Design Engineering

Tapping into Canada’s storehouse of engineering research capability

By Design Engineering Staff   

General cFI R&D research and development slideshow

CFI’s Research Facilities Navigator online database pinpoints Canadian university research labs open to working with business.

This flexible LED light sheet, created by by B.C.’s Cooledge Lighting, was made possible via a partnership with Simon Fraser University’s material science 4D LABS.

This flexible LED light sheet, created by by B.C.’s Cooledge Lighting, was made possible via a partnership with Simon Fraser University’s material science 4D LABS.

Three years ago, the founders of Burnaby, B.C.’s Cooledge Lighting were in the early stages of research and development for their product and needed a way to test many ideas in a short period of time. They searched the globe and ultimately found what they needed in their own city: Simon Fraser University’s 4D LABS. The facility houses some of Canada’s most advanced research infrastructure for materials science and engineering.

The facility provided Cooledge with a ready suite of tools, facilities and expertise to accelerate the development of their flexible light sheet, an energy-efficient film of LED lights for use in unique lighting designs. The company, which launched its premier product last spring, was able to find the right combination of materials and processes faster and at a lower cost than it could have on its own.

The collaboration between 4D LABS and Cooledge is one example of research partnerships happening across Canada. According to a recent report by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, Canadian universities conduct almost $1 billion worth of research in collaboration with the private sector annually, which provides “the intellectual raw material that drives innovation and builds prosperity.”

But it can be challenging for companies to tap into the research resources at post-secondary institutions. They are either not aware of what resources they can access or they don’t know what kind of labs or expertise are available.


Clarifying this is the driver behind a new online tool, called the CFI Research Facilities Navigator, launched by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) last November. The online tool is a searchable directory of participating research labs and facilities in universities, colleges and research hospitals across Canada that are open to working with business. Almost 350 labs — 127 of which are in engineering disciplines — have submitted entries for the Navigator, and the number is growing.

For research facilities, the Navigator is a way to promote their research capabilities to the private and public sectors. For companies, it’s a venue to find the research facilities that can help their business grow, stay competitive, design new or better products or processes, and foster relationships with highly skilled people.

Tapping into Canada’s storehouse of research capability to open up a company’s potential is a notion that comes naturally to companies like Cooledge and one that has repeatedly been proven in institutions across Canada. Cooledge is one example of what can happen when business and research come together. And this is innovation — when a company can gain an edge by finding an inventive way to develop and move their product to market faster, which is exactly the kind of boost a venture capital-backed firm needs.


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