IDEAWORKS Year in Review: Our top ten of 2020
(The commentary below was posted on LinkedIn on Decelber 21, 2020 by Mohawk College Dean of Applied Research Jeff McIsaac.)
Last year, when I shared my top ten IDEAWORKS moments of 2019, I ended my list by wishing everyone an “innovative 2020.” I certainly didn’t expect that innovation in 2020 would be spurred on by a global pandemic.
In many ways COVID-19 has turned all of us into innovators, constantly pivoting and coming up with new ways of working and living. Some of our challenges were as personal as figuring out how to work at home with kids. Some of us have had to innovate on a very public scale, such as re-tooling a manufacturing facility to produce personal protective equipment.
Although it feels like 2020 was made up of one challenge after another, there are still some moments that are worth celebrating here at IDEAWORKS, thanks to the hard work of the applied research team.
We’ve made sure that our applied research activities have kept up with the pace and needs of our industry partners. We’ve also worked hard to ensure that our students had valuable, hands-on experiences. Many of our activities have focused on helping our partners respond directly to COVID-19. Others have focused on making sure that Canadian companies are ready for a resilient recovery.
Here are my top ten of 2020.
1. AMIC mobilized to help support the COVID-19 Response.
We worked with our partner Burloak Technologies to address medical supply shortages due to the COVID-19 crisis. We also produced 1,000 face shields for the Cambridge Family Health Team. As we head into 2021, the Additive Manufacturing Innovation Centre continues its work helping companies develop new COVID-19 products using additive manufacturing, from helping develop hand hygiene systems to better space and automotive filtration devices.
2. Local school boards benefited from our expertise in sustainability in the fight against COVID-19.
Schools present an opportunity to be living labs of sustainability when it comes to energy consumption and clean air. Mohawk partnered with the Grand Erie District School Board, and Stoney Creek’s NERVA Energy Group to support the installation of new air purification equipment in ventilation systems to help reduce the spread of COVID-19.
3. The Energy & Power Innovation Centre (EPIC) was nationally recognized for its energy expertise.
EPIC was named a Technology Access Centre, thanks to the support of NSERC. The TAC will focus its support on the agri-food sector to address energy and other resource challenges and help food and beverage companies in the Golden Horseshoe Region reduce their costs and environmental footprint.
4. We’ve expanded our applied research expertise with the Centre for Climate Change Management
Mohawk’s well-regarded Centre for Climate Change Management has officially joined the IDEAWORKS team. Combined with our Research Chair in Sustainability and our Energy & Power Innovation Centre, we have an extensive team that can help our partners find solutions to their key sustainability challenges.
5. Our newest innovation centre bridges the gap between technology and front-line healthcare workers.
This year, Mohawk launched the Medical Technologies Innovation Centre (MTIC), which leads applied research initiatives that strengthen the adoption of existing and emerging medical technologies. A recent project with Icentia helped the company increase the usage of its electrocardiogram analysis software in a clinical setting.
6. Canada was on FHIR.
MEDIC’s flagship conference FHIR North may have been hosted virtually, but it certainly didn’t stop the Canadian Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resource (FHIR) community from attending. I shared my top four moments from FHIR North. Don’t forget that FHIR North is still available on-demand.
7. Ahead of the curve in IoT.
The Internet of Things (IoT) has recently been called more vital than ever in helping the world respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Dr. Esteve Hassan, Canada’s Industrial Research Chair for IIoT Applications, shared an update of the research projects taking place at Mohawk’s Sensor Systems and Internet of Things (IoT) Lab.
8. Equity. Diversity. Inclusion.
2020 reminded us that can all do more to support equity, diversity and inclusion in our workplaces. Mohawk was among just 17 postsecondary institutions nationwide chosen for a pilot that embeds equity, diversity and inclusion into research practices.
9. More Research Areas. More Experts.
Every year we challenge ourselves to connect new industry partners with Mohawk’s expertise. This year was no different: Mohawk applied researchers partnered with Canadian companies to help accelerate innovation, from helping a local company meet increased demand for Canadian products to creating a new online tool for closed captioning.
10. Mohawk ranks fourth in Canada for applied research.
In mid-December, RE$EARCH Infosource released their annual ranking of Canada’s top research colleges. It’s a huge honour to be ranked among the top five for applied research in Canada
I’m especially proud to be ranked first in Canada for the number of paid student research opportunities. Every applied research project we work on means that there is an opportunity for a student to jumpstart their career with an exceptional work experience.
Thank you to the partners that work with us as well as the students and staff that power up our research labs for making this fourth-place ranking possible.