UBCO engineering, Kal Tire sign research agreement

UBC and Kal Tire’s Mining Tire Group recently announced the signing of a three-year memorandum of understanding (MOU) to merge Kal Tire’s innovation goals with the expertise of the UBC Okanagan school of engineering.

Dr. Lukas Bichler, an associate professor of engineering at UBC Okanagan, said the collaboration is an opportunity to get UBC’s innovation out into the world. The school of engineering will be developing materials that surpass current standards, are cheaper and easier to manufacture.

This partnership is one of the first with the school of engineering’s new Boosted Engineering Applied Research (BEAR) initiative. The initiative is seeking to foster long-term relationships with industries like Kal Tire.

Peter Nilsson, innovation and research and development manager at Kal Tire, said the collaboration is seeking to grow innovation and development to further increase they company's competitiveness in the industry. While he cannot discuss specific projects, he said that talks are underway, and the enthusiasm between Kal Tire and UBC is palpable.

The projects will look at issues like safety, technology, transportation and performance. Nilsson noted a priority for projects to create a safer environment for people who work with large and heavy equipment, as well as a focus on enhancing tire service value for customers.

“As a service provider, we have to give them [the customers] the best value for their money,” said Nilsson.

Nilsson said new proposals will originate from Kal Tire team members around the world. Ideas determined to have the highest priority will be presented to UBCO and a collaborative team will then be assembled.

Dr. Rehan Sadiq, associate dean of the school of engineering and professor, said there is potential for unsolicited projects originating from UBC research professors in addition to the solicited projects originating from Kal Tire.

Sadiq is keen to collaborate with more companies at the local, national and international levels. “We [now] have a template, so it’s much easier for us to coordinate and convince other industry partners,” said Sadiq. His goal is to raise $3 million in funding for engineering research through similar collaborations in the next few years.

According to Sadiq, UBCO is already in talks with two other companies. The companies have shown an interest in a partnership similar to that of UBC and Kal Tire.

Like Sadiq, Nilsson sees potential beyond the collaboration, citing the possibility of partnerships with other universities around the world, perhaps through UBC’s Go Global program. Nilsson said there is potential for extending the partnership with UBCO beyond the current three-year term, and a possibility for future employment opportunities for students involved in the program’s projects.

“[It’s an] opportunity to work with one of the top research universities in the world. I am totally convinced that this collaboration and initiative will drive results in this technology,” said Nilsson, calling the partnership a “new era” for Kal Tire.

Nilsson said Kal Tire was drawn to UBCO because of its precedent with other companies, a responsibility to serve the local community and university, and its personal experience with engineering students in UBCO’s co-op program. Through the program, Nilsson has seen the mutual benefits of collaboration where students gain experience, and the company benefits from the skills and innovation of the student.