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The toolbank of R&D Science Atlantic database puts investigative tools in researchers' hands
A powerful new means of advancing research and development in Atlantic Canada made its debut in Halifax today. Known as AFRED (Atlantic Facilities and Research Equipment Database), this open-access database will connect researchers in the region to the equipment and facilities they need to answer their foremost questions—whether they’re trying to understand the brain, build a silent windmill, or craft the perfect cupcake.
Science Atlantic, a non-profit association of 16 post-secondary and research institutes in Atlantic Canada, launched AFRED at Dalhousie University’s Life Sciences Research Institute in Halifax in early March. The association began work on the project in 2010, shepherding AFRED from a simple spreadsheet to a sophisticated searchable database.
“AFRED will enable researchers in Atlantic Canada to make use of specialized equipment they might otherwise not know even exists,” says Dr. David McCorquodale, Science Atlantic’s chair and Dean of Science & Technology at Cape Breton University. “The database is available to anyone to access for free, whether they’re conducting their research in a university, community college, government agency, hospital, non-profit, or private enterprise. We see AFRED as a powerful tool for building cross-sector partnerships and opening the door to new possibilities for innovation, business development and wealth creation in the region.”
AFRED provides researchers with access to a registry of significant research infrastructure available in Atlantic Canada, and connects them to the facilities’ hosts and technical experts at the stroke of a key. This saves them enormous amounts of time trying to locate relevant facilities and allows them to conduct studies they could not undertake without either acquiring the equipment themselves or accessing it outside the region. At the same time, it ensures that expensive research assets do not sit idle and are utilized to their full capacity instead.
The Government of Canada provided a non-repayable contribution of $181,897 to the project through ACOA’s Business Development Program, while Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) provided $16,850.
“The Government of Canada is committed to working with Atlantic Canada’s world-class research and academic facilities to promote innovation and foster effective partnerships between businesses and research partners,” says the Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and Minister responsible for ACOA. “This project will help maximize available resources, increase research and development interaction between business, academia and government, and strengthen the research and innovation base in Atlantic Canada.”
More than 400 pieces of equipment in over 80 facilities at 19 institutions have registered listings in AFRED so far. Science Atlantic is continuing to receive requests to be listed from potential new facilities and aims to expand the database until all eligible facilities in the region are listed. This includes facilities operated by government, non-profit organizations and private companies, in addition to universities and community colleges. AFRED will optimize the use of resources and build R&D capacity in Atlantic Canada in sectors ranging from health care and biotech to fishing and forestry, foods and nutraceuticals, IT and aerospace, and biofuels and renewable energy technologies.
“Our government is committed to supporting scientists whose discoveries provide us with the evidence we need to build a strong economy, a sustainable environment and a vibrant middle class,” says the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Canada’s Minister of Science. “By strengthening the opportunities for collaboration between scientists and entrepreneurs, we are ensuring future generations will benefit from the incredible research being conducted in labs throughout the Atlantic region.”
AFRED is also supported by Springboard Atlantic, BioNB, the region’s universities, several community colleges, and other partners who are coming on board as AFRED evolves.