From treating disease to enhancing chemical coatings, monitoring water quality and creating virus-free plant materials, Brock University’s innovative institute dedicated to solving industry challenges is at the ready to help.
While the Brock-Niagara Validation, Prototyping and Manufacturing Institute (VPMI) has already begun connecting industry with researcher expertise and state-of-the-art equipment, an official grand opening to celebrate the landmark facility was held Wednesday, Oct. 11.
The cutting-edge technology adoption centre, located in Inniskillin Hall on Brock’s main campus, was made possible by a $6-million investment announced in 2019 by the Government of Canada, through the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario). Wednesday’s celebration saw the Brock community come together with representatives from industry and all levels of government to learn more about the institute and all that it can aid businesses in achieving.
“For nearly 60 years, Brock has supported the Niagara community by helping to tackle the challenges faced by local industry,” says University President and Vice-Chancellor Lesley Rigg. “Through the VPMI, businesses now have direct access to the research expertise we know has the potential to create groundbreaking change, in addition to high-end and rare scientific equipment that, in some cases, is found nowhere else in Canada. We are grateful to FedDev Ontario for the support that has made these collaborations possible.”
Focused on the health and disease, agricultural, chemical manufacturing and environmental sectors, the VPMI works with a wide range of companies in Niagara and across southern Ontario in areas such as cannabis, food-based products, medicines and nutritional supplements, and polymer and resin production.
In addition to applied research and innovation, the institute supports businesses with cost-effective testing and prototyping for early-stage manufacturing to help expand and tackle new markets. It will facilitate the training and transfer of new technology into production practices, processes and operations to help companies maintain a competitive edge, both through learning opportunities and credentials offered by Professional and Continuing Studies at Brock, and through a talent pipeline to produce graduates with the knowledge, skills and experience to place them in high-demand industry roles.
“Congratulations to Brock University on the grand opening of the Brock-Niagara Validation, Prototyping and Manufacturing Institute. The work you will be doing at VPMI is crucial in strengthening our innovation economy and supporting the businesses driving the sector forward,” says the Honourable Filomena Tassi, Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario. “With projects like this, the Government of Canada is committed to investing in the people right here in our communities, so they can reach their potential and turn possibilities into realities.”
With successful industry partnerships already underway, the VPMI is highlighting the growing impact of Brock’s research enterprise, says Tim Kenyon, Brock’s Vice-President, Research.
“Through their work, Brock researchers are contributing to communities locally, nationally and globally, using their knowledge to help improve business, advance technology and create a better world through breakthroughs happening right here on campus,” he says. “Now, with a dedicated institute in place to support the needs of southern Ontario businesses, the momentum that has been building over time between Brock research and local industry will flourish.”
The Validation, Prototyping and Manufacturing Institute “helps Brock University reaffirm its commitment to excellence in research and development, and support of local industry while educating students with advanced technology and equipment,” says Chris Bittle, Member of Parliament for St. Catharines. “Our government, through the Federal Economic Development Agency of Southern Ontario, is proud to support this facility and I am looking forward to seeing the results for students and businesses across Niagara.”
Vance Badawey, Member of Parliament for Niagara Centre, says “investing in the Validation, Prototyping and Manufacturing Institute at Brock University strengthens an economic incubator that will benefit our present and next generation of innovators.”
“The Government of Canada is proud to be a part of Team Niagara, committed to supporting innovators who align with our regional economy to evolve and adopt greener processes and technologies, increase their production capabilities and create good jobs throughout Niagara and across Canada,” he says.
VPMI Director Paul Zelisko was one of the authors of the Government of Canada funding proposal to create the institute. He says that in addition to the services offered by the VPMI, the institute can help industry from any sector to connect with other relevant Brock units that can provide support, such as the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), Brock LINC and Niagara Community Observatory.
“The VPMI represents limitless potential,” he says. “We are a science-based facility, but we’re also here to help mobilize resources available at Brock that can also assist businesses with challenges being encountered and ideas they’re hoping to see come to fruition.”
CCOVI Director Debbie Inglis, co-author of the VPMI proposal, emphasizes the innovation capacity the new institute adds to Brock’s existing strong connections with Canada’s grape and wine industries.
“The VPMI’s suite of equipment and expertise complements the work CCOVI researchers have been doing to support local industry for more than two decades,” she says. “The launch of this latest institute has allowed Brock to expand and enhance its offerings to additional sectors, reaffirming the University’s ongoing commitment to the vitality of the local economy.”
For more information or to collaborate with the VPMI, visit brocku.ca/vpmi