A $5-million investment by the federal government will allow Brock University to create a landmark facility aimed at making Niagara a research and innovation leader in bioagriculture, bioscience and chemical manufacturing sectors.
The FedDev funding through the Community Economic Development and Diversification stream was announced Tuesday, Sept. 3 by Niagara Centre MP Vance Badawey and St. Catharines MP Chris Bittle.
The funding means Brock can now launch the Brock-Niagara Validating, Prototyping and Manufacturing Institute (VPMI) which will enable area businesses to access the University’s researchers, expertise and advanced technology. The new centre will be housed in a $6.1-million expansion of Brock’s Mackenzie Chown Complex, which is expected to open in 2021.
Brock University President Gervan Fearon said the visionary facility will make the Niagara community a Canadian leader in university-engaged collaborative research and innovation that enhances advances and the competitiveness of the manufacturing and agri-food sectors.
“We are grateful for the Government of Canada supporting this strategic initiative that helps to build the regional economic cluster of the Niagara region and supports the competitiveness of industry across Canada,” said Fearon. “The VPMI will support applied research and development, innovation and commercialization efforts to help businesses grow and thrive. It will play an important role in Brock University’s strategic priority to partner with business and communities in supporting the prosperity and vitality of the Niagara region and beyond.”
The VPMI will be comprised of three main components: research and innovation; testing and prototyping; and training. It will expand on existing partnerships created through Brock’s Advanced Biomanufacturing Centre (ABC), Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI) and the BrockLINC.
The VPMI will give businesses access to state-of-the-art analytical, prototyping and early-stage
manufacturing tools, as well as to expertise and training, to help expand and tackle new markets. It will provide the bioproduct, bioagriculture, bioscience and chemical manufacturing sectors with a single-site solution to improve or launch products and new processes.
“This will enhance industrial-academia partnerships by providing businesses with the capacity to fully design, study and characterize both biological and chemical systems while working with the related expertise at Brock University,” said Tim Kenyon, Vice-President, Research at Brock.
The VPMI will work with a wide range of companies in Niagara and across southern Ontario in sectors such as wine production, cannabis, food-based products, health care, medicines and nutritional supplements, and chemical companies that produce polymers and resins used in manufacturing.
Badawey said he was thrilled to see “Brock University taking measures to enhance research, innovation and the economy,” through the new VPMI.
“This new facility will grow the region's economy by creating more jobs, strengthen the relationship with various organizations and continue to highlight the importance of industrial-academia partnerships,” he said. “Brock’s initiative presents an innovative way to ensure our region is provided with the opportunity to participate in the competitive market.”
Bittle agreed, saying the new facility would “ensure we keep pushing the boundaries to benefit the Niagara economy.”
“Our region continues to join forces and collaborate with our post-secondary institutions to keep jobs and opportunities local,” he said. “In particular, the project announced today for Brock University is a perfect example of how this institution brings together expertise in biology and chemistry to uniquely tackle challenges.”