Research partnership with Manitoba Hydro nets national innovation award

NSERC Award CeremonyA research partnership with Manitoba Hydro focusing on sustainable building infrastructure and transportation has earned Red River College the top honour from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Presented today at a ceremony at the Governor General’s residence in Ottawa, NSERC’s Synergy Award for Innovation recognizes outstanding research and development partnerships between colleges and industry partners in the fields of natural sciences and engineering. Only one Canadian college receives the award each year.

“This award is the highest level of validation a college can receive for the impact and lasting benefits of its research partnerships efforts,” says RRC President Paul Vogt. “Our partnerships with industry stakeholders like Manitoba Hydro are critical to our mandate for supporting innovation in Manitoba, and providing our graduates with the skills that industry requires.”

Dating back more than a decade, the partnership between RRC and Hydro includes collaboration on such high-profile projects as the award-winning Manitoba Hydro Place and the development of a zero-emissions electric battery transit bus.

“The legacy of the relationship between Manitoba Hydro and RRC will live on in our downtown office tower and zero-emission buses operating within many North American cities for decades to come,” says Lloyd Kuczek, Manitoba Hydro’s vice-president of Customer Care and Energy Conservation.

“These projects provide daily reminders of what we can accomplish through collaborative research and of the importance of leveraging the capabilities of research partners like RRC.”

The partnership was vital in validating the performance of innovative technologies showcased within Manitoba Hydro Place, resulting in the most energy-efficient office tower in North America and the first LEED Platinum commercial building in Canada.

From there, the partners moved forward with a number of groundbreaking initiatives, including the formation of an international consortium (that also includes Winnipeg Transit, Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and New Flyer Industries) to develop, test and demonstrate battery transit buses and a new high-capacity charging system — the first of its size in Canada.

“We now have a total of four buses in daily service in Winnipeg, and New Flyer has already accepted orders for international sales,” says Ray Hoemsen, director of Applied Research and Commercialization at RRC. “Each in-service bus leads to a reduction of 160 tonnes of greenhouse gases each year, as well as significant fuel savings.”

Hydro’s partnership with the College has also been instrumental in launching the new NSERC-funded Building Envelope Technology Access Centre (BETAC), which provides technical services, applied research capabilities, and specialized education and training.

“Our partnerships with RRC allow for sustainable thinking to become entrenched in the next generation of industry leaders,” says Dale Friesen, Industrial and Commercial Solutions Division Manager with Manitoba Hydro. “Students graduating from the College will bring an enhanced level of knowledge and understanding in energy efficiency to their future careers, benefiting our province for decades to come.”

The Synergy award provides RRC with up to $100,000 in funding for applied research tools and instruments; Manitoba Hydro will receive a $20,000 voucher towards any future NSERC-funded applied research project.

Earlier this year, RRC was ranked as the top college in Canada in research partnership growth, and as a top 10 research college overall for the third consecutive year by Research Infosource.

Shown above: (Back row) Rob Spewak, manager of RRC’s Building Envelope Technology Access Centre (BETAC); Lloyd Kuczek, Manitoba Hydro’s vice-president of Customer Care and Energy Conservation; Jojo Delos Reyes, RRC research manager, Applied Research and Commercialization. (Front row) Hon. Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science; Ray Hoemsen, RRC’s director of Applied Research and Commercialization; Governor General David Johnston; Neil Cooke, dean of Teaching Excellence, Innovation and Research, RRC; Dr. B. Mario Pinto, president of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).