FREDERICTON'S CULTURE OF INNOVATION
Chapter 11 - Research and Productivity Council
I recently had the privilege to tour the Research & Productivity Council (RPC), and was blown away at the magnitude of world-class research taking place on College Hill Road. With over 1000 clients in 30 countries from around the world, RPC holds over $15 million in highly sophisticated scientific equipment, and it generates over $10 million annually in revenue. In my humble opinion, this is an organization that has completely flown under the radar, and is a hidden gem in the heart of our Innovation District.
Eric Cook, Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer, graciously conducted a tour for Ignite Fredericton staff. It was a learning experience, as I never knew that RPC had its original roots where Kings Place stands today. RPC was created as a result of the Research and Productivity Act in 1962 as a New Brunswick Provincial Research Organization (PRO). PROs are not-for-profit crown corporations known as Research & Technology Organizations (RTO).
As the province’s RTO, RPC is a member of I-CAN (Innoventures Canada), which is a consortium of Canada’s top RTOs, and they are affiliated with 350 RTOs in Europe including the largest, Fraunhofer, representing the top 67 research institutes/organizations.
In 1964, Premier Louis Robichaud marked the official sod turning of RPC’s home today at 921 College Hill Road. RPC was created to serve the science, engineering and innovation needs of business and government.
Mr. Cook made an interesting observation about the misuse of the term ‘innovation’. Simply-stated, he said innovation is the “conversion of ideas into money” not to be confused with invention, which is the “conversion of money into ideas”. He quoted Tom Jenkins, Chairman of NRC & Open Text and innovation policy expert, saying “Canada is so busy inventing, we forgot about innovation”, and Mr. Cook was clear to state that “RPC is in the innovation business!”
RPC’s services fall under two categories: business-led research (innovation) and analytical services (tests and inspections).
The core (over 80%) of RPC’s revenue is from industry. The work includes both analytical services and business-led research. RPC’s research is highly applied with a high rate of implementation/commercialization. When industry/business pays RPC to conduct innovation research and engineering, they retain intellectual property ownership. RPC offers complete product realization services including:
- conceptual design
- prototyping/proof of concepts
- pilot plant/process verification with industrial simulation
- product certification/qualification
- field trials/optimization
The analytical services require RPC to conduct testing and inspections with national and international accreditations. RPC holds over 100 certifications and licenses! Without these accreditations, industry would have to go outside of Atlantic Canada to obtain most of the services.
With a staff of 105 personnel, RPC is required to complete well over 1000 proficiency tests annually to maintain their accreditations. Proficiency samples arrive as unknowns from a third party, are tested and reported by RPC and the results are assessed by the external party. RPC’s scope of work encompasses areas such as:
- analytical chemistry (17 pages of accredited parameters)
- food chemistry/nutritional analyses
- DNA (paternity, forensics, fish health, wildlife forensics)
- indoor air quality
- breathing air
- medical gas piping
- physical metallurgy, weld procedures
- mould radon, asbestos
- medical marijuana
Much of RPC’s work cannot be divulged due to confidentiality agreements and protection of intellectual property, owned by the client (business/industry). Touting big names like McCains, who have been a client since day one in 1962, a considerable amount of industry-led innovation transpires on College Hill Road.
Mr. Cook did share some fascinating examples of their work. For example, Cooke Aquaculture contracted RPC to develop its Offspring DNA Traceability System, which is currently being commercialized. This system enables Cooke to track a fish from spawn pool to restaurant plate.
RPC is seeing higher demand for forensics and DNA services from major crime investigations to paternity testing to clients looking to prove a partner’s infidelity. An interesting example is the work being done to prosecute illegal hunters. RPC can analyze DNA from a vehicle bumper or kill site, and link it to moose meat in a suspect’s freezer.
RPC’s strategic plan includes both renewal and annual investment to update equipment, and facilities and revitalization, a plan to expand capabilities and capacity. Expect to hear more about RPC’s world-class research in areas like biotechnology and life sciences. In fact, Mr. Cook hinted at an announcement coming mid-November. Stay tuned...
Laurie Guthrie, EcD, BIS
Economic Development & Marketing Specialist
Ignite Fredericton | Knowledge Park | Planet Hatch