UWinnipeg and Cisco plan to commercialize research

A newcommercial research centre at the Universityof Winnipeg intends to build a bridgebetween academia and business, which may stimulate economic activity in Manitoba further downthe road.

TheCommercialization Research and Education Alliance for Science, Technology andthe Environment (UWin CREATE) will be part of the university’s new ScienceComplex and RichardsonCollege for theEnvironment scheduled to open in the spring of 2011.

UWin CREATEwill house a number of labs fitted out for researchers to test their ideas andinclude advisory services to help the researchers take their ideas to theprototype stage, explained Richard Nakoneczny, CTO of the University ofWinnipeg. “We’ve been talking about it as a technology realization centre,” he said.

Researchwill focus on environmental technologies and the impact technology can have onreducing the environmental footprint, but there are no plans to limit the kindof research that will take place, said Nakoneczny. “We want to open this up andget as much thought going as possible,” he said.

Nakonecznyexpects the centre will cause “quite a growth spurt in intellectual property”and fully anticipates new patents, licensing and arrangements on new productsas a result. UWin CREATE “will basically jumpstart the whole scientificresearch community within the university,” he said.

Building abridge between the academic and commercial worlds is increasingly important,according to Nakoneczny. “There are an awful lot of really great ideaspercolating through the university community and we want to get them out intothe hands of organizations and enterprises that can put them into mass use,” hesaid.

UWin CREATEis receiving $7 million in federal and provincial funding from theCanada-Manitoba Western Economic Partnership Agreement (WEPA) for the creationof 34 research and teaching labs, an additional $2 million from the provincethrough the Manitoba Research Innovation Fund and a $2-million endowment fromCisco Systems Inc. for a Cisco Chair for Collaborative Technologies.

Cisco isalso establishing a Cisco Innovation Centre at UWin CREATE, which will include Cisco’sTelePresence virtual meeting system (with two endpoints on UWinnipeg’s campus) aswell as a wide range of Cisco unified communication and collaboration technologiesincluding WebEx Connect.

“This isthe first innovation centre of its kind in Canada,”said Nitin Kawale, president of Cisco Canada. “We are really proud ofthis project and we are really looking forward to what this innovation centrewill yield and the kind of research that will come out of our chair ininnovation and collaboration technologies.”

Cisco willremain actively involved in the centre, he explained, by tying the work beingdone at the university with its business units and looking at how thetechnologies can be leveraged in various vertical markets, education andgovernment.

“We aregoing to let them spread their wings and do their research with the researchchair, but tie it back to our business units,” said Kawale.

Kawale alsosees potential benefits for Manitoba’sprivate sector. “This is really a public-private partnership that we are hopingthe private sector in and around Manitobawill embrace,” he said.

“Wouldn’tit be wonderful if this spun off some great economic benefit in Manitoba, including newcompanies that took advantage of technologies to provide solutions in othervertical markets?” he asked.

UWinnipegwill become a hub for Cisco TelePresenceT sites in Manitoba,which will consist of the two endpoints at UWinnipeg, one at the University of Brandonand one at the UniversityCollege of the North’scampus in The Pas. Plans to extend the network with a node in Ottawa are underway.

Thetelepresence system will allow the three universities to set up a learningconsortium and bring together diverse communities of students through distanceeducation as well as researchers working on projects, explained Nakoneczny.

UWinnipegis also affiliated with a number of other universities around the world thathave Cisco telepresence systems installed, he pointed out, which will supportadditional research work and help reduce the amount of travel researchers needto take.

Telepresenceoffers tremendous opportunities for educational institutions, according toKawale. Potential uses include providing a venue for universities to markettheir courses to the far corners of the world, accelerating research bybringing researchers around the globe together and allowing professors to staycurrent and remain in touch without having to travel, he noted.

Follow me on Twitter @jenniferkavur.

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