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NBCC Applied Research Brings Virtual Reality (And More) To Nb Businesses

NBCC is focusing on six areas of strategic research based on their staff expertise, infrastructure and resources, access to funding opportunities and industry need and support. These areas are mobile technology; innovations in healthcare; value added food; energy efficient technology; innovations in teaching, learning and services for students and social innovation.

In the past three months, NBCC has been involved in 19 projects with 28 industry partners. One of these projects was with Belledune based Contendo Training Solutions to help develop virtual and augmented reality systems for the training of employees.

Contendo project manager and director of business development Sandenn Killoran says the company got involved with NBCC through the NBIF voucher fund program. They wanted to move into augmented and virtual reality with their training but didn’t have the resources for the research and development that would get them there.

“It’s technology we wanted to develop but because of the demands of our production here at Contendo we just wouldn’t have had time to do it. We wouldn’t have been able to place the resources to get it done,” Killoran said.

“By striking a partnership with NBCC, they were able to do the heavy lifting for us and get us to where we wanted to be in half a year instead of just us just fitting in a little bit of the R&D (Research and Development) where we could, which would possibly have taken us three years and maybe we would have missed the boat by then.”

The Contendo project involves development of a technology that will allow for full orientation for employees before they even set foot in the workplace. This will be possible through virtual tours of facilities and instruction for equipment use. The partnership with NBCC got them to the beta phase of their augmented and virtual reality project and will help them reach the alpha stage.

“I don’t think you would have found this kind of partnership to be available to a company located in Calgary or Vancouver,” he said. “This was conceived with the idea of providing mutual benefit, so providing an opportunity for local businesses but also helping the research and development sector in our province.”

“I think whenever you go to an educational institution … especially with NBCC Miramichi, they’re dreamers. They do always have a mind towards the future and they’re always looking at the next cool thing that’s the industry.”

NBCC director of applied research and development Diane Burt says the college has chosen to focus on applied research to address problems that industry and community are having and helping find innovative solutions to those problems.

“For community groups, if we’re looking at social innovation, it’s looking for ways to better address societal issues more effectively or efficiently or in a completely different way,” Burt said.

“From an industry perspective, it’s about economic development and how we can help companies find ways they can grow their customer base, create new ways of doing business within the province or even beyond.”

The applied research partnerships between NBCC and businesses come about either through organizations like the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation, by companies approaching the college for help or by faculty members and students seeking out areas of need.

“Our preference is that companies come to us,” Burt said. “We are more reactive because we don’t want to make up problems that we don’t know for sure are problems. We do want to be trying to think ahead and anticipating that there could be something.”

In November of last year, Longshore Fisheries, a lobster processing company, approached NBCC for help with product development. They were looking for ways to cut back on waste by making use of lobster by-products they weren’t currently able to use.

The timing lined up with the college’s culinary product development course as well as their marketing class. Students were able to participate in a real life assignment by coming up with ways Longshore Fisheries could add new products and then market those products.

“It was really heartwarming for me to hear the owner of the company talked about what a great experience for them it was working with us and that they were able to get to see the students from two campuses interact and work together,” Burt said. “One of our faculty members said usually she would assign a case study from a textbook. In this case she might even be able to write the case study because of that experience.”

Burt says these sorts of partnerships are helpful not only to the companies or organizations and the college, but to the local economy in general. She also says the real-life experience students get through applied research is invaluable.

“We really want to help the economy of New Brunswick,” she said. “If that company were to take one of those products that our students helped them develop and take that to market and export it, it could really help that company grow. It could result in hiring more people. It could be exponential depending on what happens … It could be about putting New Brunswick on the map in a particular area.”