Red River College and Manitoba Hydro research partnership wins prestigious national innovation award

Top row: Rob Spewak, RRC BETAC Manager; Lloyd Kuczek, VP with Manitoba Hydro; Jose Delos Reyes, RRC Research Manager; Bottom row: Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science; Ray Hoemsen, RRC Research director; His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, Governor General of Canada; Neil Cooke, Dean, Teaching Excellence, Innovation and Research, RRC; Mario Pinto, President of NSERC. Credit: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall, OSGG

Top row: Rob Spewak, RRC BETAC Manager; Lloyd Kuczek, VP with Manitoba Hydro; Jose Delos Reyes, RRC Research Manager. Bottom row: Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science; Ray Hoemsen, RRC Research Director; David Johnston, Governor General of Canada; Neil Cooke, Dean, Teaching Excellence, Innovation and Research, RRC; Mario Pinto, President of NSERC. Credit: MCpl Vincent Carbonneau, Rideau Hall, OSGG

WINNIPEG, MB: A research partnership between Red River College (RRC) and Manitoba Hydro that focuses on sustainable building infrastructure and transportation has received Canada’s top honour from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) at a ceremony held at the Governor General of Canada’s residence in Ottawa.

NSERC’s Synergy Award for Innovation recognizes outstanding research and development partnerships between Canadian colleges and industry partners in the natural sciences and engineering. Only one Canadian college receives the award each year.

“This award is the highest level of validation a college can receive for the impact and lasting benefits of its research partnerships efforts,” said Paul Vogt, president and CEO of Red River College. “Our partnerships with industry stakeholders like Manitoba Hydro are critical to our mandate for supporting innovation in Manitoba and providing our graduates with the skills that industry requires.”

The partners have now spent more than a decade conducting applied research in sustainable building infrastructure and transportation, and there is plenty to show for it.

Two major projects associated with the collaborative research by Red River College and Manitoba Hydro include the award-winning Manitoba Hydro Place, which has added an iconic image to energy efficiency on Winnipeg’s skyline, and the development of a zero-emissions electric battery transit bus.

The ongoing four-year demonstration of the electric buses on the streets of Winnipeg is in partnership with the Winnipeg Transit, the Province of Manitoba, Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC), Mitsubishi Heavy Industries and New Flyer Industries, the industry-leading Winnipeg-based manufacturer of transit buses in North America.

“The legacy of the relationship between Manitoba Hydro and Red River College will live on in our downtown office tower and zero emission buses operating within many North American cities for decades to come,” said Lloyd Kuczek, Manitoba Hydro’s vice president of Customer Care and Energy Conservation. “These projects provide daily reminders of what we can accomplish through collaborative research and of the importance of leveraging the capabilities of research partners like Red River College.”

The partnership was vital in validating the performance of innovative technologies showcased within Manitoba Hydro Place, resulting in the most energy efficient office tower in North America and the first LEED Platinum commercial building in Canada. Manitoba Hydro Place saves more than 70 per cent of the energy used in a typical office building while providing the highest quality of space for its occupants.

Red River College and Manitoba Hydro moved forward from this foundation into a number of ground-breaking initiatives including the formation of an international consortium that is developing, testing, and demonstrating an all-electric battery transit bus and high-capacity charging system — the first of its size in Canada.

“We now have a total of four buses in daily service in Winnipeg and New Flyer has already accepted orders for international sales,” said Ray Hoemsen, director of Applied Research and Commercialization at RRC. “Each in-service bus leads to a reduction of 160 tonnes of green house gases each year, as well as significant fuel savings.”

Manitoba Hydro’s partnership with the College has also been instrumental in the establishment the new NSERC-funded Building Envelope Technology Access Centre.

“Our partnerships with Red River College allows for sustainable thinking to become entrenched in the next generation of industry leaders,” said Dale Friesen, Industrial and Commercial Solutions Division Manager with Manitoba Hydro. “Students graduating from the College will bring an enhanced level of knowledge and understanding in energy efficiency to their future careers, benefiting our province for decades to come.”

The Synergy award grants Red River College up to $100,000 in funding for applied research tools and instruments and Manitoba Hydro will receive a $20,000 voucher towards any future NSERC-funded applied research project.

Earlier this year, Red River College was ranked as the top college in Canada in research partnership growth, and as a top 10 research college overall for the third consecutive year by Research Infosource. The college was also ranked as one of Canada’s greenest employers for the fifth year in a row.

Manitoba Hydro is the leading proponent of energy efficiency in Manitoba through its Power Smart demand-side management programs, which allows the Crown corporation to encourage and support the sustainable and efficient use of energy by the province’s residential, commercial and industrial consumers.

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Additional Quotes:

“Polytechnics Canada heartily congratulates the Applied Research team at Red River on this well-deserved NSERC award,” said Nobina Robinson, CEO, Polytechnics Canada. “Red River’s Applied Research team has led the way in demonstrating that colleges and polytechnics have sophisticated research and development capabilities that lead to win-win outcomes for industry, for students and for federally-funded research through agencies such as NSERC.”

“The tremendous achievements of Red River College and its partners demonstrate the strength and potential of the applied research enterprise in colleges and institutes across the country”, said Denise Amyot, President and CEO of Colleges and Institutes Canada.  “Federal government investments in applied research are closing Canada’s innovation gap and benefiting students, industry and communities in every province and territory.”

NSERC Award Video:

Photos from the Ceremony: