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March 19, 2018

Skills and Innovation in the Digital Technology Sector

Artificial intelligence, virtual reality, data analytics, coding, hyper-connectivity, and quantum computing are buzzwords you may have heard recently as the British Columbia-based Digital Technology Supercluster became one of the five successful applicants to receive funding through the federal government’s Innovation Supercluster Initiative. In honour of the many colleges and institutes involved, here’s a spotlight on the role our members play in this quickly evolving area.

The digital technology sector is fast-moving and dependent on a well-trained workforce able to create and adapt to new and emergent technologies. With an innovative and employment-focused approach to teaching, colleges and institutes are at the forefront of preparing Canadians to work in digital technology. Did you know that our members across Canada offer over 890 programs related to digital technology, such as computer programming and analysis, data analytics, cybersecurity, 2D and 3D animation, and interactive media and graphic design? Their repertoire of programs includes over 360 diplomas, 230+ certificate programs, 70+ degrees, 220+ post-graduate certificates or diplomas, and 5+ masters degrees.

Canadian colleges and institutes are leaders in integrating the latest technologies into their teaching environment to ensure students are employment-ready. This also makes them an ideal testing-ground for new digital technologies, where companies can access valuable facilities and expertise to help them innovate. Over 50 college-based research centres and laboratories across the country are dedicated to improving digital technologies, including:

  • Seneca College’s (ON) Centre for Development of Open Technology (CDOT), which provides a physical and virtual environment for the development and research of Open Source products in collaboration with the Open Source community, businesses, and partner institutions, and;
  • the Mobile-First Technology Initiative at New Brunswick Community College (NB), which conducts research and works collaboratively with partners in the information and communications technology sector to develop advanced mobile first technology.

Facilities such as these currently house over 95 applied research projects in digital technologies, conducted in collaboration with local businesses across the country. For example:

  • Red River College (MB) is assisting Manitoba small-to medium-sized enterprises in adopting digital technologies to increase their productivity, with a focus on the construction and manufacturing sectors;
  • The British Columbia Institute of Technology (BC) and Siemens Canada have entered into a long-term agreement that focuses on research and commercialization opportunities in smart grid cybersecurity and microgrids;
  • Cégep André-Laurendeau’s (QC) OPTECH worked with Optina Diagnostics to improve the camera that takes detailed digital images of the eye to detect issues such as Alzheimer’s disease much earlier; and,
  • a virtual thermostat developed through research at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (AB) could allow building managers to have wireless control of heat throughout large facilities.

These examples are just the beginning of what our sector can achieve in digital technology; with more investment and interest in this cutting-edge sector, we can’t wait to see what innovative products, processes, and programs colleges and institutes come up with next!

Conference 2018 Opening Keynote and Pre-Conference Forum!

Conference 2018 is fast approaching – here’s a sneak peek of our Opening Keynote Speaker: Chief Dr. Robert Joseph!

Chief Joseph is currently the Ambassador for Reconciliation Canada and a member of the National Assembly of First Nations Elders Council. He was formerly the Executive Director of the Indian Residential School Survivors Society and is an honourary witness to Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). As Chairman of the Native American Leadership Alliance for Peace and Reconciliation and Ambassador for Peace and Reconciliation with the Interreligious and International Federation for World Peace (IFWP), Chief Joseph has sat with the leaders of South Africa, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Mongolia and Washington, DC to learn from and share his understanding of faith, hope, healing and reconciliation.

To learn more about our speakers, click here – and don’t forget to register here!

And don’t miss the Pre-Conference Forum on serving rural, remote and northern communities!

From April 27-28, North Island College will be hosting the pre-conference forum in the Comox Valley exploring exemplary practices and models in community engagement and discussing ways that colleges and institutes serving rural, remote and northern communities can enhance community ties and partnerships. For more information and to register, click here.

Don’t miss the 17th Annual RE$EARCH MONEY conference in Ottawa

A number of challenge areas keep coming up in studies of Canada’s innovation ecosystem. Instead of repeating these difficulties, the 17th Annual RE$EARCH MONEY conference, Breaking Through the Status Quo: Scaling Canada’s Innovation Game, will shed a spotlight on innovators who are breaking new ground and overcoming old habits of thinking, and will cover key discussions dominating the innovation landscape today.

Join the conversation from April 10-11, 2018 in Ottawa and learn how Canadian firms are working with educational institutions and other innovation intermediaries to prepare and fully utilize talent, hear from chief scientists on the future of innovation policy, listen to experts discuss the latest ways industry and academia are working together, and much more. Confirmed speakers include Ian Stewart, President, National Research Council; Rémi Quirion, Chief Scientist, Québec; Molly Shoichet, Chief Scientist, Ontario; and Gail Bowkett, Director of Policy, Mitacs. View more speakers and the full program here.

Don’t miss Canada’s premier innovation policy conference! Learn more and register here, or email Rebecca Melville ( for more information. Use CICan’s partner code AP2018 for a $50 discount on registration.

Participate in the ICEF North American Workshop in Toronto

As CICan and International Consultants for Education and Fairs (ICEF) have recently entered into a partnership agreement, we are pleased to be attending the ICEF North American Workshop from April 26 – 28, 2018 in Toronto to deliver a presentation on Canada’s colleges and institutes.

This international education event brings together educators, service providers, and education agents through formal meetings and social events to build relationships in international student recruitment.

