funding available in Atlantic Canada."

“This is truly a centre for innovation, for invention, for creativity - and I can't think of a better place for this facility than Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Tom Hedderson, minister of education.

“This centre is good for industry leaders, researchers and students alike. As minister of education, I am particularly impressed with what it will offer the students. Indeed, I would hope that this centre will lure the best and brightest students from around the world to Memorial.”

Operations at the new facility will not be restricted to the mining industry. The Inco Innovation Centre will also play a role in social science research and knowledge transfer.

For example, the facility houses the offices of Dr. David Natcher, the Canada Research Chair in Aboriginal Studies, and the Centre for Aboriginal Research. In his research, Dr. Natcher is exploring alternative models of community development that take into account not only Labrador's commercial development versus the subsistence needs of its aboriginal peoples, but also other factors such as aboriginal health, nutritional status, educational achievement, access to desired resources, and aboriginal rights.

Some other units located in the Inco Innovation Centre include:

  • Offices of the Major Research Partnerships and the Core Research Equipment and Instrument Training Network (CREAIT)
  • Genesis Innovation Works, a development space for new enterprises; other units of the Genesis Group will also move to the building's third floor in 2006.
  • School of Graduate Studies
  • Office of Research

Tuesday’s opening ceremony was held in the lecture theatre, what some consider the hub of the Inco Innovation Centre. The large lecture theatre will enable people to come together for learning, business and community development initiatives.

The tiered set-up of the lecture theatre is fully equipped for videoconferencing and multimedia presentations and seats up to 300 people. A special room off the atrium and adjacent to the theatre - equipped with a kitchenette and cloak room - serves as a reception area for special events. In addition to regularly scheduled lectures, the theatre will be the site of seminars and colloquia on research ranging from the arts, humanities and social sciences to business and engineering.

Equally important will be the community events and special announcements that are a special part of Memorial's outward and community-oriented focus.

The Inco Innovation Centre was designed by John Hearn Architect Ltd. and built by Marco Services Ltd. over the structure of the former Thomson Student Centre (TSC). The TSC was officially opened May 25, 1968, by Lord Thomson of Fleet, chancellor of Memorial University from 1961 to 1968. It served as the focus of student life on the St. John's campus for over three decades. The TSC was built in the late 1960s when Memorial had a student population of about 5,000. When the student population soared to 16,000 in the late 1990s, a new centre for student life was placed high on the priority list. The Opportunity Fund campaign enabled the construction of the Smallwood Centre, a university centre that spans the Prince Philip Drive and accommodates a wide range of student-focused university and student union services, as well as a food court and other amenities serving the campus community.