Prairie Swine Centre Turns 20 in 2012

by 5m Editor
19 March 2012, at 6:23am

CANADA - Prairie Swine Centre is a uniquely Canadian solution, developed in 1992 the Centre links university research pursuit with industry needs and funding to generate near-market science.

When first proposed, this business model was a great leap of faith for both the industry and the university. Over the past 20 years new university/ industry/government models have evolved in industries as diverse as computing, health care, mining and forestry and areas of joint business schemes between universities and the private sector are now responsible for a broad host of services as varied as language training in the UK and student housing in US universities. In these models typically the university remains responsible for educational quality while the marketing, financing and specialist management experience is provided by the private sector partner. One UK partnership has developed over 21,000 students through a language training program. When I investigated this phenomenon I discovered there were indeed many success stories using these hybrid business models.

Prairie Swine Centre original management team circa 1992. Back left to right: Lee Whittington, Kees deLange, Harold Gonyou, Yuanhui Zhang. Front left to right: John Patience, Brian Andries+

In agriculture, in particular the pork industry, the examples are fewer but they do exist, for example the Australian Cooperative Research Centres (Pork CRC), and closer to home universities like Kansas State have long-term business relationships with commercial barns for near-market research purposes. New University/Private/Government partnerships are now common business structures that bring unique skills and assets to the training of young people, generating excitement among researchers and providing reliable return to government support.

During the past 20 years of operation Prairie Swine Centre with its funding partners and research collaborators world-wide has developed a reputation for practical solutions addressing global competitiveness through developing technologies, personnel and knowledge products. Since inception the research objectives for the Centre spoke a language that both the industry and researchers could embrace and pursue. For example, the first objective dealt with feed – To define the optimum feeding and management procedures to reduce the cost of feeding out grower-finisher pigs by at least $2.00. Dr John Patience, the Centre’s original Director and first President had a shared vision with the industry that research should be accountable and live up to the rigors of business performance measures like attaching dollars and cents to research outcomes. This was an area that attracted a great deal of interest and support from industry and government. Two studies summarizing the economic impact of this approach to research have been conducted. By 2004 the added benefit to a producer applying PSC technologies was estimated to be nearing $30/pig marketed, a second study focused on the research from 2005-2010 concluded an additional $20 in net income per pig marketed had been identified.

Part of the success in developing economically relevant research results can be attributed to the Centre generating new attention and enthusiasm which attracted young research scientists from around the world who wanted their contribution to make a difference in industry. These scientists have gone on to form the pillars of pork research in many institutions, their work having an impact not just on the Canadian industry but around the world. Additionally students have been attracted from around the world to round out their education in an academic environment that worked to make that link to the industry part of their graduate studies experience. After nearly 20 years the Centre has trained 48 graduate students, plus summer students, post-doctoral fellows and employees that every day work in academia, commercial production, government and supplier industries.