This article was originally published by Niagara College on Wednesday, Jan 25, 2023 and can be viewed here.
For the eighth year in a row, Niagara College ranks among the top 10 colleges in the country for research funding, according to a special report released on January 25.
Niagara College has earned the No. 2 spot in Canada as a top research college, and the No. 1 spot in Ontario. Since Research Infosource Inc. first published its Top 50 Research Colleges report in 2013, NC has been in the top 15 consistently.
In its report, Canada’s Innovation Leaders, Research Infosource Inc. announced the rankings based on total research funding numbers for 2021. The publication includes a national study, “Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges,” which shows NC’s steady placement in the top 10 for eight consecutive years and among the top 15 for 10 years – including a No. 1 ranking in Canada in 2019.
“I am so proud that Niagara College continues to receive recognition as one of Canada’s top 10 colleges for research funding,” said NC president Sean Kennedy. “We are thrilled to earn the second-highest rank in the country and the No. 1 spot in Ontario.
“The expansion of our research and innovation capabilities has been a priority for the College, and today’s announcement is a testament to the important work of our Research & Innovation team to provide real-world solutions for industry and the community through applied research.”
Among colleges with applied research funding in Canada, NC earned the second-highest spot by attracting more than $18.1 million in funding to conduct innovative projects with industry partners in the food and beverage, advanced manufacturing, horticulture and the environment, and business sectors.
NC also moved up one place from last year’s standing to the No. 1 spot, in the category of completed research projects, with a total of 228, while NC’s total number of research partnerships was 190.
“The expansion of our research and innovation capabilities has been a priority for the College, and today’s announcement is a testament to the important work of our Research & Innovation team to provide real-world solutions for industry and the community through applied research.” – Sean Kennedy, President, Niagara College
Marc Nantel, PhD, Vice-President, Research, Innovation & Strategic Enterprises at the College, stated that being in the top 10 for the eighth year is a continued source of pride for NC’s Research & Innovation division.
“This announcement is something about which we truly thrilled, and we have to thank the outstanding effort of our staff, faculty, and students who work on projects with industry partners to drive meaningful outcomes,” said Nantel.
Research funding allows the College to partner with small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the region to conduct projects and services, which provide innovative solutions for industry, including producing and testing prototypes, evaluating new technologies, and developing new or improved products and processes. NC Research & Innovation conducts applied research, technical services and business and commercialization solutions with industry partners through its Business & Commercialization Innovation Centre, Food & Beverage Innovation Centre, Horticultural & Environmental Sciences Innovation Centre, and Walker Advanced Manufacturing Innovation Centre.
SoilOptix®, a high-definition top-soil mapping company based in Ontario, uses precision agriculture technology to help farmers understand and improve the distribution of nutrient and texture in their fields. SoilOptix® is now in a position of obtaining global reach with its technology, in part due to their collaboration with the NC research team through precision agriculture, Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology and data automation, which created process efficiencies of immense proportions and a user-friendly interface for customers.
Before working with NC experts, a previous process used by SoilOptix® took a data analyst about eight hours of work. Now, it takes less than an hour, increasing its efficiency by a factor of eight. The NC team is helping to get this down to seconds while expanding the technology and data automation abilities.
The College partnership has enabled the company to grow rapidly in several directions. For example, in 2019, the company was able to map about 110,000 acres; in 2022, it mapped about 500,000 acres, and its 2023 targets are set for approximately 800,000 acres. SoilOptix® has been able to almost double the volume of acres which generate revenue, year-over-year, by a factor of two, or 5.6 per cent growth by month – an uncommon growth pattern for many businesses.
NC graduates are benefitting from the partnership as well. To date, SoilOptix® has hired six graduates right out of school to continue working on the project.
“One of our best kept secrets to our success has been this working relationship with Niagara College. We have found it very rewarding, not only from the sophisticated systems that the student teams have developed, but to the extent of the real-life working opportunities and experiences we have provided for them. The success has been so strong that it has carried to us to the opportunity to hiring several students full-time,” said Paul Raymer, SoilOptix® Co-founder and President.