A new web service is making it easier for university laboratories and research centres to showcase their expertise and facilities to businesses seeking research partners.
Navigator is a searchable online directory of research centres at universities, colleges and hospitals across Canada that are open to collaborating with industry. Launched Nov. 27, the website was created by the Canada Foundation for Innovation as part of its work to advance research and technology development in Canada.
“Navigator expands the potential for businesses to identify, locate and connect with specialized research expertise right across the country,” says Pierre Normand, CFI’s vice-president of external relations and communications, adding that the tool is the first of its kind in North America.
Companies seeking research assistance to develop or improve business products, services or processes can use Navigator to browse profiles of research labs in Canada that have received funding from the CFI or use CFI-funded infrastructure. Users can see a facility’s name, location and function, and can perform customized searches by city, province, name, keyword and area of application. That last category offers five options: engineering, environment, health, science, and social sciences and humanities.
The site also includes helpful hints for companies to consider when contacting potential institutions and links to other organizations involved in research-industry engagement, including the Alliance for Commercialization of Canadian Technologies, Sustainable Development Technology Canada, and Mitacs. In addition to serving businesses, the site can be used by research centres, non-profits, government agencies and other organizations looking to partner with or use the facilities of the listed labs.
CFI started planning Navigator in the fall of 2012 with input from some labs and businesses, and put up a pilot website last spring with 30 participating labs. There are now profiles for 200 labs throughout Canada, and another 140 will be added within the next few weeks; the CFI’s goal is to have 500 profiles up within a year.
Among the 62 institutions participating on the site are 41 universities. The universities are the biggest users of the tool, compared with colleges and health centres, says a CFI spokesman. Those with the most lab profiles posted on the site include the universities of Ottawa, Waterloo, Queen’s, Simon Fraser, McGill and Laval.
Currently, the most active user of Navigator is the University of British Columbia, which has submitted 56 research centre listings, 41 of them now online. Research is a fundamental part of UBC’s operations, and its various labs engage in more than 1,000 industry-sponsored research collaborations each year. Among the UBC labs featured on the site are the Centre for Heart Lung Innovation, the Industrial Automation Laboratory, the Facility for Environmental and Biological Imaging, and the Brain and Attention Research Lab.
Helen Burt, UBC’s associate vice-president of research and CFI liaison, says that while the university is proficient at identifying and pursuing suitable research partners, a service like Navigator with its one-stop-shopping system could help increase its number of inquiries from businesses.
“A site like this where everything is housed together in a comprehensive and easy to-use format is a really powerful tool,” says Dr. Burt, adding that the site has already generated some queries from businesses. “I think it has enormous potential to widen our network of collaborators.”