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2017 Issue 2: The Technology Issue

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From the principal: Advancing our technology agenda

From the principal: Advancing our technology agenda

[photo of Principal Daniel Woolf]
Photo by Bernard Clark

No one reading this magazine needs a reminder of how technology has changed over the past 30 or 40 years, nor of the many ways in which it has both simplified and complicated life. When I was studying at Queen’s four decades ago, the personal computer was in its infancy; no one had heard of the internet or the web; and email was something used only in military circles. Now, there is more computing power in my iPhone than was used to send Apollo 11’s astronauts to the moon. And to comment adequately on the place of technology in pedagogy would require a separate column to itself.

Queen’s faculty and students have maintained a strong presence in the field of technology for generations. Ours was among the first engineering schools in Canada, for example, and our engineers continue to make advances ranging from Praveen Jain’s work on climate-friendly power capture from solar panels to our civil engineering department’s literally ground-breaking contributions to geosciences. The booming field of biotechnology involves our medical faculty (both clinical and nonclinical) and rehabilitation therapy and nursing professors. Collaboration is often key to making technological advances. A great example is our Human Mobility Research Centre, which connects surgical, computing, and engineering professors. Over the past 10 years, many of our researchers have co-located with industry at Innovation Park. It is home to CMC Microsystems, Nanofabrication Kingston, the Centre for Advanced Computing, Green Centre Canada, and a variety of other firms whose technology is firmly based in Queen’s research.

Outside the STEM disciplines, Queen’s humanists and social scientists are also making themselves known, in digital humanities (on which we recently hosted a Matariki Network international workshop); in the analysis of big data in the Scotiabank Centre for Customer Analytics at Smith School of Business; and in the exploration of the role and impact of social media. Our Dunin-Deshpande Queen’s Innovation Centre continues be a main, though not the only, engine of innovation and entrepreneurship on our campus. The Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation group located at Innovation Park incubates almost 50 small to medium enterprises at any one time and translates faculty discoveries into investment or market networks.

The embracing of entrepreneurship and innovation as university-wide bywords has occasioned a rethinking of how we support these activities. At Innovation Park, where Queen’s still holds some undeveloped land, we are exploring possible expansion with our major partner, the City of Kingston, under a recent memorandum of understanding I signed with Mayor Bryan Paterson. Another change is even further advanced. For 30 years, PARTEQ Innovations, an arms-length technology transfer company created by Queen’s, has assisted in the movement of inventions from the lab to the industrial sphere. Its transition this spring from independent firm to a shared service within Queen’s proper is an indication of the greater maturity of tech transfer and the much greater priority that universities across the country are giving to “knowledge translation” which, contrary to some views, is an extension of, not an alternative to, “basic science” or “fundamental research.” Predicting the future is always risky, but it is a pretty safe bet that the world economy will become ever more tech based; for Canada to have its proper place in these developments, leading universities such as Queen’s must continue to evolve and innovate.

Finally, I’d like to thank two recently departed senior administrative colleagues, both of whom played significant roles in advancing Queen’s technology agenda. Former Vice-Principal (Research) Steven Liss, now occupying the same role at Ryerson University, was a tireless advocate for forming closer partnerships with the city and with industry, and a key mover

in bringing PARTEQ Innovations “in-house.” Caroline Davis, Vice-Principal (Finance and Administration) until her recent retirement, as a champion of Innovation Park and a keen supporter of our public engagement with the city, quite aside from her exemplary leadership as co-chair of the Aboriginal Council. To both of them, thank you and best wishes for the future.

[cover of Queen's Alumni Review, Issue 2, 2017]