Funding will help Niagara College continue to innovate

by Dave Johnson, The Welland Tribune

Niagara College has been coined the pre-emptive college, said president Dan Patterson during a funding announcement with the federal government Wednesday morning.

He said the college not only anticipates the labour markets of today but those of tomorrow as well.

One of those markets it anticipated was in the growing Canadian cannabis sector, becoming the first accredited college in the country with a commercial cannabis program.

“It needs a highly-skilled workforce and we’re providing for that sector,” said Patterson.

And that’s why he was excited about a funding announcement of nearly $2 million made by Filomena Tassi, federal minister of seniors, on behalf of the Kirsty Duncan, minister of science and sport, at the Niagara-on-the-Lake campus.

Part of that funding will go toward equipment for researchers looking into agricultural factors that can impact the production of cannabis, Tassi said as she made the announcement.

Tassi said Ottawa is investing $57 million in 77 colleges across the country through the College and Community Innovation Program announced in mid-June.

“This will create jobs in the manufacturing, agricultural and natural resources management sector.”

She said colleges give access to the private sector to students with expert knowledge that can help businesses develop new ideas with existing products and processes.

“It gives valuable industry experience to the industry leaders of tomorrow,” Tassi said.

“This funding will support researchers working with the regional manufacturing sector to accelerate the use of advanced technologies, this includes machine learning, robotics and 3D printing and cutting-edge technology that fosters innovation and boosts local companies’ competitive advantage.”

Tassi said given colleges’ connections with the community, they are uniquely positioned to provide concrete solutions for many of the real-world challenges local businesses face.

Patterson said industry engagement is fundamental and the funding will help technology access program, which has created a hub of small- and medium-sized enterprises.

He said it will help continue the very strong entrepreneurial culture at the college and put students first by giving them research opportunities that will make the “world-ready” when they leave Niagara College.

On hand at the announcement were Michelle Smith, research lead and a technologist for the commercial cannabis production program, and Amal Driouich, research project manager from the Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre at the Welland campus, who spoke about how the funding would help.