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$3.8M funding launches new multi-discipline innovation facility


Kelowna, BC – The University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus is receiving $3.8M from Western Economic Diversification to open a research facility that will develop technologies for human protection, survivability and performance in extreme or remote conditions.

At the new research innovation facility, called Survive and Thrive Applied Research (STAR), industry and university researchers will pool their knowledge to rapidly develop novel technologies for human protection, survivability and performance in extreme or remote conditions. Sectors being targeted include manufacturing, natural resources, healthcare and defense.

STAR’s research expertise and facilities focus on:

  • New product design and rapid prototyping
  • Advanced materials and fabrication
  • Device and materials testing and impact assessment
  • Mental health and human performance
  • Small- and medium-sized enterprises, cooperation, and regional economic development
  • A better sports helmet is just one of the projects already underway through STAR.

One of the first projects is a collaboration between UBC, Kelowna-based Helios Global Technologies, and Imperial College London (UK) to develop a high-tech helmet that can reduce the risk of concussion in contact sports such as hockey and football.

“Collaboration with STAR greatly enhances our capacity to develop innovative products,” said Martin Cronin, CEO of Helios. “It gives us access to world-class research that helps us to quickly prove out concepts and explore multi-sectoral applications, and also access to funding through our research partnerships.”

STAR partnerships create important opportunities for university researchers and their students, said Prof. Paul van Donkelaar, director of UBC’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences and Principal Investigator with the UBC Sports Concussion Research Lab.

“We’re working on compelling projects directly related to our primary research, and which also create new ideas for future research and real-world learning opportunities for students,” he added. The STAR partnership with Imperial College London has led to a new collaboration accord which will include student and faculty exchanges between institutions.

“British Columbia, Canada and the UK have remarkable strengths in advanced engineering and innovative technologies, so it is even more remarkable when they bring these shared strengths together,” said Howard Drake, British High Commissioner to Canada. “This facility, along with a broader collaboration between the partners on student and academic exchanges, will advance a range of exciting real-world solutions to help the security industry.”

Other STAR initiatives include development of sensors for autonomous aerial vehicles (UAVs) for use in the forestry and agriculture, and personal wireless stop-button technology for workers using large industrial machinery.