How industry/university partnerships work

While the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science was successful in the last round of NSERC grants, the faculty has been busy finding research dollars in the industrial sector. This funding is being used to help extend the faculty's research, teaching and training capacity; recently three new facilities were created as a result of engineering/industry partnerships.

However, as Memorial's dean of Engineering and Applied Science points out, partnerships with industry do not involved clear-cut transfers of money to the university. Ideally, industry involvement in university research builds on Memorial's existing strengths and contributes to new opportunities for industry.

"Before these initiatives were undertaken, we looked at how they were going to support our undergraduate and research programs," Dr. Rangaswamy Seshadri said of the new partnerships. "We also look at the community and see what is out there and whether or not there is an area where we could contribute...however, we are not just trying to service existing industries -- we want to create new expertise in areas where there may be none. When we take technology into the community, there is a certain kind of synergy that really works."

Here are some examples of this kind of synergy:

The faculty's most recent development, the Manufacturing Technology Centre, which officially opened last month, involves collaboration with the Alliance of Manufacturers and Exporters Newfoundland, and Cabot College in St. John's. The centre is funded through the Canada/Newfoundland Co-operation Agreement on Human Resource Development, and it will interact with the manufacturing sector in the province, stimulating research into product development, prototyping and problem solving in general.

The GIL-MUN Laboratory for Advanced Materials Processing in the S. J. Carew Building was created with assistance from Guigne International, a high-tech company located in Paradise. Company president Dr. Jacques Guigne said the laboratory will help create a local expertise in advanced materials, an important area of high-tech engineering. The GIL-MUN Lab will carry out research on advanced material synthesis, as well as containerless material processing assisted by acoustic levitation. To date research has been focused on processing ceramic-metal composites which have space-based applications.

With OIS Fisher Inc. of St. John's, the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science has developed a training, teaching and research capability in Non-Destructive Engineering (NDE). Research within the NDE facility is aimed at developing new and improved NDE techniques. Currently, NDE techniques are an important aspect of offshore petroleum technology, and the expertise holds promise for the export market.

The faculty has also put in place an industrial research chair in telecommunications engineering and information technology. The research position was created with NSERC funding, but also received considerable commitment from the telecommunications companies NewTel Communications and Nortel.

Dr. Seshadri believes that the future will hold even more opportunities for mutually beneficial partnerships. In addition to being a source of funding, these initiatives help the faculty focus on hone its research expertise. "What is unique for us, is that we have established these centres and facilities because there is a holistic match to what we are doing in the province," Dr. Seshadri said. "We have the faculty members here with expertise in these specific areas, and these centres are strengthening our research capability."