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Interview with NRC’s David Muir

Canada Makes is pleased to have had the chance for a one-on-one interview with David Muir of Canada’s National Research Council (NRC). David shares with us his vision and plans for the London NRC.

The NRC is the Government of Canada’s largest research organization supporting industrial innovation, the advancement of knowledge and technology development. For more than a hundred years, NRC has pushed the boundaries of science all the while working with industry to help shape Canada’s future.

Dr. David Muir NRC London

David Muir earned his B.Sc and Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Western Ontario, in London Canada, with his doctoral research focused in synthetic organic chemistry. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship with the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Canada in natural product chemistry.

David joined 3M Canada in London, Canada in 1996, gaining technical and management experience in Research and Development in several industrial sectors. He served as Integration Manager in the acquisition of a Canadian company, in which he held senior level management responsibilities in Operations, Finance, and R&D.  David was then appointed into business management roles in the Healthcare sector, including Food Safety and Infection Prevention Divisions.

Dr. Muir joined the National Research Council in July 2015 as Director of R+D for the London, Ontario facility within NRC’s Automotive and Surface Transportation portfolio.

Tells us about the NRC, particularly the London NRC that you head?

London NRC

The National Research Council of Canada is our national Research and Technology organization. NRC is over 100 years old, and has a very proud heritage of significant developments such as steam locomotives designed for the Canadian climate, Canola oil, the crash position indicator, electric wheelchair, and recently 100% biofuel filled flights. Our mandate is to support the Canadian economy through innovation in science and technology. NRC London, on the grounds of Western University, opened in 1997 primarily to support the manufacturing and construction industries. The construction activities across Canada were consolidated in Ottawa around 2010, and so our focus is manufacturing, particularly in the Automotive sector. We have a 75 000 sq ft facility, combined offices, labs, 2 automotive bays and a 10 ton crane high bay.

What should the new NRC “labs” be?

Our new labs will allow us to support and grow our research and development in Additive Manufacturing, Microfabrication, Specialty Coatings and Functional Surfaces. We will also be creating new space and capability for R+D in Mechatronics and Control Systems as well as Engineering Data Analytics. Finally, since we have had significant industry feedback regarding demonstration and integration of technology, we will be creating facilities that can enable whole vehicle and digital factory level scale.

The so-called “Factory of the Future,” tell us about the progression you have seen to get where you are now?

Dr. David Muir

When I arrived at NRC London 3 years ago, investment in our facility to support advanced manufacturing had just been announced. We polled industry quite exhaustively for their needs, and held workshops to validate our findings. This feedback told us to focus on applications for digital manufacturing and connected/autonomous vehicles. Within these applications, we heard very strong needs in key technological domains, as well as a facility that can integrate technology at a full vehicle or factory demonstration level. Additionally, we heard clearly that we need to create a facility that is collaborative in which private, public and academic sector can work together to solve pressing challenges. So with this feedback, we set out to renovate our facility, hire scientists and engineers and acquire equipment that incorporate these needs. I am pleased to report that this facility is now substantially complete and we are preparing for an opening in the fall.

How do you see the NRC’s place in helping companies adopt and use the applications and concepts of Industry 4.0.

First of all, our goal is to help companies de-risk implementation of new technology. I see several means by which we can do this – expertise to advise on technology, a demonstration facility to show new technology in use at a scaled-up level, a platform for industry to trial their own process before implementing, use cases for new applications of technology, and research into new areas. Industry for example has fed back that they have heard a lot about digital manufacturing or Industry 4.0, but they cannot visualize or understand how to implement. An additional benefit that clients can leverage at NRC London is access to the full breadth of the NRC. We are a relatively small facility, however, we can help clients access the >3000 employees of the NRC.

Will you focus on any particular advanced technologies? If yes what and why?

NRC London has created very strong and world recognized capabilities in additive manufacturing, microfabrication and surface functionalization. We will continue to develop in these areas as they continue to be of strong interest to industry. In addition, industry feedback has shown 2 major areas for focus, Mechatronics and Control Systems as well as Engineering Data Analytics.   Finally, integration of technology for connected/autonomous vehicles and digital manufacturing will be a skillset employing hard/software interoperability, autonomous systems, cybersecurity and communications.

Where do you see this initiative having its biggest impact?

We see impact to manufacturers of all size in Canada. Companies interested in new technology or adoption of technology related to digital manufacturing and/or connected/autonomous vehicles.

Thank you David.