What did you do before SB/ professional background?
Education wise, I have a Bachelor of Science and environmental science from the University of Waterloo and a Master of Sciences in Biology with an aquaculture focus from UNB. I also worked for a time in an aquaculture lab with Department of Fisheries and Oceans, in St. Andrews New Brunswick. So, I was going to school while working before I decided to switch gears and go to Dalhousie to complete an MBA. I thought combining the business and sciences backgrounds would be beneficial.
During my MBA is when I became interested in technology, commercialization, economic development market validation—that whole space, and it opened my eyes to a whole other side of things I hadn’t considered. I did some commercialization consulting work for IT and health related products and then worked for Dalhousie ILI Something new came up at Saint Mary’s. and I’ve now been there for seven years, so I’m very familiar with Springboard.
What sort of opportunities did you see once you started doing tech-transfer/industry engagement?
There are so many unknowns. You see research in its early stages, and you have no idea if there is something there. You’re not sure if there is a business case behind it—is it truly solving a problem that is important to people, or is it just something that a few people think is neat? No two ideas are the same, and the decisions you take in the early stage have huge implications down the road depending what route it is taken.
What are some of the challenges with this work?
Getting technology out of a university is tough. But there’s been a real change where more faculty are thinking about the work they do, and they want it to have more impact outside of an academic journal. They want the work they do to benefit some group, region, or a company.
We try to work with partners early, instead of developing technology in a vacuum, and try to tackle the challenges they’re already facing. A lot of companies are dealing with known problems and don’t have time to adopt a solution to a problem they’re not focusing on. Working with companies early in the project means we can also have it structured in a way that it benefits the industry partner and the faculty. Also, our students are often involved so when they graduate there is a potential job waiting for them, with the industry partner.
How does your office/role support these industry and research collaborations?
There are two main goals of our office. Developing technologies within the universities and commercialize them and establishing industry partnerships. We put together projects, whether it’s for a couple weeks for a couple thousand dollars or a couple years for a couple million, depending on what the opportunity is.
One nice thing about our office, and similar offices, is we’re funding agnostic. We’re plugged into a bunch of different funding programs: ACOA, IRAP, and NSERC, for example so when researchers or partners talk to us, we can give a detailed overview of what’s out there and make suggestions based on where they’re at.
There have been many meetings that Danielle and I have had with companies and when they walk out and say, ‘you’ve saved me about two months of work because now I know where to go’, and I think that’s one of the main values of our office and, really, the whole network.
How does the Springboard network support your role?
In the past, various institutions would hold their cards close to their chest and were pretty reserved. But looking at [the network] now, everyone is very forthcoming about what is going on in their institution, and the challenges they face. People aren’t afraid to say, ‘hey I’m having this challenge and I need help.’
And it goes both ways, every time I’ve reached out people are always happy to help. With 19 universities and colleges working together, [Springboard] is a huge benefit for the region and it only makes sense that we collaborate the best we can.