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NWCC Program Connects Applied Research with Community Needs

Northwest Community College (NWCC) is connecting northern British Columbias advanced research systems with community members in an effort to strengthen that work and to make more meaningful research contributions to communities across the North. The House of Learning and Applied Research (HLAR) at NWCC is consolidating and building on the Colleges earlier successes in applied research with its Applied Research and Innovation Program. Those successes include applied research in mining and energy that lead to the establishment of the School of Exploration & Mining, research on natural resources and indigenous knowledge that brought the Centre for Sustainable Environments, and research on indigenous foods and agriculture. HLAR is now building an online database that uses the Colleges ongoing presence in communities, from Houston to Skidegate, to create an innovation network connecting researchers, funding agencies, industry, and community members. During a time of economic downturn and restructuring, the programs goal is to create locally-driven applied research projects that result in valuable contributions to the communities involved. Were matching community needs to people who do the applied research, said Jim McDonald, HLARs executive director. This is going to be a community-driven process with tangible, immediate results. Since September 2008, a team from the House of Learning and Applied Research has been funded through the National Research Council to consult with researchers, residents, First Nations organizations and small- to medium-sized businesses across the North, gathering input on needed research projects that would lead to beneficial innovations. HLAR will also collaborate with economic development agencies, such as local chambers of commerce and municipal governments, to identify specific community needs. The program complements the work of research networking organizations, such as Northwest Science and Innovation Society (NSIS), Forum for Research and Extension in Natural Resources (FORREX) and the Bulkley Valley Research Centre. The expectation is that HLAR will create better awareness of the research and technology process throughout the North, as well as engage citizens in projects that will benefit communities of all sizes. There are many people with great ideas. What were doing here is directing those ideas. Its going to raise the profile of innovation and research in our region and make everything more efficient, McDonald said. This is a time when ideas should be listened to, when they should be heard, because its a time of such uncertainty. Its a good time for applied research. Everyone weve talked to is very excited.

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