Fredericton-based technology firm Kognitiv Spark continues to make waves in 2023. The new year kicked off with the University of New Brunswick’s (UNB) announcement of its Spatial Computing Education, Training & Research Laboratory (SPECTRAL), which has received $823,125 in funding from ACOA and $150,000 from Kognitiv Spark, along with additional in-kind contributions. SPECTRAL is an applied research outfit that works with the cutting-edge spatial computing and mixed-reality technologies that Kognitiv Spark is an industry leader in.

Company co-founder, COO and VP of aerospace and defence, Duncan McSporran, said the UNB relationship began during Kognitiv Spark’s infancy.

“We had innovative ideas at launch, but we knew we needed research support to bring it to market,” he said. “In a bit of serendipity, UNB had just recruited a talented forward thinker in Dr. Scott Bateman. He set up the Human-Computer Interaction Lab, which was essential for us as our software puts an emphasis on the human component of technology. Through Scott and the Office of Research Services, UNB provided us incredible institutional support in those crucial early days.”

“Our region benefits when industry, government and academia work together to push innovation forward across various areas,” said Dr. Paul J. Mazerolle, UNB president and vice-chancellor. “SPECTRAL enables a partnership for fostering leading-edge research and digital innovation in the aerospace field. The opportunities for computer science students to work on real world industrial challenges will be deeply meaningful.”

Students benefit from experiential learning opportunities

SPECTRAL is well positioned to build on the province’s existing expertise in human-computer interaction, the desire to further develop the aerospace and defence sector and the need to prepare students for exciting tech careers in New Brunswick. UNB students participating in experiential learning opportunities via SPECTRAL are poised to become candidates for highly specialized augmented reality and virtual reality jobs, benefiting from the Kognitiv team’s knowledge base.

“We’re not simply providing software; we’re offering our time. We have great people here able to help the university’s researchers and students learn about what we do,” said McSporran. “Our team’s commercialization and market capabilities will provide the lab and its students with real-world expertise. We understand what customers need, the common technical challenges they face and how to help more companies adopt this sophisticated technology.”

Industry benefits from world-class collaboration

SPECTRAL supports aerospace industry companies and SMEs by providing access to world-class research and development, supporting a digitized aerospace supply chain and offering new educational/training programs in spatial computing. This project creates a pipeline of highly qualified professionals with training in industry-relevant spatial computing that will help local companies maximize opportunities in the global aerospace supply chain.

“The technology we have in market across the globe doesn’t replace anything. What it does is change the way our customers do business,” said McSporran. “Now we have this great partnership where we’re able to introduce those customers to an academic team that can de-risk many of their concerns and help develop the new intellectual property these companies know they’ll need to make the technology an even bigger success for them.”

Doing it all from New Brunswick

Since ONB’s conversation with CEO Yan Simard last year, Kognitiv Spark has established a new team on the ground in the UK and grown its workforce both there and at home. McSporran said they have hired new staff coming from UNB’s Master’s programs and plan to continue growing its New Brunswick-based team via this collaboration with the university.

“The work we’re doing with ONB, UNB, ACOA and others is creating a centre of gravity that helps draw more people’s attention to both Fredericton and New Brunswick as hubs for this innovative work and we love that.”

He said the unity of purpose in New Brunswick has had a significant impact on the company’s success thus far.

“Every time I speak to someone at ONB, UNB, ACOA or any other partner, there’s a real desire to get the word out about how great New Brunswick is and what interesting things are happening here,” said McSporran. “I see it in our own workforce too; they’re here because New Brunswick allows them to have the lifestyle they want while engaging with world-class technology and incredibly brilliant researchers. It’s all happening here and we really do need to spend more time telling the world about it.”

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