University of New Brunswick
Matt Douglass has been with the University of New Brunswick’s Research & Innovation Partnerships group since 2017 as a Technology Transfer Officer. He is responsible for facilitating research collaborations between industry and UNB researchers. He holds two master’s degrees from UNB, History and Business. Matt’s usual areas of engagement are in the Entrepreneurship, Healthcare (Aging), Cybersecurity, Ocean, and Aerospace domains, and he is an active member of the Atlantic Canada Aerospace and Defence Association. (Research Partnerships website here) (Alternate Twitter here)
Tell us about what you studied before joining UNB?
My undergraduate degree was a bachelor of arts with honours in History, with a concentration in Military and Strategic Studies (and a minor in Drama Production!) which I then followed with a master’s degree in Military History, the thesis for which was the basis for a book that was recently published as part of the Goose Lane and Gregg Centre’s New Brunswick Military Heritage Project Series. I then pursued a Master of Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurship.
I was able to draw on those academic experiences when I came aboard with UNB’s Office of Research Services (ORS). I first started on a one-year term, but that role evolved as I started to take on projects beyond the initial position’s scope, and I’ve been with ORS since 2017.
What was your book about?
I looked at the operational history of the New Brunswick Rangers during the Second World War. They were an Independent Machine Gun and Heavy Mortar Support Company that provided additional fire power to the infantry units of the 4th Canadian Armoured Division in Northwest Europe.
The book also provides a commentary on their unit type’s deployment and their specific combat effectiveness. As a small unit the ability to perform interviews with veterans was not as prevalent as those that had more people go through it and so it was written in a way to also inform families of their relative’s role and fill in some gaps of family history. It provides some short biographies of those who did not make it home and whose resting places are in the care of the Commonwealth War Graves Commissions.
You’re one of only a handful of Springboard IEPs who comes from an Arts and History background. How does your educational background get you to think creatively about the commercialization process?
I think my humanities background provides a very different skill set. It gives me an ability to synthesize the technological information that we receive and translate that into a way that can be more easily understood by non- experts in the subject. Critical and creative thinking, and clear communication, are such an essential part of the university student experience, and an important part of what we do as IEPs.
For instance, just as the large-scale conflicts I studied involved different levels of outcomes and goals, from individual to national, and often across a number of actors, we also need to consider the best interests of our researchers, our respective institutions and our partner organizations to ensure that a collaboration is mutually beneficial.
With my humanities background I try to keep an eye out for opportunities for social science and humanities-oriented research to commercialize their research, or to pursue collaborative funding opportunities with community-based groups – in some instances, when they are already collaborating on projects.
In my view, the ability to fund these projects is a form of commercializing the research activity that enables the partners to make evidenced based decisions to support their organizational mandates.
Commercialization is not just the development of a widget or a process; it’s also providing funds for faculty to be able to contribute to policy and legislation, and to communicate these research results and academic pursuits more broadly.
I think it’s important that all of our researchers can see themselves as benefiting from the work we do as IEPs, not only those in STEM fields. Ultimately, we want to help them get their research into the world and have an impact outside of academia.
With our new strategic vision including a major focus on research intensity and impact, and with our office putting a big push on sector-specific innovation and research partnerships next year, being able to creatively connect researchers and partners across all of UNB will be increasingly essential.
How does the Springboard network enhance your role at UNB?
The Springboard network is a unique resource that we have as IEPs. We can better support industry-academia partnerships through inter-institutional collaboration, a feature which is not as prevalent elsewhere, from what I have seen.
For instance, research capacity not available at one institution can be performed by a research team at another, and our ability to connect with our counterparts facilitates that collaboration. We are also able to reach out to the network to get a ‘sober second thought’ should we encounter any issues or need advice, as others have likely either encountered something similar in the past or are facing something similar.
I’ve had people ask us if we see other Atlantic Canadian institutions as our competition, and my answer is, no, that’s not at all the case. I’d rather see companies pursue R&D activity in the region. Ideally, I’d prefer they work with UNB, of course, but if not, I can make introductions to other institutions and keep that activity within the region.
What projects are you working on in collaboration with other SB institutions?
One item I work on is with the Atlantic Association for Research in the Mathematical Sciences (AARMS), which organizes an Industrial Problem Solving Workshop where graduate math and stats students work on industry presented challenges during a week long event. This program, which travels to different schools each summer, greatly benefits from the connections that we as Springboard IEPs have, as we as we support in the event’s planning, outreach for problems to be submitted, and promotion. The event has been to Dalhousie and UNB, and we’re optimistic that Acadia will be able to host it in the summer of 2021.