Okanagan College’s beverage technology access centre receives renewed $1.75 million in federal grant funding

By College Relations | June 14, 2024

From left: Ben Isaksen, Janice Acio and Sonja Lloyd from the BC Beverage Technology Access Centre in Penticton.
From left: Ben Isaksen, Sonja Loyd and Janice Acio from the BC BTAC team.

Ben Isaksen has spent 20 years in the beverage industry, from humble beginnings in the London beer industry, to working as a sommelier at Big White and for the past several years, and working with a variety of B.C. beverage businesses, as a lab technician at the BC Beverage and Technology Access Centre (BC BTAC) at Okanagan College (OC).  

“The BC BTAC at Okanagan College provides a range of services to the beverage industry. We do everything from solving biochemical issues with a particular drink, to working with them to get their beverages to market,” said Isaksen.  

Today, the BC BTAC was one of several recipients of . The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) has awarded a $1.75 million grant renewal of Technology Access Centre (TAC) funding to the BC BTAC at Okanagan College, as part of its College and Community Innovation program.  

Okanagan College first received five-year grant funding for the BC BTAC in 2019, allowing it to be established at OC’s Penticton campus in the Jim Pattison Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Building Technologies and Renewable Energy Conservation building.


“This is incredible news for BC’s beverage industry and for Okanagan College,” said Dr. Neil Fassina, OC president. “BC BTAC has partnered with many different wineries, breweries, distilleries, cideries and other producers to innovate and respond to very specific and complex challenges. We’re thrilled to be able to continue working together, and to continuing to involve OC students in BTAC’s research and collaborative activities.”  

During its first five years, the BTAC has supported more than 130 individual beverage companies and organizations, through a wide range of projects that include removing smoke taint from wine where the grapes were impacted by wildfires, reducing the use of freshwater and remediating wastewater in beverage production, and reducing waste through up-cycling.  

“Some of our most important applied research work at OC is done with community partners, and BC BTAC is a leading example of where we’re making a real difference by addressing their business needs and engaging students in the research activities,” said Dr. Samantha Lenci, OC provost and vice president academic. “The team at BC BTAC is embedded in our campus life and works closely with faculty and instructors to connect students to relevant training, work integrated learning and research opportunities. Conversely, the BTAC provides businesses an opportunity to work with students who bring an innovative, fresh perspective and a desire to pursue careers in the beverage industry.”  

The Government of B.C. has also renewed its funding commitment to the BC BTAC of $100,000 annually for five years to support student involvement in the technology access centre.  

“The BC Beverage and Technology Access Centre at Okanagan is at the forefront for beverage technology – an important part of the Okanagan region,” said Lisa Beare, Minister of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills. “We are delighted to see the continued partnership of Okanagan College with students and industry to build a stronger B.C. and benefit B.C.’s beverage industry.”

With a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry and as a certified sommelier through the International Sommelier guild, Isaksen is quick to point out that he’s just one of the many experts on the BTAC team, which includes lab technicians with expertise in chemistry, chemical engineering and microbiology, as well as experts and advisors in business development and other related fields.  

“We love working in and with the beverage industry in this province, solving problems and ultimately contributing to their success and to the education and experience of Okanagan College students,” said Isaksen. “We look forward to continuing for years to come.”  




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