The Toolbank of R&D: Science Atlantic Database Puts Investigative Tools in Researchers’ HandsJenny Keleher March 24, 2017
March 2017—A powerful new means of advancing research and development in Atlantic Canada made its debut in Halifax today. Known as AFRED (Atlantic Facilities and Research Equipment Database), this open-access database will connect researchers in the region to the equipment and facilities they need to answer their foremost questions—whether they’re trying to understand the brain, build a silent windmill, or craft the perfect cupcake.
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Science Atlantic, a non-profit association of 16 post-secondary and research institutes in Atlantic Canada, launched AFRED at Dalhousie University’s Life Sciences Research Institute in Halifax in early March. The association began work on the project in 2010, shepherding AFRED from a simple spreadsheet to a sophisticated searchable database.
“AFRED will enable researchers in Atlantic Canada to make use of specialized equipment they might otherwise not know even exists,” says Dr. David McCorquodale, Science Atlantic’s chair and Dean of Science & Technology at Cape Breton University. “The database is available to anyone to access for free, whether they’re conducting their research in a university, community college, government agency, hospital, non-profit, or private enterprise. We see AFRED as a powerful tool for building cross-sector partnerships and opening the door to new possibilities for innovation, business development and wealth creation in the region.”
AFRED provides researchers with access to a registry of significant research infrastructure available in Atlantic Canada, and connects them to the facilities’ hosts and technical experts at the stroke of a key. This saves them enormous amounts of time trying to locate relevant facilities and allows them to conduct studies they could not undertake without either acquiring the equipment themselves or accessing it outside the region. At the same time, it ensures that expensive research assets do not sit idle and are utilized to their full capacity instead.
The Government of Canada provided a non-repayable contribution of $181,897 to the project through ACOA’s Business Development Program, while Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) provided $16,850.
“The Government of Canada is committed to working with Atlantic Canada’s worldclass
research and academic facilities to promote innovation and foster effective
partnerships between businesses and research partners,” says the Honourable
Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development and
Minister responsible for ACOA. “This project will help maximize available resources,
increase research and development interaction between business, academia and
government, and strengthen the research and innovation base in Atlantic Canada.”
More than 400 pieces of equipment in over 80 facilities at 19 institutions have
registered listings in AFRED so far. Science Atlantic is continuing to receive requests
to be listed from potential new facilities and aims to expand the database until all
eligible facilities in the region are listed. This includes facilities operated by
government, non-profit organizations and private companies, in addition to
universities and community colleges. AFRED will optimize the use of resources and
build R&D capacity in Atlantic Canada in sectors ranging from health care and
biotech to fishing and forestry, foods and nutraceuticals, IT and aerospace, and
biofuels and renewable energy technologies.
“Our government is committed to supporting scientists whose discoveries provide
us with the evidence we need to build a strong economy, a sustainable environment
and a vibrant middle class,” says the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, Canada’s Minister of
Science. “By strengthening the opportunities for collaboration between scientists
and entrepreneurs, we are ensuring future generations will benefit from the
incredible research being conducted in labs throughout the Atlantic region.”
AFRED is also supported by Springboard Atlantic, BioNB, the region’s universities,
several community colleges, and other partners who are coming on board as AFRED
- In the making since 2010, AFRED has progressed from a simple tool for
universities to share equipment information to a powerful database built to
support economic development by fostering innovation and inter-sectoral
- More than 400 pieces of equipment in over 80 facilities at 19 institutions are
currently registered in AFRED. Science Atlantic receives new listing requests
on an ongoing basis and plans to expand the database until all eligible
facilities in the region are listed.
- AFRED is well positioned to foster innovative collaborations and business
growth. The database provides any researcher or entrepreneur access to
equipment at universities, government and not-for-profit facilities for proofof-
concept and product-development studies in diverse sectors such as
aerospace, information technology, renewable energy, food sciences,
nutraceuticals, forestry, fisheries, agriculture, animal health, and more.
- All R&D spending in Atlantic Canada averaged $1.2 billion per year from 2011
to 2013 and the region’s business R&D grew by an annual average of 2.1 per
cent, between 2003 and 2013 compared to 1.3 per cent at the national
level.*Source: Statistics Canada, Table 358-001
- Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
- Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
- Science Atlantic
- Atlantic Facilities and Research Equipment Database
Follow Science Atlantic on social media:
Twitter: @scienceatlantic and @AFREDatabase
Science Atlantic / AFRED Program Manager