Valérie Lalande is the Director of Research Services at Université Sainte-Anne, where part of her role is to facilitate and manage research and innovation partnerships with industry, community, and government. Holding an M.Sc. in Molecular Biology, Valerie joined Université Sainte-Anne in 2015 as an industry-driven researcher and has been involved with Springboard Atlantic since 2017.
What is your background and how did it prepare you for the work with the Springboard network?
I have a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry and a master’s in molecular biology and genetics. When I started as an undergraduate, I was working for an industry research chair at the University of Quebec, working in fermentation with a pulp and paper company.
Working with industry has taught me the importance of building relationships with companies as well as the ins and outs of technology and non-disclosure agreements and, the confidentiality required. Since my undergraduate days, I also have been writing grant applications, becoming intimately familiar NSERC as well as Mitacs. Intellectual property and confidentiality training as well as ethics training in science and working with industry was part of my degree.
What took you to the Université Sainte-Anne and how did you join the Springboard network?
I moved to Nova Scotia taking a position at U. Sainte-Anne that was focused in biochemistry, molecular biology, genomics and microbiology, matching exactly my background and experience as a researcher working with industries in a university environment.
I took that job in 2015 and when in 2016, U Sainte-Anne joined the Springboard Network, my role expanded. The university didn’t have a full Industry Liaison Officer (ILO) and given my background, they asked me to step into this role, attending the network meetings and representing the university and their research for Springboard. I attended my first network meeting January 2017 and I’ve been to them all ever since.
How does the network factor into your day-to-day work?
I take lots of time with companies to guide them through the funding agencies, through the research and where the different opportunities are. But we’re a small institution, so with the network we have colleagues at the other Springboard member institutions that I can call and connect with them if [the researchers] want to take part in projects or we require their expertise.
Having those connections is really important in order to build this capacity and knowledge within U. Sainte-Anne.
It also helps represent U. Sainte-Anne within Atlantic Canada, because we’re the only francophone university in Nova Scotia so no one knows us more or less. Having this visibility of research in rural Atlantic Canada is really important.
How does the Springboard network help your institution specifically?
Because we’re such a small university, the mentality around applied research is really important because we are close to our community and the impact we have on SME’s is important for the local, mostly Acadian and French communities, across Nova Scotia and across Atlantic Canada in general. My understanding of the ecosystem in Nova Scotia is really important for not only representing the French communities but also having this personal interaction with companies.
What else does being a part of the network give you?
For me, [the network] means accessing talent. I don’t have the capacity to do everything. I try my best to understand in general what my job is supposed to be but it’s different because I had to learn everything because [U. Sainte-Anne] is new in the Springboard network, and building that knowledge within our institution was important.
What Springboard has given me personally is all this knowledge. In no other region I would have learned that. If I was still in Quebec or Ontario, where I am from, I would have never had this opportunity. So being in Atlantic Canada is really special for this job and this ecosystem.