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Alberta colleges receive $2M from province for innovative research projects

SAIT campus in Calgary. Carolyn Kury de Castillo/Global News

As part of the province’s COVID-19 recovery plan, taxpayers are funding new research projects at several Alberta colleges that promote innovative investment in the energy and agriculture sectors.

As part of Alberta’s Research Capacity Program (RCP), the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT), Red Deer College and Olds College are receiving almost $2.1 million in grants.

The provincial government said the money will go towards helping the institutions perform “cutting-edge research” in areas such as 3D printing, clean energy technology and smart agriculture.

“A key part of Alberta’s Recovery Plan is preparing our grads for jobs in the real world,” Advanced Education Minister Demetrios Nicolaides said in a news release Monday.
“By focusing on innovation and research, this announcement will help our post-secondary institutions ensure our students have the skills they need in a future economy.”
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Jobs, Economy and Innovation Minister Doug Schweitzer added that the province’s investment into these projects will also help create jobs and attract outside investment to Alberta.

“This investment will help get Albertans back to work now and prepare our next generation for the jobs of tomorrow in manufacturing, energy and agriculture,” Schweitzer said.

“One of Alberta’s greatest strengths is our ability to tackle challenges through innovation. Growing these programs will make our province even more competitive as we turn ideas into reality, creating jobs and prosperity.”

Officials said the grants will also attract almost $6 million in additional research funding to the province, including more than $2.7 million from the federal government through the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada.

Read more: Alberta’s new post-secondary funding model tied to performance measures

Through the RCP grant, SAIT will receive $1 million to expand its applied research training programs.

“Funding like this, to diversify research and introduce new technology applications not only advances innovation, it attracts investment and in turn rebuilds our economy, ensuring graduates from our institutions get jobs and have rewarding careers,” SAIT’s president and CEO David Ross said.

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Old College will receive almost $1 million in funding for its Smart Agriculture Applied Research Program to acquire more agricultural equipment, sensors, devices and computers.

Red Deer College will receive almost $150,000 for its Integrations of Alternative Energy Lab, a teaching, research and data hub designed to increase financial and scientific knowledge and access to clean energy technologies.

Read more: MacKinnon Panel report urges Alberta post-secondary schools to rely less on government funding

In response to Monday’s funding announcement, the NDP opposition critic for advanced education said these grants don’t do enough to make up for the cuts implemented by the provincial government.

“This is not new money. The grant is less than one per cent of the cuts already made to Alberta’s institutions over 2019 and 2020,” David Eggen said.

“Alberta’s post-secondary institutions are key to the economic recovery of our province, and the UCP are making our institutions fend for themselves. This will result in higher tuition costs and diminishes the ability of these institutions to support staff and students in their capacity to drive innovation and prosperity.”

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