Algonquin will be able to use its physical resources and brain power to give small businesses a boost, thanks to $750,000 the federal government has given to the college.
Conservative cabinet minister John Baird was on campus last month to announce the funding.
“This initiative will allow smaller enterprises to work closely with colleges and universities, to meet their applied research and development goals, and will allow companies to develop new products in a cost effective way,” Baird said.
The funding was provided by the larger $15-million Applied Research and Commercialization Initiative, which is intended to create jobs by helping small businesses grow.
The infusion of cash will give more students like John McMullin, a third-year mechanical engineering student, an opportunity to assist in the creation of innovative products for small businesses in the Ottawa region.
“It’s a wonderful learning experience because of the practical knowledge, and I am actually working with my hands,” McMullin said.
McMullin, along with four other Algonquin students, is working with design and fabrication firm Edey FX, to construct a wind turbine for industrial use.
Mark Edey, President of Edey FX, thinks that giving small businesses access to funding makes a big difference in the development of its products.
“Anytime the government provides additional funding it helps small start-ups such as mine and other companies. This kind of funding is crucial to allowing small companies to invest in new R&D,” Edey said.
It is difficult for small businesses like Edey’s to dive into the research and development without funding because of its prohibitive cost. But Edey also thinks having access to Algonquin students has been valuable, as well as the financial support.
“The students are a key aspect to it. Having the brain power to come up with new ideas is important.”
Algonquin students have already been working with industry partners prior to the latest funding. Over 250 students and 50 professors worked in some capacity with an industry partner last year, according to Algonquin President Robert Gillett. The latest funding will provide even more opportunities to students looking to supplement their education with some practical experience.
“With this funding, we hope to work with at least 30 industry partners doing a variety of different projects,” said Mark Hoddenbagh, director of applied research and innovation at Algonquin.
These projects will range from small ones that students will work on in class, to large scale ones done in design and fabrication labs of industry partners.
A partnership with industry businesses is only one of the benefits of the funding announcement. Hoddenbagh said the college had its students in mind when it created its partnership agreements with those businesses.
“All of our projects involve at least one Algonquin professor, and at least one Algonquin student, and if we don’t have a student or a professor, we can’t do a project,” he said. “That is one of our absolute principles for industry projects.”
At the funding announcement, Gillett thanked the minister and the government of Canada for the funding it provided. He also said that the government was right in funding research at the college level, although delayed.
“Colleges have been lobbying for a fair period of time for a share of research funds,” Gillett said.
But for McMullin, the funding is better late than never.
“Everything costs money so it’s great that we are getting extra funding,” he said.