The last six months have seen Lambton College unveil its $18.2 million Athletic and Fitness Complex, opened in October; complete its new Nova Chemicals Health and Research Centre building, a 60,000 ft addition for research and innovation; and open its $14.2 million Centre of Excellence in the same building, deepening the school’s ties with bio-industrial technology.
But a relatively small announcement last week — a new centre for IT research, supported by a five-year, $2 million research grant — could reveal more about the school’s future.
Thursday the college unveiled its strategic plan, in part to highlight the “fourth industrial revolution.” That tentatively coined concept includes advanced information technology and artificial intelligence, tech more commonly found in Hollywood or on Netflix than in homes and businesses around Sarnia-Lambton.
At its core, Lambton College’s five-year strategic plan is focused on 2030.
“We are preparing for what’s going to be coming next,” Judith Morris, president and chief executive officer of the college, said. “Flexibility is the buzzword, really; we have to be flexible to meet the needs of the fourth industrial revolution because they change every second.”
In an interview with the Sarnia Observer last week, Mehdi Sheikhzadeh, executive dean of Applied Research and Innovation with the college, hinted the college wants an IT “cluster” in Sarnia similar to the collection of burgeoning local bio-industrial industries. More IT innovation at the college could lead to more IT industries in Sarnia-Lambton, and vice versa, Sheikhzadeh said.
That quid pro quo relationship with local industry have given the college a unique advantage over the last decade, and has lead to a significant increase in research students, grants, and projects over the last five years.
“Every project is linked to an industrial partner,” Morris said. “That means innovation in and of itself. New projects, and new businesses.”
Within a few months dozens of applied research projects, some already well underway, will be operating out of the new Information Technology & Communication Research Centre. At best, those projects could establish Lambton College as a hotspot for IT research. At worst, they could prove supplementary to other research happening in the NOVA research centre.
Either way, IT will be part of Lambton College’s future.