Feds “PIC” NAIT

October 21, 2016

The NAIT campus is slated to get a little bigger once again. Hot on the heels of the institution’s new Centre for Applied Technologies (CAT), the proposal for its Productivity and Innovation Centre (or PIC) got a kick start with the announcement of $34.98 million in funding from
the federal government.

The funding is part of the federal government’s new Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF), which has allocated up to $2 billion to support post-secondary institutions, enhance research and training infrastructure and generate local economic activity. The SIF
is intended to provide funding for up to 50 per cent of eligible costs for qualifying projects from institutions.

The proposed centre had to fit into at least one category under the SIF program – improve the scale or quality of facilities for research and innovation, including spaces for the commercialization of research,`improve the scale or quality of facilities for specialized training at colleges focused on industry needs and improve the environmental sustainability of research, innovation-related and training infrastructure at post-secondary institutions.

The new Centre is positioned well to tick-off most of those needs, far beyond the one category requirement. According to Mave Dhariwal, director of NAIT’s Shell Manufacturing Centre, the Centre will have three focuses: Leadership development, staff development and systems technology adoption.

“First, we will help organizations develop exceptionally good leadership that is very supportive of their staff. We will help companies
develop principle centred leadership – leadership that leads by example…, ”explained Dhariwal.

“Second, we will help business and industry develop their staff. When we are talking about developing staff, we develop staff in all major areas … which could range from project management to … mechatronics.

“Third, we will encourage organizations to adopt new innovate technology. The technology adoption area will include innovative applied research, prototype development and acceleration and commercialization of new technology.”

Currently, some of these services are already offered in various locations around NAIT. The new Centre will allow these services to be co-located and expanded in pursuit of the Centre’s mission statement–to help organizations become globally competitive.

“The Productivity and Innovation Centre will be a great addition to NAIT. I am proud to be a part of a government that supports the creation
of innovative learning spaces like this and I look forward to seeing the great things that are achieved once the Centre is open,” said Amarjeet Sohi, minister of Infrastructure and Communities and MP for Edmonton Millwoods, in an e-mailed statement.

“The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology is one of our city’s great postsecondary institutions. Thousands of students every year are enriched by the diverse offerings at the school and our city is better for having these students and the associated faculty as residents.”

The new PIC building will serve as an expansion for the current Shell Manufacturing Centre, while also centralizing applied research functions from across NAIT in one facility, comprised of two wings. Industry professionals, NAIT researchers and student capstone teams will all be able to utilize the facility in some form once it opens, with access to applied research labs, break out rooms and various specialty facilities.

“This funding was crucial [for the Centre], because it’s almost $39 million in federal funding. The overall project will cost around $80 million and NAIT is going to make up the difference. This is a substantial project and this Centre will be one of the only Centres of its kind world-wide, where we have productivity enhancement and innovation in the same space,” said Dhariwal.

The Shell Manufacturing Centre currently occupies B-Building, the second oldest building on campus and serves over 550 managers and staff from 50-60 organizations per year.

– Nicolas Brown, Issues Editor

Image via NAIT