Applied Research Maiden Blog Entry

Chris Gillis, manager, Applied Research Business Development

For those of you who have had to write your first article or blog entry, you know where I am coming from. Its kind of exciting at first and then you sit there and think, “so what do I say, I seemed to have a million good ideas at the time, now I don’t seem to have any!”

So I thought, why not start at the beginning as many people still ask, “What is applied research anyway?”. When most people hear the word research they think of a person in a white lab coat looking for a cure for cancer or some other world altering invention after years of work in a laboratory.. well that’s not what we are talking about.

There are many definitions, but one I like is below;

The basic definition for applied research is any fact gathering project that is conducted with an eye to acquiring and applying knowledge that will address a specific problem or meet a specific need …. Just about any business entity or community organization can benefit from engaging in this type of research.


So for the college the emphasis with “applied research” is focusing on a specific problem or challenge and working to get a solution, typically within a 6 to 8 month time frame. At Durham College, we see applied research as a key vehicle in providing our students with experiential learning opportunities that help to bridge from classroom to workroom. Students get a chance to apply what they have learned in class to a real problem and get paid for this, faculty get a chance to contribute their skills and take new ideas back to their curriculum, and small and medium sized businesses get assistance to build something important for their business that they would not have been able to do themselves.

The funded version of these projects is almost always done with a community partner to solve a challenge they have. To date these funded projects have been more technical in nature as that is what the available funding has supported up to now. Thankfully there is more funding now for applied research in the social sciences and social innovation areas.

And ORSi staff take care of the funding applications, project management and administrative support, freeing faculty to act as mentors to students on the technical aspects of the project.

This past year we have also been working with faculty to help with in-class projects and placement opportunities that fit with the applied research direction.

Our next blog will cover how to get involved in applied research project or have your own project!