Swedish telecom Ericsson setting up 5G research lab at Carleton University

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Carleton University president Benoit-Antoine Bacon (left) shakes hands with head of Ericsson Ottawa Marcos Cavaletti at the launch of the two organizations' formal partnership on Friday. Photo by Mark Holleron

Swedish tech giant Ericsson is bringing its networking equipment and expertise to Carleton University, where the two organizations will seek to prepare a new generation of engineers for the next generation of wireless internet.

Ericsson officials were on-hand at Carleton University’s new ARISE building Friday morning to unveil the partnership, which will see networking labs and a new centre of excellence in 5G wireless technology established on the Ottawa post-secondary institution’s campus.

The Ericsson-Carleton partnership will provide funding to graduate students, endow a new research chair and fund fellowships for students working on next-generation networks. The program still requires a few signatures from Ericsson’s home base in Sweden, but the multi-year partnership will bring at least seven figures of funding to Carleton.

Ericsson’s Kanata R&D site – established in the fire sale of Nortel Networks’ assets in 2009 – is the company’s largest such facility in North America, employing roughly 1,500 people today.

The company’s Ottawa offices also generate significant results for the company, according to Marcos Cavaletti, the head of Ericsson’s local operations. The Ottawa R&D site delivers about 110 patents annually for Ericsson, averaging more than two per week.

“Ottawa is a very strategic site for Ericsson,” Cavaletti said in an interview at Friday morning’s launch event. “What we do here is deployed not only in North America, but in Europe, in Asia, in many countries where we have business.”

Despite the sizeable output, Cavaletti said Ericsson’s biggest challenge locally is sourcing new hires with the skills the company needs in Ottawa’s tight talent market. While Ericsson has long had a relationship with Carleton to attract co-op students and new graduates, the formal partnership will help bolster the networking giant’s local talent pipeline.

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Marcos Cavaletti speaks at the Ericsson-Carleton partnership launch. Photo by Mark Holleron

That’s a win-win for Carleton, which can use the formal partnership to attract students interested in working hands-on with state-of-the-art networking equipment while gaining opportunities to launch a career at one of the world’s most recognized names in tech.

Rafik Goubran, Carleton’s vice-president of research and international, said the skills students can take away from the 5G centre of excellence can serve them well in Ottawa’s tech sector.

“This is an area that's blossoming in the Ottawa area, whether it's large corporations like Ericsson or small startups who work in various applications such as wellness, or areas of public safety or autonomous vehicles. That all needs very deep knowledge of 5G wireless,” he said.

Goubran said that any intellectual property generated through research at the centre is not automatically staked by Ericsson. Carleton’s policy states that IP generated through academic research projects remains with the researchers themselves, not the university or third-party partners.

Ericsson is one marquee name among other partners expected to set up space in the ARISE building, which stands for Advanced Research and Innovation in Smart Environments. The building, which sits between the Loeb Building and Richcraft Hall in the southwest corner of Carleton’s campus, has been under construction for retrofits over the past three years.

Work is still finishing up on some floors of the 40,000-square-foot building, which Carleton associate vice-president Sandra Crocker said Friday is roughly a third occupied at the moment.

There are no traditional classrooms in ARISE – space in the building is reserved exclusively for projects with funded partnerships, Crocker said. Announcements are expected in the coming months on additional Ottawa-based partners working on projects in the Internet of Things and cybersecurity spaces. In addition to ICT-based projects such as Ericsson, the site is focused on environmental and health-tech research applications.