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Down to a science

Cultivating innovation at the University of Manitoba

Innovation is on the minds of many these days. Businesses and organizations are under pressure to stay competitive in a world that seemingly moves faster and faster every day. Universities are no exception, as they work to prepare students for the ever-changing modern workforce and make research discoveries that advance human knowledge. At the same time, many of these institutions are pushing to bring innovation and entrepreneurial thinking to their students, researchers and faculty while building bridges with industry that can benefit from the ideas explored within their schools. The University of Manitoba is on its own quest to foster innovation and entrepreneurship and introduce industry partners to its vast network of researchers and their big ideas that are ready to find their way into the marketplace.

Science meets business
In September 2022, the university’s Faculty of Science launched the Science Innovation Hub—designed to cultivate innovation and develop entrepreneurial skills within the faculty’s researchers and students and start building relationships with industry and external partners that can benefit from the work being done in the faculty. “Our faculty is made up of seven science areas—physics, chemistry, microbiology, biological science, math, statistics and computer science,” says Dr. Jolen Galaugher, director at the Science Innovation Hub. “We have 185 faculty members, 435 graduate students and over 6,000 undergraduate students. Our breadth of discoveries is massive, and touches so many sectors such as biosciences, information and communication technology, agriculture, energy, manufacturing and so much more.”

Galaugher is on a mission to bring the significant body of research being conducted within the faculty to the industries and organizations that can benefit from it or commercialize it for the market that wants it. “We need to bring these two groups together in order foster more innovation,” she says. “Together, industry and researchers can do so much more than they would working separately.”

At the same time, the hub is also showing science students and researchers how to think with entrepreneurship in mind when it comes to their work. So many times, innovative research never leaves a lab because the person with the idea doesn’t know how to take it to market or even if their idea has commercialization potential. “We want to bring these good ideas out of the woodwork,” says Galaugher. “There are so many possible products or ventures here that need to make their way into the world. We’re here to help make that happen by teaching entrepreneurial skills and connecting researchers with interested external partners.”

The bigger picture
The benefits of the Science Innovation Hub go far beyond the university’s campus. Manitoba, like many other places, is in a critical moment when it comes to innovation. The world is only getting more competitive, and the province needs to embrace and grow its own innovation culture. “Manitoba has so much potential for innovation in so many fields,” says Galaugher. “Whether it’s bioscience, clean energy, crop science, biotechnology or ICT, the talent here is world-class. It’s just a matter of bringing that talent and creativity to the world.”

Let’s do business
“The Science Innovation Hub is open for business,” says Galaugher. “Whether you’re looking to test an idea from your own company or want to see what our faculty, researchers and students are developing that applies to your industry, our door is open. Let’s talk and see how we can innovate together.”

The proof
There are already researchers proving out how valuable research innovation and its partnerships with industry are. An interdisciplinary team at the Faculty of Science and the Faculty of Agriculture (John Sorensen, Chemistry, Faculty of Science; Richard Sparling, Microbiology, Faculty of Science; Rob Gulden, Plant Science, Faculty of Agriculture) are developing naturally occurring soil microorganisms as bio-inoculants to enhance uptake of phosphorus to stimulate crop growth. Two of their new bioinoculant strains have been patented and are in field trials to test them as an alternative to chemical fertilizers and fungicides. This is just one example of how researchers are taking their work out of the lab and into the world. 


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