Applied Research: Supporting a Business-Led Recovery

As Canadian businesses look beyond the COVID-19 pandemic and toward recovery, many will want to revamp or re-tool their operations. This is where applied research can be a game-changer, a ready-made solution for post-pandemic economic recovery utilizing post-secondary innovation capacity to help businesses respond to challenges. Canada’s polytechnics bring space, equipment and expertise to the table, supplementing the capacity of Canada’s business community to engage in pragmatic research and development. 

During this 90-minute session, Polytechnics Canada CEO, Sarah Watts-Rynard, provided attendees with an “Applied Research 101” before being joined by the leadership of two polytechnic institutions and their industry partners. The panel provided insights into the partnership lifecycle, including the initial challenge, the engagement process, funding, project activity and results. An audience Q&A wrapped up the session.

Key Takeaways

“With almost 98% of the Canadian economy made up of small businesses, employing some 70% of the workforce, applied research is a way to boost access to the innovation ecosystem.” – Sarah Watts-Rynard

“Being able to tap into a pool of expertise as well as facilities that are geared for fabrication made the relationship with George Brown College ideal.” – Dr. Frank Naccarato

“It is critical that our future workforce develop what we call innovation literacy – an understanding of the thinking that leads to innovation. We get that by working with industry to solve their needs; being part of the process of coming up with new ideas. Without that we won’t have the workforce we need and we won’t be able to stay competitive.” – Anne Sado

“Whenever we can have students be fully embedded into a project, the outcomes are substantial. We rarely see a student not get hired by the project or by another company in the sector so the employability rate is significant.” – David Ross

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CEO, Katal Energy Inc. 
CRAIG LATIMER

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Craig is the CEO of Katal Energy Inc., a privately held alternative energy research company with activities around the globe. Prior to this he co-founded and acted as the Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Spira Data Corp. from 2005 – 2014. Craig has been active in the energy sector since 1996 starting his career with Archean Energy Ltd. and moving to Marathon Oil Corporation’s Canadian business unit in 2000.  

He currently serves on the Boards of Iridium Risk Services, Macleod Builders, and ZayZoon Lending Inc. plus he sits on the national board of The Missing Children’s Society of Canada. He holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Calgary. 

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President and CEO, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology
DR. DAVID ROSS

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Dr. David Ross is SAIT’s 16th president. 

Under Dr. Ross’ leadership, SAIT has become Alberta’s third largest post-secondary institution. SAIT is known internationally for its action-based applied education, solution-focused research and enterprising collaborations with people and partners from around the globe. 

Prior to joining SAIT in March 2013, Dr. Ross was President and CEO of Langara College, and Vice President Administration and CFO at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Dr. Ross brings more than 30 years of post-secondary experience across several provinces to SAIT. 

President during SAIT’s centennial in 2016, he has now launched the first strategic plan of the institution’s second century, New World. New ThinkingThe plan sets a transformational course for the future and is part of the institution’s proactive approach to rapidly changing job skill requirements.  

Most recently, Dr. Ross chaired the Alberta Skills to Job Task Force as the province adapts to new economic realities and develops the next generation of talent. He also chaired the Canadian Bureau for International Education. Nationally, he has been a board participant for the National Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Polytechnics Canada and the Business Higher Education — Business Roundtable.  

Currently, he is a board member of Colleges and Institutes Canada (CiCan) and sits on international boards for the League for Innovation, the Global Education Network and the Global Applied Education Network. In Calgary, his board experience includes Calgary Economic Development and the Calgary Homeless Foundation.  

Dr. Ross holds a PhD from the University of Nebraska, Master of Aquaculture (MAq) from Simon Fraser University, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from Dalhousie University and a Bachelor of Science (BSc) from Dalhousie University.  

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President, Quantum Robotic Systems
FRANK NACCARATO

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Dr. Naccarato is an inventor, entrepreneur, consultant and professor with over 30 years’ experience in research and development, and product development. After completing his doctorate in robotics at the University of Toronto’s Institute for Aerospace Studies, Dr. Naccarato worked as a research engineer, designer, project manager and director of R&D. His past projects include a control algorithm developed for the International Space Station and a robotic testing machine for medical laboratories. He has written business plans, reports, proposals and grant applications that have secured tens of millions in funding, including angel investment and venture capital.  