CICan members interested in attending will receive a discounted Association Rate when registering for ICEF North America events in Toronto, Vancouver, or Miami.

CICan and ICEF are also exploring other potential areas of collaboration, including market research and promotion. For more information, please contact Andrew Champagne at

Canada Service Corps program extends application period to April 3

Last week, Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour Patty Hajdu announced that the Government of Canada will extend its open Call for Proposals for the Canada Service Corps program until April 3, 2018.

Through the program, the federal government is looking to partner with local and regional organizations to offer innovative project opportunities for young Canadians to build relationships, learn new skills, and create lasting impacts in their communities.

Funding is available for proposals from eligible organizations, such as not-for-profit organizations, research institutes, Indigenous organizations, and educational institutions (including universities, colleges, institutes and cegeps). For more information and to submit a proposal, click here.

This opportunity will have an important impact not only on Canada’s young people, but also on the communities with which they engage. Don’t miss your chance to get involved!

CICan ESSF pilot has positive impact on unemployed Canadians

The first national social finance project of its kind in Canada has completed its final round of essential skills training with important results for Canadians. All in all, 88% of the unemployed Canadians who received training as part of CICan’s Essential Skills Social Finance (ESSF) pilot, achieved measurable skills improvements.

Based on the percentage of participants who achieved a 25-point skill gain at the end of the training, investors are receiving 96% of their original investment. Participants will be tested again, 12 months after the last evaluation, and the results of these tests could provide additional returns for the investors who already view their involvement as a successful experience.

Training for the ESSF pilot was offered by Douglas College, Saskatchewan Polytechnic and Confederation College, helping participants – many of whom had been unemployed for some time and faced multiple barriers such as poverty, mental health, limited literacy skills, limited work experience and isolation – access upskilling to build the foundations needed to succeed in the labour market. Providing this sort of essential skills training is a critical part of the mandate of colleges and institutes.

The ESSF pilot marked the Government of Canada’s first time testing elements of a social impact bond (SIB) and marks an important step in developing programs with measurable social impact for Canada’s most vulnerable populations. For more information, view the full press release here.

Webinar: Building the Car of the Future: Demonstrating College and Institute Capability

Canada has a strong automotive sector and is uniquely positioned to design and build the Car of the Futurewith strengths in key areas such as powertrain, emissions, batteries, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, advanced materials and lightweighting. Unfortunately, Canadian capabilities are not well known on the global stage and increased information sharing could improve opportunities for collaboration with industry, both inside and outside Canada.

The Automotive, Transportation and Digital Technologies Branch (ATDTB) at Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) would like to collaborate with colleges and institutes across Canada to increase the visibility of Canadian innovation and showcase global automotive-related capabilities. This webinar will inform CICan members on how to participate in the ATDTB study and showcase their training and applied research capabilities.

This is an excellent opportunity for colleges and institutes to position themselves with an industry and its value chain. Join the webinar on Thursday, April 12 from 1:00pm – 2:00pm via Skype here.

Take part in a Canada Foundation for Innovation webinar

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) is pleased to be offering a webinar series to help colleges and institutes prepare proposals for funding through CFI’s College-Industry Innovation Fund (CIIF). The first stream of webinars will offer a historical perspective on CIIF submissions and focus on the most common pitfalls applicants should avoid in their proposals.

To register for one of the sessions, please use the following links by April 5:

CIIF is intended to support substantial research infrastructure projects that will augment the existing applied research and technology development capacity of colleges and institutes, and allow them to respond to important sector industry needs. Please note that CIIF stream 1 proposals are due by May 15, 2018.

Wear It Smart 2018: Smart Workwear for a Safe Workforce

Apparel Research and Innovation Centre Vestechpro is pleased to present the latest edition of Wear It Smart, a Montreal event about smart garments and accessories on May 10, 2018. This year’s symposium will focus on how to better ensure worker safety through the use of workwear and industrial wearables.

Join 200 human resources and occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals; purchasers; OHS solutions providers; professors; and researchers at the symposium and be sure to take in exciting presentations by Canadian and international researchers and entrepreneurs!

For more information or to register, click here.

As a CICan member, you are eligible for a 10% discount on registration. Contact Anne-Marie Robert at to receive your discount code!

Eureka! Moment

Did you know that Durham College’s AI Hub is partnering with iCare to bring advanced AI features to iCare’s mobile app for distant healthcare delivery? The Health Espresso app currently serves patients in homed-based post-operation recovery by virtually monitoring medication adherence. The AI Hub is developing additional functionality that would link enhanced care and prescriptive action to voice control and natural language detection! Read more about the AI advancements here.


Colleges Ontario welcomed a new Vice-President of Research and Policy. David Fulford, former assistant deputy minister at the Ministry of Advanced Education and Skills Development began his new role on March 5.

North Island College (NIC) was pleased to appoint a new Chair of the NIC School of Business. Ali Mayboudi eagerly accepted the new position, having taught Economics at NIC’s Comox Valley campus since 2015.


Conference 2018

Registration for CICan’s 2018 Conference is currently open. Click here for more information and to register.

Send Us Your News

One of our main goals at Colleges and Institutes Canada is to champion and share the innovations and awesomeness of our members. You can help! We want to hear about your new applied research, industry and community partnerships, international education, important financial investments and more. Add to your media mailing lists! We’ll share member institution News Releases and other upcoming announcements online and with our national media contacts based in Ottawa.