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REF NO.: 2

SUBJECT: Memorial University ‘bridging institutions’ emphasize position within N.L. innovation ecosystem

DATE: Sept. 19,2017

A pair of case studies by two accomplished researchers from the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs suggest that Memorial University makes unique and valuable contributions to Newfoundland and Labrador's innovation ecosystem.

The case studies were commissioned as part of Memorial’s Cold Ocean and Arctic, Science, Technology and Society (COASTS) initiative, to help better understand how Memorial supports provincial innovation, especially related to oceans and the North. The studies looked closely at C-CORE, Memorial’s separately incorporated research and development corporation, and the Marine Institute (MI).

The reports indicate that both organizations provide support to Newfoundland and Labrador’s innovation ecosystem beyond the research intensive “invention” phase, where universities tend to contribute. While both C-CORE and MI were recognized as vital assets to Newfoundland and Labrador's economy and research infrastructure, the reports suggest they achieve their successes in different ways.

Authors Drs. Peter Warrian and David Wolfe applied the concept of technology readiness levels, or TRLs, to understand where both organizations contribute to the process of innovation. Essentially, the TRL scale provides a nine-point scale for determining a product or process’s stage of development.

A significant challenge identified in Canadian innovation is the “innovation valley of death.” Essentially, universities and industry aren’t always able to meet each other across the scale, leading to slower development and sometimes even to the death of good ideas, inventions and projects. Generally, universities tend to operate in TRLs 1-3, which include basic discovery, conceptualization and proof of concept. Industry is more likely to focus on the far end of the spectrum, from prototyping to marketing. This is a critical problem, especially for small- and medium-sized firms.

Both MI and C-CORE play important but different roles in filling gaps in the province's innovation ecosystem. According to the reports, they both act as "bridging institutions," helping to connect the TRL stages across the range. MI has program areas and expertise that generally fall between TRL 4-6, ranging from validating technology in a lab to demonstrating it in a relevant context (such as with an industry partner). MI’s efforts are also often aimed at regulatory changes. C-CORE’s activities range from TRL 3-9, spanning all the way from experimental proof of concept to actually proving the system in an operational context. C-CORE is a straight commercialization play.

The reports identified a number of other factors that make C-CORE and MI unique. C-CORE is described as “a university-owned entity that acts more like a business-led research network.” It plays an important role in the provincial innovation ecosystem because “it is the one anchor of continuity in the face of decades of cycles of resource development and sways of government policy priorities.” MI’s deep and interactive relationship with local industry and with non-commercial partners was identified as a shining example of how collaboration, skills development and knowledge transfer can lead to better end results.

The reports also include suggestions to improve and extend the impact of both organizations. As Dr. Warrian, who also serves on Memorial’s Harris Centre’s advisory board said: “These studies demonstrate models and approaches that other Canadian universities would do well to emulate.

”The Harris Centre is presenting a Synergy Session featuring Dr. Warrian on Thursday, Sept. 21. For more information and to register, please see the Harris Centre website. To view the reports, please visit the Cold Ocean and Arctic, Science, Technology and Society website.

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For more information, please contact Cathy Newhook, communications advisor, Harris Centre, at 709-864-7918 or cathyn@mun.ca.

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