Research & development
College network to tackle real-world
TORONTO and OTTAWA – Ontario has
launched the Colleges Ontario Network for Industry Innovation (CONII), a
network that links 10 of the province’s top colleges located along the
technology corridor between Ottawa and Windsor.
The colleges will focus on developing new solutions for the healthcare
and safety sectors in conjunction with industry partners.
The colleges are: Algonquin, Centennial, Conestoga, Fanshawe, George
Brown, Humber, Niagara, St. Clair, Seneca and Sheridan . With a focus on
applied versus pure research, the network is making it easier for
industry partners to access the research expertise they need in order to
remain competitive in today’s global marketplace.
“Ontario colleges have always provided skilled employees and training to
business. Now we’re building on that success to provide research,
development and commercialization services in key economic sectors
across the province,” says Katharine Janzen, Chair of the CONII Steering
Committee and Vice-President, Research and Innovation, at Toronto ’s
Seneca College .
The assistance provided by CONII members can range from incremental
innovation, needs assessment, and knowledge or technical transfer, to
product or process development, prototype building and proof of concept
projects, she adds.
Funded by a three-year, $3.5 million grant through the Ontario Ministry
of Research and Innovation’s Ontario Research Commercialization Program
(ORCP), CONII was launched to develop research projects with businesses
that make effective use of faculty expertise, provide students with
real-world learning opportunities, and ultimately help to solve
Some of the innovative projects currently under way in the health and
safety sector are:
A new collaborative diagnostics service that supports the use of
point-of-care medical devices in the home, enabling healthcare
professionals to deliver care remotely so that seniors can remain at
The Laboratory of Collaborative Diagnostics at the University of Toronto
capitalized on the expertise of George Brown College (GBC) to create a
specialized computer case capable of housing the essential electronic
components and circuitry necessary to connect standard medical devices
to a remote diagnostic network.
Having developed the computer software to support remote diagnostics,
the lab needed GBC’s rapid prototyping and packaging facilities to
explore design options for the computer case, which houses medical
devices such as a blood pressure cuff, microscope or camera.
“The idea was to build a small, commodity-engineered, off-the-shelf
computer system that can run anywhere,” explains Robert Luke, Director,
Office of Applied Research and Innovation at GBC. “We had the expertise
and facilities to do that fabrication for them.”
Out of four prototypes developed by the college, one was eventually
selected and is currently being tested for commercialization. The
university laboratory expects to use the case to deliver a number of
homecare services on a barebones system for $300, bringing the
province’s pledge to keep Canadians in their homes longer one step
closer to reality. Meanwhile, the college’s engineering students are
benefitting from the opportunity to design and build future devices for
the home healthcare monitoring network.
The creation of a comprehensive on-line course in disaster and emergency
management, coupled with ongoing development of a full-scale simulation
environment used to prepare health and safety professionals for
emergency response, and test new technologies.
Centennial College is working with four academic partners – Michener
Institute for Applied Health Sciences, George Brown College , Ryerson
University and the University of Toronto – as well as numerous industry
partners across the Greater Toronto area, to enhance public safety
through the development of an innovative, Web-based instructional tool
designed to promote interprofessional collaboration during an emergency.
It also continues to enhance its Scarborough , Ont.-based advanced
emergency simulation centre, created following the SARS outbreak in 2003
and designed as a true-to-life place for community and industry partners
to test safety-related products and processes.
The new eight-week Interprofessional Disaster and Emergency Action
Studies (IDEAS) course is available to students from health and safety
disciplines, including medicine, nursing, allied health, police,
paramedicine, social services and pharmacy. As a culminating activity,
they participate in a mock emergency staged at Centennial’s simulation
centre, either role-playing as a victim, shadowing a professional, or
serving as an observer.
As Trish Dryden, Centennial Director, Applied Research Centre, explains,
the goal is to give students a better understanding of how various roles
work together in an emergency, to give health and emergency
professionals a way to test procedures and plans, and to provide
businesses with a comprehensive test bed for emergency-related
“We take a seamless approach that enables inter-professional
communication and collaboration through high-fidelity simulation,
whether paramedics, firefighters, police officers or hospital staff.
Professionals across disciplines learn more about how their actions
impact each other, which is critical in helping to save lives in actual
disasters and emergencies,” says Dryden.
To date, Centennial has completed seven full-scale community exercises
involving more than 3,500 students, faculty and professionals. For
example, the Rouge Valley Health System in eastern Toronto recently used
the college’s simulation centre to stage a dirty bomb explosion in order
to test its processes for decontamination and evacuation of patients.
Anvil Technologies Inc. of Toronto also collaborated with the centre to
test and fine tune its RECoN wireless communications solution, using
live voice, video and data feeds to provide timely, meaningful
information to enhance the situational awareness of participants in the
simulation exercise. All five institutional partners have signed on for
a second iteration of the on-line course beginning in September 2008.
The design of a graphical user interface that will bring the benefits of
a three-dimensional virtual reality “cave” – used by psychologists to
treat irrational phobias – to an even wider audience. Students in
Algonquin College ’s industry-leading video game development program are
working with the Cyberpsychology Lab at Université du Québec en
Outaouais to develop a commercially viable version of a highly
specialized simulation tool.
In the university research setting, the existing tool combines polarized
goggles and images projected onto each of the six surfaces of a room
(four walls, floor and ceiling) to create a three-dimensional virtual
reality scene that appears life-like. If a patient suffers from a phobia
of spiders (arachnophobia), spiders are gradually introduced into the
virtual scene in different sizes, numbers and ranges of motion, allowing
the patient to overcome the fear in a progressive manner.
The graphical user interface designed by the college students makes it
possible to develop a more compact, portable version of the technology
that doesn’t require specialized technical expertise to run. Patients
still wear special glasses but instead of being in a six-sided room,
they can sit in front of a laptop computer and experience the same
virtual reality – making the tool a viable option for office settings.
“This is an excellent example of the synergy between colleges,
universities and industry,” notes John Omura, Project Manager, Applied
Research and Innovation, at Algonquin. “It further demonstrates that the
skillsets we develop at the college level are very complementary to the
objectives of university researchers and professionals.”
The lightweight version of the simulation tool will initially be
distributed to cyperpsychology researchers and practitioners across
Canada who are participating in the Canada Cyberpsychology and Anxiety
Virtual Lab. It is also expected to have additional commercial potential
in markets outside of Canada.
The economic sectors targeted by CONII include alternative energy,
environmental technologies and construction, digital media, health and
life sciences, hospitality and tourism, information and communication
technologies, manufacturing and materials, and viticulture and
agri-business. However, all businesses are welcome and encouraged to
contact their local college industry innovation centre for help with
research, innovation and commercialization. The college network aims to
complete 50 applied research projects by the end of 2009
For more information about CONII and its member colleges, please visit