Univ of Winnipeg teams with Cisco in major push to boost research capacity and funding

Guest Contributor
February 19, 2010

By Debbie Lawes

The Univ of Winnipeg hopes to significantly increase its sponsored research over the coming years by leveraging the largest industry collaboration in the institution's history. The university — better known as an undergraduate school — has finalized $14 million in funding deals with Cisco Canada, the province and the federal government to transform the campus into a provincial hub for immersive, high-end videoconferencing with a larger focus on applied R&D and commercialization.

Cisco is investing $3 million in technology and in-kind, and $2 million over 10 years towards a new Cisco Chair for Collaborative Technologies. The Manitoba Research Innovation Fund will providing $2 million in matching funds. Bill Balan, VP finance and administration at Univ of Winnipeg, credits the Cisco investment for their success in securing another $7 million from the Canada-Manitoba Western Economic Partnership Agreement.

"Our university doesn't have a long or very broad tradition in terms of research so they were very interested in the potential for commercializing research that will be generated as a result of this project," says Balan. "In terms of the size and magnitude of this project it's a major push forward in applied R&D for the university."

The federal and provincial funding allows for the creation of 34 new research and teaching labs at the University of Winnipeg Commercialization Research and Education Alliance for Science, Technology and the Environment. UWin CREATE is slated to open in Spring 2011 in a new science building offering demonstration and tech transfer services, enabling researchers to take their ideas to the prototype stage.

UWin will also house the Cisco Innovation Centre for Collaboration Technologies, including two Cisco TelePresence virtual meeting systems, as well as a wide range of Cisco unified communication and collaboration technologies including WebEx Connect. Unlike standard video-conferencing, telepresence provides immersive, lifelike communications experience that combines high-definition video and high-quality audio.

The systems will use the CANARIE and provincial broadband networks to connect to new TelePresence suites being established at Brandon Univ and the Univ College of the North in Las Pas. The Univ of Winnipeg is negotiating with the International Institute for Sustainable Development to set up another site in Ottawa.

"We're also in the process of a number of international initiatives with other universities and several of them have telepresence sites, particularly in the US and Latin America," says Balan.

The Manitoba network — the first of its kind in Canada — will be used for collaborative research and distant learning. Cisco will be actively involved in the centre, he adds, looking for opportunities to feed research results into its various business units.

Other corporate partners are expected to come onboard. For example, Balan says the university is in advanced discussions with Winnipeg-based mobile collaboration company Librestream Technologies Inc.

The Univ of Winnipeg is a relative newcomer to R&D. It established its first graduate programs over the past two years and currently holds two Tier 1 Canada Research Chairs and four Tier 2 chairs. It generated about $4.4 million in external research funding in 2008 and Balan is optimistic its share of grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council will increase over the coming years as a result of Cisco's participation.

The university is currently developing a strategic research plan which will be presented to university president Dr Lloyd Axworthy by April 1.


Univ of Winnipeg Research Performance

All fields of studyResults    *Average    
Number of Publications79    174    
International Collaborations29    71    
** Total Research ($ millions)$5    $18    
Total research per faculty$16,178    $51,576    
** Federal Funding ($ millions)$2.5    $5    
Granting Council dollars    
per faculty$5,746    $15,064    
* Average results for schools of similar size
Source: GlobeCampus, Globe and Mail
** Updated data from Univ of Winnipeg

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