2021-2025 BCIT Applied Research Strategic Plan

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The British Columbia Institute of Technology acknowledges that our campuses are located on the unceded traditional territories of the Coast Salish Nations of Sḵwx̱wú7mesh (Squamish), səl̓ilwətaɁɬ (Tsleil-Waututh), and xwməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam).

Why Applied Research? Applied research is core to what makes the British Columbia Institute of Technology® (BCIT®) so unique. While we may refer to it in a variety of terms—such as experiential learning, work-integrated learning (WIL), capstone, directed studies, or industry-sponsored student projects—applied research gives students the opportunity to work on real life problems, as they will in industry. Applied research is:

∆ A hands-on experience for students that is invaluable to their future careers; A collaboration between faculty and industry in pursuit of new methodologies, ∆ technologies, and processes;

T he development of new teaching methods and associated tools, like virtual reality ∆ simulation—providing students with better learning outcomes;

conduit for assisting Canadian companies and communities to innovate for ∆ aA better economy.


In 1988, BCIT was mandated by the provincial government to provide support to British Columbia’s (BC) industry for commercial technical innovation. This was enabled by an increase to the BCIT budget specifically targeted for applied research, and the creation of the original Technology Centre, a dedicated place for industrial research and development. Since then, applied research has evolved to harness a plethora of opportunities—and many people, processes, and projects have contributed to where the Institute is today. Our expertise covers a wide range of technologies of vital importance to the provincial economy, such as information technology, building science, biotech, health and forensics, natural resources, manufacturing, energy, transportation, business, food, sustainability, and the environment. The research that occurs at the Centre for Applied Research and Innovation (CARI) fosters and maintains the research momentum at BCIT and helps to fulfil our mandate of providing Excellence in Applied Research and Innovation to industry and students, and is poised to do so into the future. FACULTY-CHAMPIONED RESEARCH This research encompasses an array of subjects far beyond our well-known signature projects and equally demonstrates this excellence. The activity may be part of an industry-sponsored project, a faculty member’s desire to stay current in their field, or as part of a course load supporting student projects. It is enabled through institutional and school-specific research funds,


professional development leave, federal and provincial government grants, as well as industry, not-forprofit organizations, and even international sources. Invaluable to our industry partners and our learners’ educational experience, it is a key trajectory and opportunity for growth at BCIT. STUDENT RESEARCH The same commitment to relevance and excellence underpins applied research that is carried out by our students. Whether student practicums, capstone projects, directed studies, or Industry Sponsored Student Projects (ISSP)—each provides direct benefits to corporate partners by engineering solutions in response to industry problems and rounding off the skill sets of their future employees. IMPACTING BC AND BEYOND Applied research across the Institute already contributes significantly to the BCIT brand, our reputation, and internal operations. In fact, research is one of our main pathways for both inbound and outbound dissemination of knowledge. With our numerous publications, books, conference presentations, and industry workshops, BCIT is well represented to the outside world. Accolades and recognition arise not only from the research community, but also from our partners in business and government. When called upon during times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, BCIT rises to the challenge, and furnishes pragmatic and expert advice. VALUE BEYOND CLASSROOMS Over the past 30 years, research at BCIT has contributed to over $60 million in additional infrastructure that is available for use by faculty, students, and industry. Across the Institute, we have been awarded over $40 million in discretionary funding from granting agencies and corporate sponsors. Our leadership technological inquiry has led to unreserved recognition by The Natural Sciences


and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). We now qualify for university-level funding, the ability to host National Centres of Excellence, and multiple Canada Research Chairs (CRCs). Our world class, award-winning research centres—such as CARI, the Rivers Institute, the Building Science Centre of Excellence, the Emission Reduction and Research Test Hub (ERRTH), and others—have raised BCIT’s profile well beyond the Lower Mainland. A GLOBAL IMPACT It is tempting to quantify the impact of the Institute’s research activities in terms of money and infrastructure but there is also the intangible value of showcasing BCIT to the world. We now collaborate with many large universities, international corporations, and global agencies. Research often functions as the first point of contact with prospective partners and the first place for implementation and exchange. To illustrate this, our media stories in 2020 gained views from around the world via local, national, and international print, television, and social media platforms. Research at BCIT accounts for a significant portion of our news and presence at external events such as the BCTECH Summit and the EcoCity World Summit. Conveying our cutting-edge image ultimately attracts new students, faculty, and external partners to the Institute. Investment in research is an investment in BCIT and a key factor in delineating and emphasizing our unique place in the post-secondary landscape.


