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Inco centre gets major funding boost

Sept. 10, 2003

The federal government will invest over $13 million through the Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) in Memorial's new Inco Innovation Centre. The goal of the project is to create a world-class centre for mining innovation.

The announcement was made Sept. 10 by Gerry Byrne, minister of state for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), and Newfoundland and Labrador's representative in the federal cabinet.

“The initial focus of the centre's research and development activities will be on the Voisey's Bay project as the test site for proposed new technologies and services,” said Mr. Byrne. “Over the long-term, the centre plans to generate its own revenue by selling or licensing new technologies to other mining companies, providing client support services, such as analytical and scientific testing services, as well as environmental monitoring and testing.”

Industry Minister Allan Rock said the Inco Innovation Centre fits with the innovation strategy recently established by the Government of Canada.

“One of the key elements of that strategy is making sure that we have the skills we need to compete in the new economy,” said Mr. Rock. “The success of the knowledge economy depends on its capacity to maintain a skilled workforce. Communities like St. John's, Argentia and Nain and the other Labrador communities will benefit from development of the mine at Voisey's Bay. The Inco Innovation Centre will provide Memorial University with the opportunity to grow and excel academically and professionally.”

The centre will be located at the St. John's campus and will focus on education and research in mineral exploration, mining and metallurgical processing techniques.

“The Inco Innovation Centre was a key priority of our government during the Voisey's Bay negotiations,” said Premier Grimes. “This important initiative will ensure that our citizens are prepared to become the leaders in the development of the new hydromet technology. Today's announcement, and the 25 per cent tuition reduction over the past three years at Memorial University, will ensure that new educational opportunities are available to all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. This will ensure that our young people can remain at home and take advantage of the new employment opportunities created by our resource projects.”

Dr. Axel Meisen, President of Memorial University, spoke of the tremendous gains that the university will make through the Inco Innovation Centre.

“The centre will assist us in establishing a new undergraduate Process Engineering program, as well as in conducting seminars and client-training programs,” said Dr. Meisen. “The centre will provide world-class educational and research facilities, become a major distance education hub for Memorial University and support various aspects of the Voisey's Bay project, including the mine in Labrador and the hydrometallurgical processing facility in Argentia.”

Phil du Toit, managing director of Voisey's Bay Nickel Company, said as part of its program to maximize opportunities for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, Inco has committed to the development of the Innovation Centre at Memorial University and has pledged $20 million towards capital and operating costs for the centre over 10 years.

“The centre will allow Memorial's scientists, engineers and senior students to develop leading edge technologies to support advanced exploration techniques for ore body discovery and delineation,” said Mr. du Toit. “This project will play an important role in maximizing economic benefits from the Voisey's Bay project by supporting the long term R&D and human resource requirements of the proposed mine and processing facilities, building the R&D capacity required to provide advanced exploration and process engineering expertise and related services worldwide, and leveraging the incremental public and private sector funding required to enhance the international competitiveness of Canada's mining industry.”

Of the total costs of approximately $39 million, the project will receive up to $13.1 million from the Atlantic Innovation Fund over a five-year period. This funding will result in the hiring of 40 new researchers at Memorial and build new R&D capacity for mining innovation and technology commercialization in the Atlantic region.

The Inco Innovation Centre will be located at the former Thomson Student Centre, which is currently undergoing major renovations.

The project has also leveraged funding from sources other than the AIF and Inco. Memorial University will contribute $1 million toward the budget and the remaining financing will be secured from national research funding programs, federal government departments and the private sector.

The $300-million Atlantic Innovation Fund is a Government of Canada initiative that is administered by ACOA. It is designed to build the economy of Atlantic Canada by increasing the region's capacity to carry out leading edge R&D that directly contributes to the development of new technology-based economic activity in the region. Specifically, the Fund is aimed at increasing the R&D being carried out in Atlantic research facilities leading to the launch of new ideas, products, processes and services.

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