U15 launches search tool to support innovative collaborations between research and business

Jessica Galang
April 15, 2020

The U15 Group of Canadian Research Universities has released a new tool to connect researchers, non-profits, governments and businesses with relevant intellectual property and innovations.

Cognit, which is currently in beta, allows users to search for relevant research facilities, researchers or patents according to keywords and interest. The search engine aggregates intellectual property from two sources: published patent documents, and one-page descriptions of intellectual property produced by university tech transfer offices, which use these documents to promote their university’s IP to businesses that could license it. 

U15 has a mandate to produce data products related to university research for the public, as well as advocate for government policies that improve conditions for university research. With subject matter expertise from universities across Canada searchable on one platform, Cognit offers networking assistance to anyone seeking collaborators for the development of research or innovations, such as in the fight against COVID-19.

Partners on the project include Universities Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and Mitacs.

Mike Matheson, director of data analysis and policy at U15, said development began two years ago after private sector leaders, in a meeting with U15 member presidents, said they struggled to find relevant research strengths in universities across Canada. While there are other tools around the world that address this challenge, Matheson notes that Cognit was developed in direct response to the needs presented by its Canadian stakeholders.

“The problem we are trying to solve is how to make it easy for people to identify research capabilities wherever they're found on campuses across the country,” said Matheson. In Canada, universities are responsible for performing $14.6 billion in research, according to the most recent StatsCan data. “Being able to identify what you need in a space that large and complicated can be a challenge.”

Matheson highlights that the portal’s ease-of-use means that those seeking help might find a solution they hadn’t considered before. “They [users] might go in thinking that they want to find an expert, but it turns out there’s an intellectual property that already addresses the thing that they're looking for,” he said. 

While the tool was not released because of the current COVID-19 crisis, Matheson sees Cognit as an important tool in connecting efforts across the country. 

“There's been all this mass mobilization of people trying to solve various aspects of this challenge,” said Matheson. “Our hope is that, by creating this discovery layer and visibility into the capabilities of universities and research hospitals across the country, we're able to help form some of those connections.”

U15 doesn’t have a specific timeline on releasing a full version of Cognit.ca, says Matheson. Rather, the organization is taking feedback from its users to continuously add features that will be helpful, such as expanding data sets available on the platform. 

“Our intention with Cognit is to make something that is highly valuable for businesses, nonprofits, governments, researchers and others that are involved more generally in Canada's innovation ecosystems,” he said. “We want to be as responsive as possible to the needs that those individuals and communities face.” 


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