Our Process The world is changing. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the provincial and world economies were changing at an ever-accelerating rate. Changes that might have taken years are now being implemented overnight. Digital transformation—the integration of digital technology into all aspects of business, the environment, and society—is leading to new ways of doing things, be it Artificial Intelligence (AI), cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT), personal health technology, climate change and the green economy, globalization of data and services, or others. As one of Canada’s premier polytechnic institutes, BCIT must keep abreast of these trends to ensure that our students and partners can rely on avant-garde training and state-of-the-art resources so that they can confidently meet the challenge. Given the changes now and changes coming, it is time to renew our Applied Research Strategic Plan to reaffirm our commitment to applied research and ensure that it is aligned with the BCIT Strategic and Education Plans. Our Institute-wide commitments—being a people-focused organization, future-proofing applied education, and making globally relevant connections—provide direction for the future of research at BCIT. Our Education Plan’s commitments to more interdisciplinary programming and centres of competence builds on the work and the goals of our applied research efforts and CARI over the past 30 years.


Over the last two decades, we have reached out to our internal and external communities in a variety of forums to ensure our research stays focused on our mandate and goals. From the BCIT Task Group on Research (2008) and the Faculty and Staff Association’s Research Forum (2009) emerged our matrix School and Institute Research Committees (2011). They were formed to provide support for research and to ensure uninterrupted feedback from the community. In continuation of that process, in late 2020 we consulted the BCIT community via a Thought Exchange online forum. For those with a further interest in research, we will be hosting an ongoing series of townhalls and other avenues to solicit ongoing feedback. This 2021–2025 Applied Research Plan emerged from thorough community consultation. It sets the direction and encourages future initiatives that will keep BCIT current and at the forefront of an ever-evolving educational and economic landscape.


Key Findings One of the most noteworthy results of all of the meetings, workshops, townhalls, and reports on research at BCIT is that findings have remained consistent over the years. This was again reflected in our Thought Exchange results, which reconfirmed a number of conclusions that will drive our commitments: 1. Awareness of research at BCIT needs to increase. While some faculty and students are very aware of corresponding opportunities at BCIT, and there has been a significant increase in the amount of available funding, many remain unfamiliar with our research or are unsure of how to take the first step. 2. More opportunities, especially release time, need to be provided for schools, faculty, and students to participate in research. There is expressed interest among faculty but workload, lack of access to facilities, and a limited number of projects make it difficult to get started. 3. We need to provide more research training and WIL opportunities for students. Industrylinked projects are prime opportunities for students to develop research and innovation skills in a real world environment. 4. T here needs to be a decisive investment in shared resources and student access to properly equipped facilities. BCIT has a wide array of specialized labs and equipment but access is often difficult because facilities are not shared, promoted, or remain behind locked doors. 5. BCIT needs to actively pursue a synergy between the construction of new infrastructure and educational and research opportunities. The funding provided to create new infrastructure can also be leveraged to support research funding applications. Applied research is a highly dynamic field. The Applied Research Strategic Plan is informed by current global trends: disruption, innovation, digital transformation, sustainability, changing demographics, healthcare, globalization, and global competitiveness. The World Economic Forum lists the innovation ecosystem, health, and human capital/skills as important areas for economic growth. It says, “finding a balance between technology integration, human capital investments and the innovation ecosystem will be critical to enhancing productivity in the next decade. Investing in people can no longer be an afterthought— it is a fundamental building block of growth and resilience in the Fourth Industrial Revolution.1”

Schwab, Klaus and Saadia Zahidi, “5 trends in the global economy – and their implications for economic policymakers”. World Economic Forum, 09 October, 2019, http://www.weforum.org/agenda/2019/10/global-competitiveness-report-2019-economic-trends-for-policymakers



