McMaster partnership with German research institute at risk

Tyler Welch
March 20, 2014
This article was published more than 2 years ago.
Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes

McMaster University is planning to partner with a German research institute in the hopes of building a bioengineering facility near McMaster Innovation Park.

The venture promises to provide jobs to industry scientists and provide valuable research. However, it is turning out to be a costly affair and the partnership’s plans are in jeopardy of being shut down.

The University has already signed a memorandum of agreement with the Fraunhofer-IZI Institute of Cell Therapy for the proposed $20-million facility.

The building is intended to be a 50,000 square-foot international facility.

In addition, three biotechnology centric companies want to relocate near the proposed facility, promising to provide jobs to the locals.

Mo Elbestawi is the vice-president of research at McMaster University. He is the representative from the University who is trying to convince different groups about the advantages of building a bioengineering facility.

“This is a unique and ideal opportunity for Hamilton to capture the true economic value of the research that is conducted in McMaster’s facilities,” wrote Elbestawi, in a letter urging the council and city staff to study the feasibility of the partnership.

The project requires $4-million from the city.  Elbestawi is urging the council to make a decision regarding the issue urgently; he believes that this opportunity should not be allowed to pass, as the expression of interest is fairly high.

City Council has a different viewpoint compared to Elbestawi, regarding the partnership.  Councillor Brad Clark noted that the city had already contributed $5-million to the Innovation Park, so the request for an additional $4-million of taxpayer cash came as a surprise to the council. Clark voted against studying the proposal.

“It’s a tough one because our mandate is not education,” added Councillor Lloyd Ferguson, “But on the other hand this means jobs, high-paying, PhD jobs. I’ll listen but frankly it will be hard for us to come up with $4-million.”

City Council is currently looking at the pros and cons of the venture; there are several councilors who see this as an opportunity to create jobs and several others who believe that improving the living conditions within Hamilton should be the council’s primary concern, but every councilor, in unison is stunned by the $4-million cash request.

Elbestawi mentioned that the University has been in discussion with the institute based in Leipzig, Germany, for more than a year now. The institute looked at six Canadian universities and chose McMaster because they found a unique combination between the health science, engineering and science programs offered at the University.

The University is already seeking $8-million from the federal economic development agency. The German institute has pledged $13-million in operating costs to run the facility over the next four years.

Elbestawi is hoping to get a “yes” from the city, provincial and the federal government by May or June next year.

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