Durham College shares in $4.2 million in research funding dedicated to COVID recovery

Oshawa, ON – Durham College (DC)’s Office of Research Services, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ORSIE) is proud to announce that it will share in $4.2 million of funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). These Applied Research and Technology Partnership grants (ARTP) will allow DC to act on three diverse projects that bolster the economy in a post-pandemic world, while working in collaboration with a number of esteemed industry partners and academic institutions.

“With the help of this funding, our research team at Durham College is leading the way with work that will have meaningful, significant impacts on our community,” says Don Lovisa, president, Durham College. “By investing in applied research colleges like ours, the government is helping us bring innovative and immersive digital technologies to local businesses in Durham Region, which is important now more than ever, as Canadians are still recovering from the economic effects of COVID.”

Accelerating post-pandemic economic recovery in Durham Region, Greater Toronto Area

During the pandemic, the virus impacted all areas of business, challenging small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to stay afloat. As the federal government has recognized, recovering from the pandemic will require the rapid adoption of digital technologies for SMEs.

With NSERC’s grant of $440,000 over two years, DC’s plan utilizes the research capacity and resources of one of its applied research centres, the Mixed Reality Capture Studio (MRC Studio), to help lead SMEs to success following the hardship of the pandemic.

“By applying the college’s extensive knowledge and expertise in immersive technologies, our aim with this funding is to help businesses thrive in a post-pandemic economy,” says Debbie McKee Demczyk, dean, ORSIE. “In the past six years alone, we’ve facilitated digital technology adoption for over seventy companies. Now we can share our expertise with even more businesses and leverage tech trends such as digital marketing and edugaming to support their post-pandemic success.”

Over the next two years, DC will leverage existing technologies to benefit our industry partners. The team of researchers, experienced in sectors including video gaming, animation, film and television, as well as academia, will work together to develop solutions using mixed reality, virtual production, video gaming, and training simulation. This will achieve a series of objectives which also support Durham Region’s Strategic Plan and Regional Recovery Framework and Action Plan, as well as the federal government’s Canadian Digital Adoption Program. These objectives include helping businesses reduce costs, anticipate customer needs, generate revenue streams, and more. SMEs who partner with DC can expect a number of benefits, ranging from expansion into new markets, developing new or improved products, processes, and services, and creating and maintaining jobs.

The MRC Studio consists of experts engaged in the application of real-time graphics technology. Featuring a state-of-the-art markerless motion capture stage, virtual reality headsets, and virtual production capabilities, the MRC Studio also focuses extensively on the development of video games and the application of gaming technology in training and simulation settings. The MRC Studio collaborates with industry partners to solve challenges related to game development, digital art production, and software performance.

Making virtual humans accessible in Canada

In addition to DC’s MRC Studio project, NSERC has approved funding of $2 million for a collaborative project led by Sheridan College’s Screen Industries Research and Training Centre (SIRT) with the support of DC’s AI Hub and Mixed Reality Capture Studio, Cégep de Matane’s Centre de développement et de recherche en intelligence numérique (CDRIN) and the Cégep de Rivière-du-Loup’s Le Living Lab en innovation ouverte (LLio).

Virtual humans are a digital representation of a person, with the ability to listen, respond and engage in dialogue. The applications of this technology are vast, as virtual humans grow increasingly prevalent in training, simulation and healthcare practices. With this funding, NSERC is helping the partner institutions create increasingly efficient and elaborate control through movement to the virtual humans’ existing systems, processes and products. The research will use a human-centered design approach in collaboration with leading companies such as Ubisoft, 9 Story Media Group, ReImagine AI, CloudConstable Inc., and Advanced Micro Devices, who are at the forefront of innovation and leadership in this industry. This new research will enable the expansion, growth and development of their virtual human pipelines.

“We’re very excited to have our students and researchers working on this project,” says Dr. Vibha Tyagi, manager, Applied Research Partnerships, ORSIE. “Not only will they have the chance to collaborate with companies who are leaders in tech innovation, but they will be applying their skills to advanced projects that will ultimately help allow automation and procedural generation of complex and intricate virtual human movements.”

Partnering with Niagara College to improve craft beer competitiveness

Led by Niagara College (NC), an ARTP grant of $1,789,330 has been allocated to fund a project dedicated to improving the quality assurance and control measures of Canadian small- and medium-sized breweries. With the support of DC, this partnership strives to boost the craft brewing industry and ultimately result in the launch of a Canada-wide Craft Brewer Quality program, designed to support brewers and train students countrywide.

“This project is a significant step that will elevate the Canadian craft brewing industry,” says Chris Gillis, manager, Applied Research Business Development. “Craft breweries produce a sizeable share of beer in Canada already, and this funding enables the establishment of a framework of industry standards. We’re helping Canadian companies raise the bar while supporting the continued success of our national craft breweries.”

The program will take students through a comprehensive training process, to work alongside industry experts as the custom quality programs are developed and put into practice at 16 locations in New Brunswick, Ontario and Alberta.

As one of Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges, not only will this funding help provide DC students with ongoing opportunities to participate in experiential training, but DC can continue to lead even more small- and medium-sized enterprises to success through innovative and immersive digital technology strategies.

To read more about ORSIE’s research work, please visit www.durhamcollege.ca/orsie.


With campuses in Oshawa and Whitby, Durham College (DC) offers over 11,400 full-time students access to more than 140 post-secondary programs, including four honours bachelor degrees and nine apprenticeship programs.

DC enables students to develop career-ready skills for the ever-changing job market by providing an exceptional college education. With a focus on experiential learning, led by expert faculty, through field placements, applied research, co-ops and other hands-on opportunities, DC grads are known for having the skills and knowledge employers need.

At the Oshawa campus, the Centre for Collaborative Education brings together local, Indigenous and global communities, featuring the Durham College Spa, Rotary Global Classroom and interprofessional simulation and anatomy labs. The campus is also home to four of the college’s applied research centres, including the AI Hub, Centre for Cybersecurity Innovation, Mixed Reality Capture Studio and Social Impact Hub. Additionally, the flexible, fully automated, and industrial-grade Integrated Manufacturing Centre serves as a model of the new standards in advanced manufacturing, mechatronics and engineering education.

At DC’s Whitby campus, the new 60,000-square-foot Ontario Power Generation Centre for Skilled Trades and Technology shines a spotlight on industrial skilled trades training, innovation and education, and includes a double-height shop lab, new classrooms and student touchdown spaces, among other features. The campus also features the W. Galen Weston Centre for Food, which is home to the award-winning full-service restaurant, Bistro ’67; retail store, Pantry, featuring food grown and prepared by students; and the Barrett Centre of Innovation in Sustainable Urban Agriculture and its community-inspired urban farm.

Elyse Carney
Communications + Marketing
Durham College