Latest News

Durham receives $2.24 million in funding

Durham College students meet in the school’s AI Hub, which recently received $2 million in funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada. (Photo by Chris Jones)

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Durham College was recently awarded $2.24 million to go towards their Office of Research Services, Innovation and Entrepreneurship (ORSIE).

The funding comes from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). It comes through the council’s College and Community Innovation (CCI) Program and the College and Community Social Innovation Fund (CCSIF).

Of the funds, $2 million will be used over a five year period to help enhance the college’s Hub for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence for Business Solutions, otherwise known as the AI Hub.

“That funding will support applied research projects with local companies to enable them to solve challenges or address problems,” explains Debbie McKee Demczyk, the dean of ORSIE. “Really it’s about integrating artificial intelligence into their business solutions.”

The second research grant, which consists of $240,000 in funding over two years, comes from the CCSIF. It will take place over a two year period, and will go towards developing a unique and scalable housing model for youth living on their own in Durham Region.

It was established in partnership with the region, as well as the Durham District School Board, Durham Mental Health Services, and the John Howard Society of Canada.

McKee Demczyk says that the funding will impact the college by providing “students with new opportunities to practice their skills and to contribute to real world problems.”

More specifically, McKee Demczyk says that the funding will effect programs such as computer programming, data analytics program, and other related programs.

McKee Demczyk explains that applied research at the college level is about working with local companies and helping them to overcome a challenge.

“The funding we get, for instance, with this program, allows us to build teams to help companies to develop a prototype, develop a service, create a new product,” says McKee Demczyk.

An example that she gives is that a company that comes to Durham College to help integrate artificial intelligence in order to gain new insight.

“So let’s say, for instance, I’m working at a company and I collect a lot of data about my customers,” she says. “I know where they live, I know what they like to purchase, I know what time of year they purchase it. By looking at that information in a different way, that company can maybe target their sales in a different way, maybe target a specific segment of the population.”

She further explains that by using artificial intelligence techniques, a company can focus their efforts, increase sales, develop new markets, or new marketing strategies to help that company grow.

For students, what the program does is give them an opportunity to work with a real company.

It helps them to not only understand their business, but also gets them involved in the problem solving process, as well as provide them with a chance to give communication updates with that company.

“Our students are taking the skills that they learn in that computer program, or analyst program, and they’re applying them,” says McKee Demczyk.

“So by the time a student graduates, not only have they accomplished those technical skills that their program provided the opportunity to learn, they’ve practiced them, they got a job, they’ve got a reference, and they’ve got a lot of examples that they can use when they’re interviewed,” she explains.