EXPAN Structural Timber Solutions are the result of a unique partnership between the academic arena and the commercial world. Taking a proven practice to new heights through enhancement and innovation, with both a theoretical and real-world perspective, has meant that EXPAN offers incredible advantages.
The combination of a multitude of partners with different perspectives and goals has created a unique system via a new model of partnership that seems to be paying substantial dividends. Of all the partners, the close ties with University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand, have yielded the most dramatic benefits to date.
The STIC partnership, which led to the development of the EXPAN range has been an important initiative for the University of Canterbury.
"The current Government is very keen for universities to demonstrate what they add to economic growth of the regions and the country. Partnerships like this one breathe life into that mandate," says Canterbury University Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Ian Town.
The STIC Consortium has been two years in the making. Professor Town says that time-frame is par for the course for academic/commercial partnerships such as this.
"Building the relationship takes time, but it's important that each party understands how the other does business. Universities, by nature, tend to be quite risk averse, while commercial enterprises tend to be a bit impatient and more tolerant of risk. To get anything done, you need to define the value proposition for each party."
"We have experienced people in our Research and Innovation team who have good understanding of industry needs and are very effective in this space. They are the doorway to the university for business. That a partnership on this scale with this many partners has got off the ground so successfully is credit to John Duncan and Professor Andy Buchanan and his team."
Professor Town says the importance of MSI (Ministry of Science and Innovation) funding in getting initiatives like STIC off the ground can't be underestimated.
"The Government recognises that we can do better as an economy by creating high-value wood products, not just shipping logs. EXPAN is a very successful example of this."
While the STIC project has had clearly beneficial outcomes from a commercial and R&D perspective, it has also offered the opportunity for highly respected industry thought-leaders to give back to the university.
"STIC brings with it a real spirit of collaboration. Some of New Zealand's leading engineers and architects - some graduates of UC, others not - have been inviolved in the development of EXPAN and continue to be generous with their time and expertise."
The Structural Timber Innovation Company’s unique balance between the commercial world and academia is part of a movement that both John Hare, engineer and Holmes Consulting Group Director, and leading local architect Thom Craig would like to see more of.
“It is important that universities have innovation hubs like STIC, where testing, trialling and studying materials is undertaken in new and critical ways. What this consortium has done for timber and the university is wonderfully special and innovative, and it should be congratulated,” Thom Craig says.
John Hare agrees. “Such initiatives as these are an essential part of ensuring that innovations are not just thought about, but that they are put into practice,” he says.
The research and development forming the foundation of EXPAN was proudly made possible by the shareholders and financial partners of the Structural Timber Innovation Company Ltd.