UBC receives $3.8M for Survive and Thrive Applied Research facility

STAR announcement 770UBC received $3.8M for a research facility that will develop technologies for human protection, survivability and performance in extreme or remote conditions.

UBC has launched a new research innovation facility where industry and university researchers can pool their knowledge to rapidly develop novel technologies for human protection, survivability and performance in extreme or remote conditions.

On Tuesday, the Honourable Michelle Rempel, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, announced funding of $3.801 million to establish the Survive and Thrive Applied Research (STAR) facility at UBC’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna, BC.

STAR combines world-class research expertise and global partner networks to help commercialize innovative products and develop ideas that can be applied in a wide range of sectors, including manufacturing, natural resources, healthcare, and defense.

Paul van Donkelaar (middle) is working on a concussion-reducing sports helmet made out of impact-absorbing material

Paul van Donkelaar (middle) is working on a concussion-reducing sports helmet made out of impact-absorbing material

One of the first STAR projects is a collaboration between UBC, Kelowna-based Helios Global Technologies, and Imperial College London (UK) to develop a high-tech helmet that can reduce the risk of concussion in contact sports such as hockey and football.

“Collaboration with STAR greatly enhances our capacity to develop innovative products,” says Helios CEO Martin Cronin. “It gives us access to world-class research that helps us to quickly prove out concepts and explore multi-sectoral applications, and also access to funding through our research partnerships.”

STAR partnerships create important opportunities for university researchers and their students, says Prof. Paul van Donkelaar, Director of UBC’s School of Health and Exercise Sciences and Principal Investigator with the UBC Sports Concussion Research Lab.

“We’re working on compelling projects directly related to our primary research, and which also create new ideas for future research and real-world learning opportunities for students,” says van Donkelaar. The STAR partnership with Imperial College London has led to a new collaboration accord which will include student and faculty exchanges between institutions.

“British Columbia, Canada and the UK have remarkable strengths in advanced engineering and innovative technologies, so it is even more remarkable when they bring these shared strengths together,” says Howard Drake, British High Commissioner to Canada. “This facility, along with a broader collaboration between the partners on student and academic exchanges, will advance a range of exciting real-world solutions to help the security industry. I wish everyone involved all the best for what promises to be an exciting future.”

Other STAR initiatives include development of sensors for autonomous aerial vehicles (UAVs) for use in forestry and agriculture, and personal wireless stop-button technology for workers using large industrial machinery.

Learn more about the STAR facility at star.ubc.ca.

For Western Economic Diversification’s October 14 announcement, click here.


The Survive and Thrive Applied Research facility creates collaboration connections between industry and university researchers with expertise and equipment to meet the needs of industry and society. The collaborative network provides unique access to diverse interdisciplinary research, from human physiology, mental health and social work to manufacturing processes, product prototyping and marketing.

STAR’s research expertise and facilities focus on:

  • New product design and rapid prototyping
  • Advanced materials and fabrication
  • Device and materials testing and impact assessment
  • Mental health and human performance
  • Small- and medium-sized enterprises, cooperation, and regional economic development

A better sports helmet is just one of the projects already underway through STAR. Other current initiatives include:

Higher tech: Seeing more from the air

The science of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) is taking off at UBC. Intelligent and increasingly autonomous, these flying devices are typically used today for visual identification — carrying sensors such as optical daylight cameras or forward-looking infrared (FLIR) systems. It’s an emerging high-tech field with tremendous potential.

That’s where STAR comes in.

Among the development projects currently underway, Assoc. Prof. Homayoun Najjaran and his team at UBC’s Advanced Control and Intelligent Systems Lab are working with partners in forestry and agriculture to develop micro-UAVs, software, and sensors for remote sensing techniques that can revolutionize precision viticulture and crop management.

This research will lead to new products and services improving crop quality and yields in British Columbia’s thriving wine industry. Specialized sensors and micro-UAVs also have application in search and rescue, mining, and the oil and gas sector.

Stop the presses: A safer industrial workplace

Industrial equipment can be big, powerful and dangerous. Often, the safety controls are in the form of mechanical buttons that can shut things down immediately.

But what if you can’t reach the button when you need to?

That’s a safety challenge taken up by Asst. Prof. Jahangir Hossain and  Asst. Prof. Thomas Johnson of UBC’s Okanagan School of Engineering and STAR industrial affiliate Helios Global Technologies. They are developing a wireless-based emergency stop system for industrial machinery.

The basic concept is to enable an individual to carry a wireless handset that communicates directly with a wireless receiver, which is in turn integrated with a standard emergency stop button.

The system will react in the same manner as a manual emergency stop system and immediately shut down any machine that currently uses an emergency stop system.


Bud Mortenson
Director, University Relations
The University of British Columbia
Okanagan Campus
Office: 250-807-9255
Mobile: 250-864-3385
Email: bud.mortenson@ubc.ca