The quest for knowledge: How Stantec research empowers our people to better serve clients
April 09, 2017
April 09, 2017
Part 10 of our 10-part R&D Fund 10th Anniversary Series shines a light on Dr. Rosamund Hyde and our Research and Innovation Services
If Stantec were a university, we’d be in the top 25 in Canada based on the value of research we conduct. At least, that’s the figure that senior research engineer Dr. Rosamund Hyde has calculated. And she knows best.
As the manager of Stantec’s research and innovation services, Rosamund tracks the volume of research the Company produces—something we’ve been doing since Dr. Don Stanley founded the Company in 1954.
In recent years, research services at Stantec have grown and diversified to nurture a culture of creativity and innovation. The addition of internal research funding, internal research cost support, online access to scholarly technical journals, and assistance connecting with external research funders has made the program more robust over the past decade.
Employees interested in carrying out research have been quick to create value using these resources.
“Stantec’s research grant and research cost support programs channeled about $500,000 of investment into research and innovation in 2006. In 2016, that figure was over $5 million, a ten-fold increase,” states Rosamund.
“Over the same timeframe, Stantec’s gross revenue increased five-fold, Stantec-authored research articles have increased six-fold, article downloads from our eLibrary—Stantec’s online subscriptions to 6000 journals—have gone from zero to 20,000 per year, and we’ve collaborated on research projects with universities that have attracted more than $6 million in government funding Company-wide.”
While these figures are impressive, they don’t reflect the full value of research to Stantec.
“Research services helps Stantec provide better client service and gives employees an opportunity to improve their careers. These two outcomes are tremendously valuable in terms of client satisfaction and employee engagement,” Rosamund says.
Brain Guthrie, Stantec’s vice president practice services & innovation, agrees. Investing in “outside-the-box” employee ideas ultimately helps our clients. When we can support our people with the funding and time required to research, develop, test, fail, try again, and succeed, it’s our clients who benefit from the results.
“In addition to supporting our own people in their professional growth and reputations, a primary benefit our Company receives from research and innovation is in discovering new knowledge that can be tailored to solutions for our clients. That’s what we strive toward when we back an innovative employee project,” Brian says.
Often, Stantec employees, academics, and clients partner to jointly fund research. It’s a model that’s proven beneficial in many instances, including, for example, improving mining safety and restoring shoreline resilience. These partnerships not only ensure the development of better solutions and research networks, they help to better define problems in the first place.
“Partnerships with clients and universities are essential to the strength of our research,” explains Brian. “When research is shared, so are successes.”
And he has figures to support his theory.
According to the Conference Board of Canada, 74% of innovative companies extremely or significantly improve client service.
The same report concludes that innovative companies have better productivity, grow faster, and generate higher quality, higher paying jobs. And as part of the Creativity and Innovation Program, Research Services provides employees with priceless resources to support their clients and advance their careers.
“Access to Stantec’s various research tools is priceless,” says Reed Ellis, vice president and principal bridge engineer. “There is a direct benefit to Stantec’s clients as our staff have access to funds to support research-related work that can be brought to bear on our client’s projects. This helps our staff be at the forefront of new knowledge and technology.”
Reed has been involved in three Stantec R&D Fund (now Greenlight) projects as a principal investigator, and three others as a project sponsor. Reed has also worked with Research Services to apply for internal research cost support on a continual basis since 2010.
“In every case, Rosamund and Research Services have provided invaluable support in the application and administration of R&D funding and internal research cost support.” Reed continues, “Rosamund has been front and center in research at Stantec from the very first. In recent years, the Research Services group has grown under Rosamund’s leadership and it now provides these services to many projects across Stantec.”
It's this growth of the company that engages Rosamund, who has also been involved in her own Greenlight projects. One of these projects addressed strengthening accountability in sustainable building design. Rosamund worked with a team of passionate individuals—building designers from public and private organizations from across Canada—as part of the Canadian chapter of the International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment (iiSBE Canada).
The group received R&D funding from Stantec as well as financial support from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and others. Together they studied nine buildings across Canada to assess their energy and environmental performance. A representative of the iiSBE Canada presented the group’s findings at the World Sustainable Buildings Conference in Spain in 2014.
Rosamund and the iiSBE Canada team’s peer-reviewed papers and assessments helped thousands of the world’s leading technical experts and researchers advance their knowledge of sustainable building performance. This information can also inform our clients and our employees.
As Stantec grows—now 22,000 employees in 400 offices around the globe—so does the infrastructure around the C&I Program. In addition to Brian, the group also has an executive vice president, Creativity & Innovation (Stanis Smith); innovation leaders, who act as a bridge between the C&I program and employees; and a research and innovation services team that operates at the corporate level to help all employees access services.
Looking to the future, Rosamund envisions two streams of research and innovation growth: a higher number of research-engaged employees, and more connection with external collaborations.
“I think proactive collaboration invitations to Stantec by faculty members from universities, colleges, and research institutes could be extremely effective in leveraging the tremendous learning and innovation services Stantec has to offer,” Rosamund says. “Many universities have alumni working at Stantec, and many people who are presently on faculty have students now working at Stantec to whom they can pitch research collaboration ideas.”
As “Stantec University” continues to increase enrollment and research output, Rosamund is energized by optimism for the future growth of the Research Services Program. She’s also rooted in the knowledge that her role is one-of-a-kind.
“I get to work with highly respected researchers and innovators who are working on fascinating projects in many different technical areas across North America and around the world. Every day, and every conversation, is different and thought-provoking,” she says.
In 2017, Stantec celebrated the 10th anniversary of our Research and Development (R&D) Fund—now called Greenlight. Through Greenlight, Stantec invests $2 million annually into our employees’ big ideas, with half the funds earmarked for scientific R&D initiatives. Greenlight is part of our Creativity & Innovation Program, which nurtures the efforts of our people to apply any idea that benefits us, our clients, or our communities, and enhances our reputation, competitive position, and ultimately our financial performance.