College looks to connect student innovation with businesses

College of the Rockies opens Inspire Centre for students to do applied research alongside local business community.

Students are hoping to lend their innovative ideas to local business through a new initiative at the College of the Rockies.

The Inspire Centre, a new creation by the college that is going live this semester, is designed to connect students with businesses in order to tackle and solve real-world problems with applied research and academic innovation.

“It’s an area of increased focus for the college and I would say that our main intent with this is to grow a culture of curiosity and grow the College of the Rockies as a learning organization,” said Gina Bennett, the chair for the Inspire Centre.

“Our two main functions of the centre here are going to be to support and further develop a scholarship of teaching and learning. The other big thing is to create more innovation through applied and community research.”

Bennett said that the college, though a smaller post-secondary institution in relation to the rest of the province, has a great reputation for student and technology innovation.

“Our classroom technology and also our educational technology—technology involving smart boards, lecture recording, distance learning technology—that sort of thing,” she said. “We really are seen as very forward-thinking in the province.”

Though the semester has just begun, the centre is working on establishing the business connections that will allow college students to bring their ideas and innovation to the local business community.

“The plan for applied research, as it is in other places as well, is to connect with business groups, innovation infrastructure of the East Kootenay, find out where the needs are, find out where we can best add value,” Bennett said.

With a myriad of programs up at the college, there are all kinds of areas where students could lend their ideas, said Bennett, who pointed to local industries such as mining and tourism.

“We want to focus in a little bit, we can’t be all things to all people, but we will want to focus in on areas where we do have expertise,” she said.

“For example, we have our bachelor in applied business in sustainable business practices, this is so far, our only bachelors degree. We’re becoming quite good with this and we have students doing comprehensive capstone projects every year.

“On the other hand, we’re doing a lot of project work, international projects etc, related to mining, so those are two very different sectors. We’re not sure yet if it’s going to be one of those, both of those, or something more.”

For now, it will be a matter of getting local businesses and organizations on board with the centre’s mission, she continued.

“We will be soliciting collaborations and partnerships with businesses and we’ll probably be starting with—I’m guessing we’ll start by talking with business organizations, so perhaps Community Futures or Chamber of Commerce or tourism umbrella organizations,” Bennett said.

“…Definitely we will be soliciting partnerships and collaborations with businesses and then seeking funding to do the research.”