Electricity and alternative energy the focus of newest Ontario Centre of Excellence
April 16, 2003
The provincial government has finally announced the creation of a new Centre of Excellence for Electricity and Alternative Energy Technology (CEEAT), with $20 million in funding over five years. The new Centre consolidates two previously separate proposals that were recommended shortly after the Ontario Centre of Excellence (OCE) program was renewed for another five-years term in last year’s Budget (R$, June 21/02).
CEEAT was previously announced last November as part of a so-called action plan to deal with the fallout from its policy reversal on electricity deregulation. At that time the Centre was to be focused on alternative energy and jointly located at Queen's Univ and the Univ of Toronto. It has now been fleshed out to include energy as well as researchers from McMaster Univ, Univ of Waterloo and Univ of Ontario Institute of Technology.
In the Budget Speech, Finance minister Janet Ecker stated that CEEAT will cost-share five chairs in applied energy technology which will coordinate applied research and commercialization for “more efficient and environmentally friendly energy technologies”. The chair concept differentiates the new Centre from those within the existing Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) program, but an official with the Ministry of Enterprise, Opportunity and Innovation (MEOI) says much work remains to be done before the centre's structure is finalized.
“The new centre will occur within the framework of the OCEs although the endowed chairs within the five universities are different,” says Mark Garscadden, manager of commercialization and international R&D within MEOI's Research, Technology and Innovation branch. “It’s a very promising start with tremendous opportunities. (The new Centre) will look to partnering with industry and forming networks and consortia, as well as leveraging other sources including government programs. The OCEs are very effective in brokering. Consortia are value-added.”
Garscadden says the idea for an OCE focused on electricity and alternative energy technologies came from an OCE advisory committee, headed by David McFadden, which reported to government in January, 2001. It identified a strategic need for such a centre coupled with industry and academic backing and focused on energy markets, technology adoption and alternative energies.
Those already within the OCE program welcome a new Centre focused on energy.
“We have proven that OCE investment pays off. It’s a good model to follow to deal with issues we have in the energy sector,” says Dr Gerald Lynch, president and CEO of Photonics Research Ontario. “Having the energy research portfolio at the table will prompt other OCEs to consider what they can do in this area. I welcome the Centre to the program.”