Extending a hand to business

'For our part, we are keen to partner with the real drivers of our economy'

- April 28, 2011

(Nick Pearce Photo)
(Nick Pearce Photo)

Kelvin Sams of Sunrise Foods had a problem: how could he get the little red spreader stick in the cheese-and-crackers package, a process now done manually? The company had developed its own sorting machine, but it turned out to be impractical, and the machine was shelved.

Then, he knocked on the door of Dalhousie’s Industry Liaison and Innovation (ILI) Office. With the office’s assistance, they were able to come up with a concept “which we think is going to work,” said Mr. Sams. Further, one of Dal’s engineering professors made it a class project—giving students a “box of stuff” and daring them to come up with a workable way to get the red stick in the package.

“This was brainstorming at its best,” said Mr. Sams, a Dal commerce grad, who was impressed with what the students came up with. “I run a small business and you tend to stay within your own circle. But you’re only as smart as that circle can be.”

Healthy reminder

Sunrise’s cheese-and-cracker snack packs adorned each place setting at a Halifax Chamber of Commerce gathering at Atlantica Hotel—along with elegant lunchtime fare—providing a healthy reminder of how Dalhousie and the business community can work together to lead innovation in the province.

That point was driven home by Dalhousie President Tom Traves, addressing attendees as part of the chamber’s Distinguished Speakers Series.

“I want to emphasize Dalhousie’s genuine commitment to your success and to being one of the agents who can work with you to build a culture of innovation in Nova Scotia,” he told the more than 80 business people in attendance. “We are a large organization filled with creative people operating within a sophisticated infrastructure. To be sure, universities cannot drive the growth process by ourselves; but we can work hand-in-hand with industry and government to accelerate economic developments that you must lead.”

Besides positioning ILI as “the front door to the university,” Dr. Traves extended an invitation to business people to tap into Dal expertise in other ways—by taking advantage of co-op education programs, for example, that allow employers to build relationships with talented prospects before they graduate. He also encouraged business leaders to help the university understand “your evolving labour market needs” to ensure that Dalhousie is graduating students with the skills and experiences business is looking for.

Further, Dr. Traves said the know-how at Dalhousie and the private sector must band together to leverage each other’s strengths. He gave the example of the soon-to-launch Halifax Marine Research Institute (HMRI), which will bring together the expertise of ocean researchers at Dalhousie and throughout the region.

“Dalhousie brings to our strategic alliance over $260 million of ocean-related research funds expected over the coming five years and our new Oceans Excellence building. Our partners bring similar assets,” he said. “Interestingly, the first test of this new strategy already has arisen in the competition to gain contracts from Canada’s new naval shipbuilding program.”

Smart returns

Standing in front of a banner which read “Wise investments, smart returns,” Dr. Traves’s speech also emphasized Dalhousie’s importance to the provincial economy, with a $600-million operating budget and employing nearly 6,000 full- and part-time faculty and staff. Dal’s 16,800 students spend millions in the local area on rent, food, products and services “as well as the odd beer or two.”

Dalhousie continues to expand, adding buildings to campus such as the Mona Campbell Academic Building, which opened last fall, and two connected buildings, a medical research facility on Summer and College and the business incubation facility next door, that will be officially opened in June.

Dalhousie is also in the midst of its most ambitious capital campaign ever; the campaign, called Bold Ambitions, has already raised $180 million of its $250 million goal.

VIDEO: Dalhousie President Tom Traves addresses the Halifax Chamber of Commerce.


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