After a 50-year courtship, steel industry and UAlberta Engineering seal the deal

    $1.5M in support establishes steel centre and endowed professorship

    By Richard Cairney on October 10, 2016

    (Edmonton) Alberta is home to a major steel fabrication technology cluster that is arguably the largest and most advanced in the country, and the University of Alberta plays an important role in the field. The U of A is recognized as a world leader in steel structures research and education.

    And the connections between the university and the steel and structural design sector has been strengthened with the establishment of a new teaching and research centre and a professorship in steel structures education and research.

    Two major Faculty of Engineering initiatives were announced today: the establishment of the Canadian Institute of Steel Construction Centre for Steel Structures Education and Research, and the Supreme Steel Professorship in Structural Engineering Education and Innovation.

    Through the new steel centre, members of Canada’s and Alberta’s steel industry are working together to establish an integrated “hub” focused on the long-term development, growth and sustainability of the steel industry, creating a national industrial steel centre, and a professorship in structural engineering education and innovation at the U of A Faculty of Engineering.

    The Canadian Institute for Steel Construction, Collins Steel, Supreme Steel, Waiward Steel, DIALOG, TSE Steel, and Price Steel are supporting the centre, which will provide education and research leadership and address key issues facing the industry.

    Supreme Steel is also supporting a new endowed professorship as a key part of the centre.

    Robert Driver, a professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, has been appointed as inaugural director of the centre and to hold the new Supreme Steel Professor.

    Speaking at a special event to announce the new centre and professorship, Driver said the steel centre will in many ways “is like creating an opportunities fund for students.”

    “It’s really about people. We need to imagine where structural engineering design will be 10 or 20 years from now so the people who will be at the peak of their careers are prepared. We need to think of what the industry will be like 20 years from now,” he said. “This is really about people.”

    In fact, Driver noted that the relationships between the industry and the Faculty of Engineering dates back at least 50 years. And John Leder, the founder of Supreme Steel, recalled that he first began connecting with the U of A when he approached Dean Emeritus Peter Adam in the late 1970s.

    That kicked off a relationship between the steel industry and the Faculty of Engineering. Leder quoted from a speech he delivered on campus 25 years ago on behalf of the CISC, in which he counted 20 research projects the CISC and the university partnered on during the previous 20 years, and graduate scholarships supported by steel fabricators.

    “Fast forward another 25 years and here we are today, continuing that relationship,” Leder said. “It is a lasting beacon to the steel industry.”

    Dean of Engineering Fraser Forbes noted the fact that the Faculty of Engineering has an exception record in building relationships with industry that benefit teaching and research and solve big problems. For example, the Faculty of Engineering has 15 NSERC Industrial Research chairs—more than any other entire university in Canada.

    “How did we get here? Not by being a bunch of smart people hiding in a university,” Forbes said. “It has been a community effort. Industry is not afraid to work with us and we are not afraid to work with industry.”

    Speaking on behalf of industry partners Jason Collins, president of Collins Steel, said his company became involved because it values collaborative work, pursues excellence and believes in stewardship of the industry.

    “The steel centre is a big step in advancing competency in industry,” he said. “This is like a new beginning because we are investing in the industry at a foundational level. We get to sit at the table with our partners and shape what we are going to do.”

    CISC chairman Laurier Trudeau said support for the steel centre makes perfect sense for the entire industry, which has for decades focused on engineering and research, finding better ways of doing things.

    “I personally feel the industry has flourished because of its relationship with academia,” he said. “Our industry and this centre are a great combination. We get it. This centre has all the right ingredients: design, innovation, passion and people—it’s going to be a success.”