Linking the above with the Institute’s Strategic Plan—where our vision and values are empowering people, inspiring global process, embracing innovation, and future-proofing applied education—we arrive at a firm mandate and the direction that BCIT needs. The Strategic Plan specifically calls for us to “lead positive change through the contribution of our researchers to economic, social and environmental ventures across the world” by “channelling applied research towards societal challenges in which we are positioned to make a real difference,” and by “embedding these activities to enrich the education experience”. The Education Plan provides further direction with its goals of interdisciplinary programming, the establishment of more living labs, and the creation of centres of competence in areas of strategic importance to BCIT and the BC economy. The Education Plan also highlights our new, multilayered credential framework, including microcredentials, open multidisciplinary credentials, and the creation of new graduate-level programs. Within the polytechnic framework, research plays a key role in funding and supporting these centres and living labs, providing unique opportunities in support of our graduate, undergraduate, and trades programs. Moreover, it forms a platform for interfacing with industry and government partners. When brought all together, this leads to the way forward for applied research—investing in people, seamless integration with education and faculty workload, the creation of new research centres and infrastructure, new opportunities for partnering with industry and other organizations, and increased support for graduate programs.



Investing in People BCIT is a people-focused organization, and our faculty, staff, and students are integral to our success. Investing in people means investing not only in their skills and day-to-day work life, but also in their desires, dreams, and hopes for the future. From individuals that begin to explore applied research to faculty and staff that have supported student projects for many years and newly minted Canada Research Chairs to long-standing champions of scientific investigation; BCIT will embrace research as an integral part of its drive for excellence.

Our Initiatives

rotect our investment in people and areas of strategic importance to BCIT by supporting ∆ Papplied research as a driver to both attract and retain outstanding faculty, staff, and students, who are key to our long-term sustainability.

internal funding mechanisms to support research within the schools and across ∆ Ithencrease Institute as a core business practice, with a goal of doubling our research activity by 2025. This will include support for the new centres of competence, doubling the funding for the Institute Research Fund (IRF) program for release time for faculty to develop research programs, and supporting student research projects.

stablish a tiered IRF model to support the development of researchers along their growth ∆ Epath, from the first investigation to self-sustaining initiatives.

upport faculty-led student and industry-focused applied research, by providing incubator ∆ Sspace for student projects that show potential for commercialization.

ncrease awareness of our research, by “telling our story” through marketing, promotion, ∆ Iand by engaging our experts in external events.

ontinue to invest in our students through expanding the promotion of the BCIT Student ∆ CInnovation Challenge and by actively engaging with students to promote applied research throughout the schools. [Strategic Initiative 2; Education Plan Channel 3]



Research and Education Applied research plays a major role in differentiating BCIT in the public sphere. Our signature research areas, including new initiatives such as the Centre for Digital Transformation (C4DT), constitute interface points with industry. In return, faculty, staff, and students can gain real world experience in innovation and problem-solving, and stay current within their sector. As a learning organization, BCIT supports innovative, interdisciplinary educational models, and we consider research in the classroom a form of hands-on learning and key to future-proofing our students’ careers.

Our Initiatives

faculty and student research that focuses on areas of strategic importance ∆ Stoupport BCIT and reinforces collaborative and interdisciplinary education.

faculty research issues by exploring ways to formally recognize research as ∆ Aoneddress of the many roles within faculty and staff’s duties and professional responsibilities.

romote research within the school environment to more closely link research and ∆ Peducation and make it visible to students and faculty.

ssist in developing new, innovative educational programs around the BCIT signature ∆ Aresearch activities to attract inquisitive students, increase enrolment, and provide additional reskilling paths and WIL opportunities. [Strategic Initiative 4; Education Plan Channel 1]

∆ Promote applied research as a key WIL opportunity. upport multidisciplinary and microcredentials with applied research as a core skill. ∆ S[Strategic Initiative 4; Education Plan Channel 2]



Graduate Studies As our economy has grown and developed over the past five decades, so too has BCIT. In the past, entryto-job training was commensurate with the certificate or diploma level. Today, strategic workforce development spans the entire spectrum from industry practitioners to Highly Qualified Personnel (HQP). In some industries, the level of training needed to enter the workforce is a bachelor’s degree, and as the state of practice advances, it may even become graduate level certification. Moreover, graduate credentials are often needed for workers to reinforce positions within their organization, or to move ahead in their careers. Engaging with the process of lifelong learning is an essential part of planning for the future, especially as advances in technology gather pace. Higher-level credentials allow employees to stay relevant in a labour market that will continue to be disrupted by technology.

