B.C. government grants $3.5 million to Vancouver’s MITACS

It was the day before voting that Gordon Campbell replacement Christy Clark announced a $3.5-million grant awarded to MITACS to generate jobs and promote innovation within B.C.

Well, Christy edged out her competition to win last night, meaning we may see more of these grants in an effort to ramp up the province’s research and development.

“Research and innovation are key to economic growth in our province, and to providing jobs for B.C. families into the future,” Christy said. “With this announcement, we are working with our partners to take great ideas from our university labs and turn them into excellent jobs, driving progress in every sector of our economy.”

Established in 1999, MITACS is a nonprofit research organization which partners with government, universities and industry to recruit, train and retain graduate students in B.C.

“MITACS has far exceeded our expectations by connecting almost 1,000 graduate students with B.C. businesses and organizations to create innovative products and practices,” said Pat Bell, Minister of Jobs, Tourism and Innovation. “Today’s investment will help build the highly-educated workforce we need to be a leader in innovation and commercialization.”

Through the MITACS-Accelerate program, Aaron Phillips, a graduate student in kinesiology at the University of British Columbia, is doing research to help commercialize a “smart” wheelchair for spinal cord injured people. Developed by SOC Robotics of North Vancouver, the chair takes the user’s blood pressure, heart rate and other feedback, combines it with information about the terrain, and provides extra help when needed.

“Support for this program is great for students, because we can put our research to use in the industries where we’ll find jobs after we graduate,” Phillips said. “My work is helping people with spinal cord injuries or those who have had a stroke to actively engage in the community through smart-adaptive wheeling assistance that lets them be more active and independent.”

The MITACS Globalink program is expecting up to 20 undergraduate students to come to B.C. from China this summer. This is in addition to 28 students from India.

“When these international undergraduates get a taste of the research going on at our world-class universities, B.C. becomes top of mind for graduate school,” said Advanced Education Minister Naomi Yamamoto. “Usually, these students look at universities like Harvard, MIT or Oxford – but after interning here, 85 per cent of them say they’re considering B.C. instead.”

“MITACS programs improve retention rates of our most highly educated students by a phenomenal 20 per cent, and have protected probably $225 million worth of government investment in education in B.C. alone,” said Brad Bennett, Chairman of the MITACS board. “We thank the Province for continuing to invest in our work to make the most of B.C. talent and technology.”