Conestoga news

May 30, 2024 11:25 AM

Conestoga researchers and industry partners gather at symposium

Conestoga’s Smart Manufacturing and Advanced Recycling Technologies (SMART) Centre hosted its research symposium at its facility in Cambridge on April 23.

The SMART Centre research symposium attracted current and prospective industry partners, as well as representatives of local government.

The event’s theme was Ignite innovation and attracted current and prospective industry partners, who took the stage to speak of their positive experiences in partnering with SMART Centre to help propel their businesses and solve problems in smart manufacturing.

In 2023, SMART Centre resourced over 30 faculty and more than 60 students who worked with 26 industry partners on 34 projects, receiving over $1.5 million in total funding from all sources.

Magna International has worked with the SMART Centre on several projects, including freight lane optimization for their inbound transportation fleet, live profit/loss statements that replace month-end reporting, and digital twinning - a virtual reality-based digital replica of production line equipment that assists with supervision duties and quality control tasks.

Magna employee Mike Wilson spoke at the event and commented on how working with SMART Centre helps complete the kinds of projects that are vital to increasing productivity, but that often get overlooked due to time and resource constraints.

“When you engage with the college, it keeps you in line, week by week, so that the project comes to a successful conclusion. Otherwise, it tends to take a backseat and other more pressing needs happen first,” said Wilson, an IT department manager with Magna International - Karmax Heavy Stamping. 

For the three projects, which each spanned two school terms, SMART Centre resourced three professors who acted as lead researchers, as well as three to four co-op students per term.

“Through examples like Magna International, we’re able to see the impact that our professors and students have on major corporations in our community, with benefits for all those involved,” said Jeff Dukes, director, SMART Centre.

“Our industry partners gain valuable resources that save time and money by accelerating and completing important projects that foster innovation and competitiveness, as well as a pipeline of future employees and 100 per cent ownership of all products and patents.”

“Our co-op students gain valuable real-world work experience, and our professors are able to practically apply their knowledge while also earning valuable professional development.”

Other industry partners who spoke at the event included EHT Group, Vortex Technology Group, and Belco Doors, while project managers and other members of the SMART Centre team took time to provide more details of the resources and facilities available.

Representatives of municipal government were also in attendance to help build relationships and keep pace with the work the college is doing and its benefits to the local economy.

“Attending Conestoga College events such as this one is critical for our team to help foster synergetic relationships between academia and industry,” said Laura Pearce, senior economic development officer, City of Cambridge.

“The cutting-edge Conestoga programming is invaluable for businesses and our office can assist to connect our local business community with the college to help advance their goals, innovation and competitiveness.”

After the speakers had concluded, guests were invited on a guided tour of the 13,000-square-foot state-of-the-art SMART Centre facility at 96 Grand Avenue South in Cambridge.

“Our work and impact wouldn’t be possible without the support we receive from our industry partners and colleagues in the industry. We thank you for your partnership and look forward to continuing to build and strengthen new and existing relationships going forward,” said Michelle Chrétien, vice-president, Research.

SMART Centre was established in 2020 to support applied research, technical services, and training in the areas of advanced manufacturing, advanced recycling technologies and cyber security, and is one of Canada's 60 NSERC-funded Technology Access Centres (TACs) that form a network of applied research and innovation centres.

The centre is part of Conestoga’s Research, Innovation & Entrepreneurship team that brings together multidisciplinary expertise, state-of-the-art resources, and collaboration to tackle real-world challenges and address the needs of industry.