Our Initiatives

the reputation and brand awareness of BCIT as a leader in excellence ∆ Strengthen in applied research through the active promotion of graduate research programs that partner with industry in BC and beyond.

the establishment of an Office of Graduate Studies to support and advocate ∆ Sforupport graduate programs both internally and externally.

ncrease the depth of our applied research community by actively seeking graduate ∆ Istudents and faculty from other organizations to work with us at our campuses. [Strategic Initiative 5; Education Plan Channel 2]

a pathway for graduate students and programs to interact and collaborate ∆ Provide with our research and interdisciplinary centres of competence.

se our Canada Research Chair positions to actively support graduate and undergraduate ∆ Ustudent research and educational opportunities.



Research Centres and Infrastructure One of the key goals for our 2019–22 Education Plan is the creation of new, interdisciplinary centres of competence that proudly exhibit our proficiency in the application of knowledge. Applied research has been one of the key drivers for creating our centres of excellence and soliciting funds for the creation of living labs on campus. Through industry sponsored projects, federal and provincial funding agencies, and partnerships with academic and research organizations, BCIT has been able to add and access millions of dollars in infrastructure and equipment. These assets have proven invaluable in supporting the work of faculty and staff, and the education of students in innovative industry-relevant research methods and techniques.

Our Initiatives

the promotion of interdisciplinary education through the creation of new ∆ Support centres of competence, clusters of expertise, and the development of a vibrant and accessible research infrastructure and living labs.

the infusion of educational and research opportunities into the planning, ∆ Ensure construction, and operation of all new campus infrastructure.

the expansion and maintenance of research infrastructure and with it the long∆ Ensure term viability of BCIT’s centres of competence, through strategic capital allocations. [Strategic Initiative 6; Education Plan Channel 3]

∆ Support digital transformation as a core initiative.



New Opportunities The BCIT mission statement recognizes that the role we play in technology transfer goes beyond the simple conveyance of declarative knowledge in the classroom. It also involves sharing our technical expertise and living labs with industry in collaborative projects. This helps BC remain competitive in a global marketplace and create new job opportunities at home. Applied research is one of the prime conduits for faculty, staff, and students to interact with industry. Capstone, directed studies, and industry-sponsored student projects foster hands-on innovation skills among our students—but more can be done for faculty to benefit from that connection. Today, BCIT facilitates technology transfer through innovation, industrial assistance, and commercially contracted research services to faculty and industry. Our goal is for BCIT to become the first choice for industry to collaborate in finding solutions for practical challenges. The Institute will also continue to be an innovative and flexible advanced technology hub, actively fostering the entrepreneurial activity within BC.

Our Initiatives

our relationships with industry through local and global partnerships ∆ Augment by increasing liaison support from the Applied Research Liaison Office and CARI— including hosting a minimum of 10 WIL opportunities (co-op/internship/student employee) per year.

discourse by hosting a minimum of four, annual industry-focused ∆ Stimulate workshops on selected topics of relevance at CARI and our other research centres. [Strategic Initiatives 2 and 8; Education Plan Channels 1 and 3]

a minimum of 12 web-based, industry-focused seminars annually on selected ∆ Present topics of relevance to disseminate the results of our research to the public. [Strategic Initiatives 2 and 8; Education Plan Channels 1 and 3]

an annual Research and Innovation Expo to provide opportunities for ∆ Establish all our stakeholders to network and learn how applied research can grow new partnerships and enrich students’ educational experiences. [Strategic Initiatives 2 and 8; Education Plan Channels 1 and 3]


Our Vision If BCIT is to remain relevant to emerging industry and educational needs, research must play an essential role. Our excellence in applied research, applied problem-solving, and applied education is well known. Building on a solid foundation, we aim to facilitate and bolster faculty and student research, and to use our campuses as living labs. Through the 2021–25 BCIT Applied Research Strategic Plan, we pursue our vision of being one of the world’s most recognized polytechnic institutes.



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