Dr. Naccarato is the founder and president of Quantum Robotic Systems Inc., a robotics start-up specializing in stair-climbing devices that allow people to carry heavy items up and down stairs in an easier, faster and safer way. 

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President, George Brown College
Anne Sado

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A native of Toronto, Anne Sado has been President of George Brown College since 2004. Her impact on the vision, direction and culture of the college has resulted in significant growth at George Brown, and has activated a critical public discussion on the value of college education in Ontario’s economic development.

Beyond her leadership at the college, Anne is Vice-chair of the Business/Higher Education (BHER) Roundtable. Anne also serves on the boards of Legacy Private Trust and Mount Pleasant Cemetery Group. In the past Anne has served as Chair of Colleges Ontario, ORION, the Toronto Region Board of Trade, Polytechnics Canada and Trillium Health Centre. Anne was appointed a Member of the Order of Canada in June 2013. She was recognized as a YWCA Woman of Distinction in 2012 and in 2014 she was named one of Canada’s Top 25 Women of Influence and inducted into WXN’s Hall of Fame as one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women.

Anne holds an MBA from the University of Toronto as well as a Bachelor of Applied Science in Engineering. Anne was also awarded a Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, from the University of Toronto in June 2011.

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Chief Executive Officer
Sarah Watts-Rynard

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Sarah Watts-Rynard assumed the role of Chief Executive Officer at Polytechnics Canada in July 2018.  Prior to this role, she served as Executive Director of the Canadian Apprenticeship Forum, supporting Canada’s apprenticeship community with research, promotion and by connecting stakeholders across trades, across sectors and across Canada. 

Sarah has a degree in Journalism and English from Carleton University.  Since graduating, she has built a career that includes time in government, the private sector and at skills-focused non-profit organizations.  She has experience related to non-profit governance, fundraising, advocacy and marketing.  She leads a team of passionate and dedicated employees committed to high-quality skills and innovation policy, reflecting the strengths of polytechnic education in Canada.  In 2018, Sarah was awarded an honorary diploma in the Skilled Trades by Niagara College. 

Sarah is Vice-Chair of the Canadian Centre for Women in Science, Engineering, Trades and Technology (WinSETT Centre) and serves as a Director on the Boards of the Canadian Club of Ottawa and the CWB Welding Foundation. 

Sarah acted as our moderator.

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Katal Energy Inc. | Southern Alberta Institute of Technology

Katal Energy Inc., an Alberta-based company, partnered with SAIT’s Applied Research and Innovation Service (ARIS) to develop a hydrated, non-emulsified, alternative diesel fuel product that promises to transform the downstream oil & gas and transportation industries. The fuel is high-grade, retains all the key performance characteristics of certified Canadian conventional marine diesel fuel and minimizes impacts to the environment through reduced diesel consumption.


Quantum Robotic Systems | George Brown College

Quantum Robotic Systems (QRS) makes robotic stair-climbing devices that allow people to carry heavy items up and down stairs in an easier, faster and safer way. A long-time a partner of George Brown College, QRS is working with researchers from the Centre for Construction & Engineering Technology to develop a more advanced physical prototype of their domestic service robot, ROSA, enhancing its ability to travel complex routes.

Sarah Watts-Rynard, Polytechnics Canada CEO, sat down with Ulrike Bahr-Gedalia, Senior Director of Digital Economy, Technology, and Innovation at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, to discuss how applied research can address the unique challenges that lie ahead for Canadian businesses as we recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Our Polytechnic Applied Research Compendium includes annual statistics gathered from our member institutions and provides ideas for how to maximize the impact of applied research in Canada.

In the Polytechnic Applied Research: Building a Stronger Canada brief, we highlight a number of the projects underway and expertise available at our member institutions. Together, they showcase:

  • How applied research supports business development, leveraging innovation know-how to drive business performance
  • How applied research contributes to social development by leveraging innovation to improve life in Canada
  • How applied research is developing next-generation talent by leveraging innovation challenges