Leveraging Defence Procurement for Innovation—STAR Consortia

Representatives of members of the STAR Consortia at the University of British Columbia explain how the Industrial and Technological Benefits Policy facilitated their research and development partnership.

Transcript—Leveraging Defence Procurement for Innovation—STAR Consortia

[Music plays]

[Footage and images of hockey helmets, businessmen, high-tech equipment and machinery, a computer monitor and software applications, and the Survive and Thrive Applied Research—or STAR—logo]

[Text on screen: Leveraging Defence Procurement for Innovation: STAR Consortia]

Neil Rutter, General Manager, Textron Systems Canada: Involvement in Canada became very, very much stronger after we won the tactical armoured patrol vehicle competition in 2012. Since then the TAPV program has led us into lots of industries in Canada as both a supplier and investors.

One of the ways we're able to fulfill our IRB obligation in Canada for the TAPV program was in R&D consortia, so we're working with Helios in Kelowna, B.C., and UBC in B.C. as well. So that's the consortia; there's three of us.

Helios provides the technology, which is the armour gel technology. UBC has been working on proving the efficacy of the product for use in hockey helmets.

Martin Cronin, Director, Helios Global Technologies: The ITB policy is an instrument that seeks to ensure that expenditure by federal government in Canada on major procurement projects leads in turn to investments in innovation and economic development across Canada. In our case, Canada's procurement of new tactical armoured patrol vehicles for the Canadian army has led to investment by Textron Systems in our advanced materials technology for athletes' safety, starting with a better ice hockey helmet to keep athletes safe on the ice.

[Footage of a technician working at a computer; the monitor shows a tech demonstration in which a hockey helmet stops a ball coming at high velocity]

My goal when I started was to really expose international companies to the work that my company was doing here in British Columbia. We had found an extremely willing and expert partner in UBC and on the Okanagan campus. Together we pursued an initiative to fund the establishment of the Survive and Thrive Applied Research initiative. That's allowed us to do a whole lot more than we could have done on our own and became for us a real lever to attract the attention of international companies.

[Footage of businessmen on the UBC Okanagan campus and of Textron's lab where technicians are demonstrating scanning equipment]

The combination of access to world-class expertise at UBC, coupled with development funding, market access and technical know how from our partner at Textron, has really allowed us to move much further and faster than we ever could on our own and has allowed us to realize quite an ambitious and really strategic technology development program.

Keith Culver, Director of UBC Survive and Thrive Applied Research: The consortium policy in the ITB enables us to align our efforts with multiple partners. It enables us to coordinate and collaborate in new, very effective ways, which simply were impossible or were too cumbersome to put into place previously. Without the ITB policy, we would have no effective way of working across multiple kinds of problems with multiple kinds of partners.

[Footage of technicians calibrating high-end equipment and of body armour being tested]

One of the really important and interesting dimensions of working in the defence space is the opportunity to identify how the defence technologies may be transferable to other sectors. One example which I find particularly intriguing is the way research on helmets for military application has directly transferrable technologies over to sport, where we're increasingly aware of concussion, for example in hockey or football. So the ITB enables us to work in defence with multiple benefits for Canadians and sectors far beyond defence.

Neil Rutter: My advice to an SME or a university that has some ideas is to come to us with a project that makes sense to us, that's got good business opportunities for both them and for us—ideally something within our field of interest as a corporation. And you may say, well, the Helios one is hockey helmets and you haven't seen anything in Textron that has to do with hockey helmets. In fact, obviously the Helios technology—the armour gel—has got defence applications as well both for armoured vehicles and defence of soldiers.

[Footage of results of body armour testing, including bullet impact points and a flattened bullet]

Martin Cronin: If I could describe the ITB policy in one word, it would be "facilitation." That's really at the heart of what it's all about. It's brokering these key contacts that allow relationships to be struck to engage in joint development programs, world-class technology innovation, which has substantive economic benefits to Canada.

[Text on screen: Innovation for a Better Canada]

[Music ends]

[Canada wordmark]