Springboard Atlantic


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Sarah Conrod

Cape Breton University

Sarah Conrod has worked at Cape Breton University for 20 years in a variety of project and research management roles, now as the Manager of Industry Partnerships and Commercialization in the Office of Research and Graduate Studies. In this role, she oversees CBUs research partnerships with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and assists faculty explore commercialization opportunities for their research. Sarah has a BSc from Cape Breton University, a Med IT from Memorial University of Newfoundland and a PMP designation. (Research Office website here) (Alternate Twitter here)

What did you do before joining the Springboard network?

After my undergrad I went to the Université de Montréal to study French before accepting an opportunity at an engineering firm in international marketing. The company was heavily involved in R&D and rapidly developing new technologies. I suppose I didn’t know it at the time, but it was a good opportunity to learn the industry research and development (R&D) perspective of my position at CBU now. While in Montréal I got an opportunity to move back to Nova Scotia and joined Cape Breton University (CBU).

My first role at CBU was with the Department of Economic and Technical Innovation. This was pre-Springboard, but its mandate was like what we (Springboard) do now—helping local businesses access expertise from within the university, mostly through applied research projects. Then CBU received an Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) and I transitioned to that project as its Commercialization Manager. When the AIF wrapped up, I became CBU’s full time Springboard member and have been here ever since!

What is the day-to-day working for CBU?

As a one-person office, it’s busy and often unpredictable. I work in both the partnerships and technology transfer realm so my day-to-day involves frequent faculty and industry meetings, identifying and developing R&D projects, chatting with start-ups and providing them guidance, developing and hosting events and training sessions, attending connectors  and working through various contracts, IP issues, and project management.

That sounds like a lot to manage for one person!

It is! But that’s what I love, it’s a really dynamic job with new challenges and opportunities and I get to be part of the innovation having a positive impact on SMEs and celebrate the accomplishments  happening on campus, in the community and the broader Atlantic Canadian region. We don’t work just within our own institutions and provinces, all of us (the SB network) work within Atlantic Canada.

What opportunities do you see for economic development or innovation at CBU?

Although we’re small campus, we have really diversified and engaged faculty and researchers. We’ve seen faculty across all our departments work with external partners.

Years ago, I worked mostly with our science and engineering departments but now, external partnerships and R&D have spread across multiple disciplines in all of our schools and throughout various sectors of the community. The network has done a phenomenal job getting our name into the region, demonstrating how post-secondary institutions create significant impacts and outcomes for industry.

As I continue to go out in the community and meet with companies, I am eager to explore their specific needs and strengthen the understanding of how our breadth of expertise, lab resources and commitment to engaging in R&D partnership can provide meaningful assistance and impactful outcomes to their company. .

In what ways does the SB Network support your role?

It’s a fantastic resource. As members we support each other in various ways; reaching out for assistance regarding an agreement we many have not used before, to working with contacts from a specific sector or industry. The Central Office also provides invaluable opportunities in making connections through multiple sectors and providing us with numerous resources and programs. In a small office, it’s helpful to chat with colleagues in other institutions, sometimes we just need a sounding board to validate how we are doing something or think through an issue we’re having. Within the Springboard network there is always someone to help make a connection.