Durham College receives more than $1 million in applied research funding for three unique projects

Durham College (DC) is pleased to announce that its Office of Research Services, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ORSIE) will receive more than $1 million in applied research grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to help create innovative solutions for local and regional social challenges.

Applied over a three-year term, the funding is provided through the College and Community Social Innovation Fund (CCSIF), which is managed by NSERC in collaboration with the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). The funding is being directed to three of DC’s applied research projects, which will be completed alongside a number of community partners, including:

  • A participatory action research project that aims to design financial empowerment tools and resources that will help address the specific and unique needs of low-income residents. Through partnerships with a number of local agencies – including libraries, employment centres and new immigrant welcome centres – research lead Lorraine Closs and partner Randy Uyenaka, both full-time faculty in the college’s Social Service Worker program, will engage low-income residents to understand the use of available supports in their neighbourhoods, as well as barriers to access.
  • An innovative research project using virtual reality to simulate uncontrolled fire scenarios and improve training for firefighters using immersive life-like experiential learning. By eliciting physiological and psychological responses similar to the human reactions in a real-life fire scenario, research lead Dr. Michael Williams-Bell and partner John Goodwin will develop a safe and controlled training environment for participants, resulting in saved lives and a reduced number of training injuries.
  • A series of Innovation Lab co-production workshops held with early childhood educators, parents, faculty, students, behaviour experts and service providers, to develop a tool for educators and families to support the development of social competence in pre-school aged children. Under the direction of research lead Nicole Doyle and partner Corrine McCormick-Brighton, the tools will be used in EarlyON Child and Family Centres in the Durham Region.

“We are so thrilled to receive this funding and are excited to begin work with our community partners to develop innovate solutions to the unique challenges facing our preschool educators, firefighters and low-income population,” said Debbie McKee Demczyk, dean, ORSIE. “While these projects aim to positively impact our community, they are also providing excellent experiential learning opportunities for our students as they gain valuable experience working alongside experienced researchers.”

CCSIF grants are intended to support college social innovation research projects in partnership with local community organizations. Through the CCSIF grants, each of the three DC research projects will receive more than $300,000.

Applied research at DC is facilitated through ORSIE and seeks to solve social and business challenges through innovation and collaboration. By engaging industry, faculty, students, and community partners, research projects successfully address the needs of a technology-driven knowledge economy. DC has been named one of Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges by Research Infosource Inc. six times.