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Centre offers access to fast-paced product development services to companies, experiential learning to studentsNovember 20, 2019

A McMaster Engineering research centre is pioneering a new way to support businesses as they develop products or solve critical problems.

CIRC has launched a model called Innovation as a Service (IaaS), which is a fee-for-service R&D centre available to help companies turn ideas into real products using a cost-effective and fast-paced approach.

Established in 2016, CIRC has a history of university-industry collaborations and has tested many ways of partnering with the private sector.

Their latest venture, IaaS has been run successfully as a pilot out of the McMaster Innovation Park over the last 18 months. It also offers students hands-on opportunities for involvement in today’s innovation economy.

“We leverage the latest technologies, along with the brains and energy of some of Canada’s most advanced engineering researchers and students, to help ambitious emerging companies solve their problems,” explains Suvojit Ghosh, CIRC’s co-founder and managing director.

Since May 2018, the IaaS has attracted 16 clients across a range of industries from telecommunications to industrial maintenance and spanning four countries. Projects have included an algorithm-based system for improving runway safety, and a new thermal management system for cooling micro data centres.

Ghosh, whose vision for CIRC earned him the McMaster President’s Award, says the IaaS offering provides companies with access to the cutting-edge technologies that are transforming the economy, while engaging students in experiential, problem-based learning.

Projects are managed by the centre’s research engineers, who recruit capable students for short-term “gigs” to work on carefully-curated elements of the client’s real-world problem.

CIRC’s not-for-profit model sees companies pay affordable project-based fees based on a cost recovery model, while compensating participating students with a financial stipend.

It’s a form of “teaching laboratory” that Engineering Dean Ishwar K. Puri believes best prepares students for future success.

“Students learn about emerging technologies and market trends, and use design thinking to develop solutions that provide value for a real-world client,” he says. “They also practice interdisciplinary cooperation, creativity and communication – all skills that today’s employers demand.”

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