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Member Profile: Hart Devitt, University of New Brunswick

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Let’s start with your professional background prior to Springboard.

In 2000, I started at the Research Services Offices at the University of New South Wales in Australia where I was a pre-award manager and also assisted in grant writing. I became familiar with research administration and improved at the soft skills that were needed to fulfill my role as a manager.

I moved back to NB in 2008 and was hired by the University of New Brunswick (UNB) for a role that was half pre-award and half industry/government services for its business development outreach mission. Later, I shifted from the pre-award work and became the Industry Liaison Officer (ILO) and officially became a Springboard member.

 

So you’ve been involved with Springboard for a number of years, how has the network changed over time?

I remember in the early days there wasn’t the same sense of connectedness between the members. I think as a group we’ve become more cohesive as new ideas and new perspectives are added to the network. The notion that you belong to a cohesive group and you have support both from Central Office and your colleagues within the membership, inspires a sense of community within our membership.

 

What are some examples of this community mindset?

It came to light during the establishment of the Marine Additive Manufacturing Centre of Excellence (MAMCE) which includes a number of Springboard members including the Collège communautaire du Nouveau‑Brunswick (CCNB), New Brunswick Community College (NBCC), Nova Scotia Community College (NSCC) and us as MAMCE members.

In establishing that centre and finding a working model for how to do that our team really relied on colleagues at UNB and the whole Springboard network to help us navigate our way through the establishment of the centre.

 

What are some of the broader ways the network helps you?

Going into a new city, sector or ecosystem ‘cold’ without any background knowledge is daunting for anyone doing any kind of business development for an institution. Having colleagues in other cities to help introduce you to the ecosystem within that city or region is enormously helpful when you’re trying to establish a new relationship.

 

What sort of impact has UNB had in the region to date?

I think UNB has been particularly successful in amalgamating our stronger research areas into focal areas that now get support from the Province; like cybersecurity.  It started off at the university but it’s now a focal point for the Province, now known for its cybersecurity expertise, due to the Province’s support of the research.  

 

What new sectors are you taking on now?

We’re starting to see that same thing happening with the cannabis portfolio. Some of the technical expertise that is coming out of, not only UNB, but Université de Moncton (UdeM) and other places in the Province, is getting support from our Provincial government and as a result we’re receiving a lot more traction in this sector than we had anticipated.

 

What Provincial organizations have you revived support from so far?

BioNB has been a really good support system that connected us to the cannabis industry, because they’re the ones working closely with them. We’ve also received a lot of support from Opportunities New Brunswick (ONB), which is bringing licensed producers (LP’s) to the table and introducing us to those LP’s and their research challenges.

So now we’ve had more external interest from countries like Israel and the U.S. as well as a lot of interest from within the country. We tend to be invited, not just our researchers, to business conferences, to sit on panels and are asked how it is that New Brunswick is doing so well in the cannabis space.

 

How will the Springboard network benefit from the work New Brunswick is doing in the cannabis sector?

There are all kinds of ways this information will be dispersed throughout the network because no one institution has all the expertise required by any stretch. By keeping our membership informed with what we’re doing in the cannabis portfolio, the rest of our members can find ways for their researchers to plug in to these successes.

 

Do you have an example of these opportunities?

A good example is in the edibles market. At Christmas time [2019] there will be new regulations on these products, and I know UNB doesn’t have a lot of food scientists, but I know over at the University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) and Holland College they’ve got all kinds of expertise. So, I’m hoping that by keeping those lines of communication open we can ensure that everyone within Springboard can see new opportunities for their researchers.

 

What is the value of Springboard for you today?

It lets me stay on top of the next change. We’ve discussed some of the portfolios, whether it’s advanced manufacturing or additive manufacturing or cannabis but we need to stay ahead of where the next big change is coming from. I think having a regional outlook and having regional colleagues is the best way to forecast what’s the next big this is and how we can be prepared for it.