The former human resources offices of a Corner Brook pulp and paper mill have become a unique hub to ignite innovation, research and entrepreneurship across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.
The Centre for Research and Innovation – a partnership among Memorial University, the College of the North Atlantic, and Corner Brook Pulp and Paper Ltd. – launched in the restored 1950s-era building in early January. The space is intended as an incubator for makers, innovators and entrepreneurs.
“It’s a place where imagination can become reality – tangible reality,” said Ian Sutherland, Memorial’s Grenfell campus vice-president. The downtown building houses an industrial maker space with heavy equipment for carpentry and welding, and a digital maker space, with tools like 3D printers and laser cutters.
The mill has been at the heart of the community for 100 years and is a key driver of its economic and industrial existence. The new centre will provide space for research on sustainable uses of the mill’s waste byproducts. It also opens up opportunities for public engagement.
“Businesses, industry entrepreneurs, solo-preneurs, high school students…being right down in the town provides access to get a wider segment of the local community involved,” said Dr. Sutherland. “Our overall aim is to continue to be a transformative force for the region. This space … is intended to help Corner Brook and the surrounding west coast region of the island thrive.”
Todd Hennessey, former dean of the school of fine arts at Grenville Campus, has worked long and hard to make the new space a reality and is excited by the building’s possibilities.
“I went down there … and it was this incredible mix of artists, technicians and people thinking about what it is to live and work and create in Corner Brook. And that was, for me, exactly what I wanted to see — on one end of the building, there was a presentation by some environmental scientists thinking about greenhouses and food security; on the other end of the building, there were visual artists and print makers and people thinking about place in the broadest sense,” he said.
“For me, it was always about collision. That’s the stew we’re trying to cook.”
Funding for the centre, totaling $8.9 million, was provided by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA); the Government of Canada; the Newfoundland and Labrador departments of Immigration, Population Growth and Skills and Industry, Energy and Technology; and the City of Corner Brook; and CBPPL.