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Introducing IMPACT: New engineering research initiative promises to foster collaboration and educationSeptember 4, 2019

McMaster Engineering is introducing a bold and ambitious plan that rewards researchers for working together to create solutions to global grand challenges.

Called the Initiative for Multidisciplinary Projects and Creative Transformation (IMPACT), the new multidisciplinary strategy offers resources to professors who opt to work collaboratively and form research clusters.

The Faculty intends to partner with the private sector, philanthropists and entrepreneurs to support a $1 million investment annually in IMPACT, which will be used to fund multiple doctoral and undergraduate scholar grants, and travel and supply awards. The idea is to embed the educational experience within the research experience, says Ishwar K. Puri, Dean of Engineering. 

“A large body of evidence indicates that collaborative research leads to remarkable results, improved productivity and meaningful outcomes,” Puri says. “We want to encourage our professors to work together and with our students outside of silos to create more meaningful, impactful research.”

Academic teamwork leads to more patents and more highly-cited research papers, according to many studies.

 Acknowledging barriers to collaboration, including lack of proper credit for work contributed, differing work styles and initial misalignment of individual research goals with overall projects, Puri says the Faculty must provide its researchers with sufficient time and resources to overcome these challenges.

“The results of collaborations led by open-minded positive thinking innovators can be outstanding,” Puri says. Therefore, the Faculty is committed to establishing a structure that leverages the proximity of collaborators on campus, and de-risks and fosters multidisciplinary projects, he says.

“The IMPACT initiative provides resources for teams to establish cohesion, communication and coordination before fully launching a promising project with external funding. Think of it as a runway that must be traversed before takeoff and successful flight.”

 Canada needs more innovation and ideas that can be commercialized, says Doug Barber, retired President and CEO of Gennum Corporation and past chair of the McMaster Engineering Dean’s Advisory Board.

“I am encouraged to see McMaster chart a new course for research that promises to spark more creative solutions to problems facing society, which could in turn benefit the nation’s economy,” Barber says. “Introducing students early to industry-driven learning will inspire the next generation to be true innovators, creative thinkers and future leaders.”  

The IMPACT research grants program will consider big ideas proposed by teams of faculty members.

Associate Dean Research & External Relations, John Preston, hopes the new initiative encourages more communication between researchers. 

“The best ideas emerge when people with different interests and research backgrounds come together to work on problems,” Preston says. “By adding more undergraduate student researchers, those solutions and new innovations will be particularly rich.”

Successful proposals will focus on a grand challenge problem, such as one suggested by the UN sustainable development goals, to create an engineering solution.

Proposers must be able to provide a pathway and timeline for private partner support or entrepreneurship. The education and training of highly qualified personnel is another focus of IMPACT.

As a requirement, successful proposals are expected to explain their alignment with the competencies of the Faculty’s transformation of engineering education, The Pivot, and how the entire team, including students, faculty and research staff members, will learn and obtain these competencies. These include discovery and creativity, problem solving, innovation, diversity and citizenship.