Disrupting the status quo – a new approach to partnership

Rebecca Melville
November 6, 2018

This article is part of the Applied PeR$pectives series

By: Dr. Darren Lawless, Dean, Applied Research & Innovation, Humber College

Innovation and collaboration are words we hear and read almost daily – in meetings, in news stories, and in corporate mission and vision statements.

Without the partnerships to back them up and actions to make a real difference, they are just words.

While there have been noteworthy successes between academia and industry, the potential of these partnerships is not being fully realized, leaving us with a skills gap that requires urgent attention to correct. This is evident in studies highlighting Canada’s poor innovation and productivity performance, including The Conference Board of Canada’s 2018 innovation report card. The time has come to stop saying “innovation” and give the word real meaning. This requires looking at new models of collaboration with industry, understanding their workplaces are our students’ destinations.

Like all Canadian polytechnics and colleges, Humber has always valued and relied on the expertise of our industry partners. Now is the time to raise that bar and look at new approaches to collaboration that directly benefit students and industry.

At Humber College, we are taking bold steps to help shape the future of collaboration and the economic benefits it can bring through our unique model of polytechnic education and response to the needs of business.

A few years ago, we began to implement our vision of bringing a technology and innovation hub to Humber. In order to make it successful, we knew we had to take a different approach to innovation and seize the opportunity to work with and learn from industry leaders. Industry told us they needed a place for skills development, a place to foster awareness of their technology, a place to solve technical challenges inhibiting growth, and a place where they could meet and interact with all members of the innovation ecosystem. We listened attentively and then took action to create one place where all of these things could happen.

In 2019, we will launch the 93,000-square-foot Barrett Centre for Technology Innovation. This Barrett CTI will have no traditional classrooms and no traditional laboratories. Instead, the Barrett CTI will create a flexible space where industry will be encouraged to work directly side-by-side with our students and faculty to solve real-world industry challenges. It will help ensure that our students have the skills required for the careers of tomorrow and that our faculty stays current on where industry is going. Our partner organizations will benefit by having their business challenges solved and having a direct influence on the skills students are developing before they graduate.

While we are looking forward to the opening of the Barrett CTI, without the industry-leading organizations that have partnered with us and the Humber students and faculty who will work and learn within it, it is just a building.

It’s the people – at Humber and from our partner companies - who will turn opportunities into progress and shared expertise into real innovation. This is how we intend to change the game on multi-faceted partnerships.

Humber’s Advanced Manufacturing Skills Consortium is comprised of industry partners working with the college to train students and employees of Canadian companies within the Barrett CTI. The consortium will integrate new learning pathways and opportunities for students, faculty, and industry experts to work together on the latest technology.

We are now positioned to engage local companies in discussions about technology adoption and providing space for them to come and interact first-hand with cutting-edge equipment. Not only can we assist them in future-proofing their operations, as an educational provider, we can help them train and upskill their current workforce.

Applied research projects and collaborative work between polytechnic institutions and private and public sector partners also puts our students ahead of the curve in a competitive knowledge and skills driven economy.

In order to prepare our graduates for the future of work, we need to continue to envision and work towards next-generation education. An education that is not bound by the confines of the past, but is enriched by the expertise of industry partners and focused on hands-on learning positions us all for future success.


This article is part of the monthly Applied PeR$pectives blog series. Applied PeR$pectives is a space for the college and institute community to share information and insights about their ongoing work in building innovative capacity among their students, within their communities and across the country. 

Applied PeR$pectives is part of a new initiative by R$ and Colleges and Institute Canada (CICan) to highlight the key role that colleges and institutes are playing in building Canada’s innovation capacity. Read more about the initiative here, and learn more about the leading-edge student projects, state-of-the-art facilities available for use by industry and innovative solutions being co-created by students, faculty and companies in the free booklet Applied Research Comes of Age.

The views and opinions expressed in this piece are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of RE$EARCH MONEY.

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