Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
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Government of Canada honours innovation leaders with Synergy Awards

Ottawa , October 29, 2007 – Dr. Colin Carrie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry, on behalf of the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of Industry and Minister responsible for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and Dr. Suzanne Fortier, President of NSERC, will honour seven partnerships involving some of Canada's leading companies and university researchers tonight with the NSERC Synergy Awards for Innovation.

Two of the partnerships are responsible for major cost- and energy-saving technologies in the pulp and paper industry, with potential dollar savings in the billions and greenhouse gas reductions of more than 100,000 tons annually. Another has developed a key sound-encoding algorithm that not only converts voice and music into digital signals, but compresses them for efficient transmission at the same time – a technology used in billions of cell phones worldwide.

"Earlier this month, the Speech from the Throne clearly outlined the commitment of our government to research excellence and innovation, which is defined in our Science and Technology Strategy," observed the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry. "As well, in our last federal budget, we allocated more than $400 million to better align the strong capacity at Canada's universities and colleges with the needs of business."

"NSERC's strategic investments over the years have led to many successful collaborations, such as those being honoured tonight, and I applaud the winners and encourage others to follow their example," said Dr. Fortier. "I am especially pleased to note that the winning partnerships have been strong proponents of student training, resulting in hundreds of graduate students acquiring the skills and knowledge needed for promising careers in academia and industry."

The university leaders in each of the research collaborations will receive a $25,000 NSERC research grant. Industry partners will receive the prestigious Synergy sculpture. The winning partnerships are:

  • The University of Toronto and Algorithmics Inc., for research to create financial software that identifies and manages the risks involved in complex financial instruments;
  • The Université de Sherbrooke, Sipro Lab Telecom and VoiceAge Corporation, for the development of algorithms that encode and compress voice and music into digital signals;
  • The University of Calgary and Elanco Animal Health, for work on antibiotics to treat respiratory infections in cattle;
  • The University of British Columbia, FPInnovations – Paprican, Weyerhaeuser Company and Process Simulations Ltd., for analysis of fluid dynamics in boilers at pulp mills that has led to improvements that greatly reduce the energy costs of these operations;
  • The University of British Columbia, Advanced Fiber Technologies (AFT) Inc., BC Hydro-Power Smart and Canfor Pulp limited Partnership, for a new energy-saving design for the rotors used to separate impurities from wood pulp;
  • TRIUMF and D-Pace, for the development of products and services for cyclotrons and other particle accelerators; and
  • The University of British Columbia, Kennecott Canada Exploration Inc., Teck Cominco limited, and Barrick Gold Corporation, for a decades-long collaboration that has made the Canadian mining industry a world leader in minerals exploration.

The NSERC ceremony tonight will also honour the winner and runners-up of the NSERC Innovation Challenge Award, a competition where graduate students are invited to demonstrate their spirit of entrepreneurship by identifying potential products or services that could be developed from their thesis research.

The first prize – worth $10,000 – goes to André Arsenault, a chemist at the University of Toronto. The two runners-up – receiving $5,000 each – are Christopher Springate, a pharmaceutical researcher at the University of British Columbia; and Andrew Marble, an electrical engineer from the University of New Brunswick. 

Arsenault has conducted research into photonic crystals and developed a photonic "ink" that will change colour in response to a stimulus. He has set up his own company – Opalux Incorporated – to develop applications for this technology that include signage that can be modified electronically, colour-changing sensors for use in forensics, biometrics and security, and anti-counterfeiting measures.

Research by Springate has resulted in the development of a drug delivery system that can be injected as a semi-solid implant in order to deliver therapeutic drugs for certain types of cancer more precisely and allow for a gradual release of the drug at the disease site. Marble's research into Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) has led to the development of a new design for a single-sided magnetic resonance instrument that offers more versatility and ease of use than existing devices in industrial quality-control applications.

"These awards encourage graduate students to consider real-world applications of their research, and I am very impressed with the high calibre of the proposals we received from universities across Canada," said Dr. Fortier. "These young researchers understand well that the ability to translate new knowledge into innovative products and services is just as important as the talent needed to discover that knowledge in the first place."

The NSERC Innovation Challenge Award is supported financially by GrowthWorks, a leading venture capital fund manager, as well as by Bell Canada, MDS Sciex, Research In Motion Inc., Syncrude Canada Ltd., 3M Canada Company and Dairy Farmers of Canada.

NSERC is a federal agency whose role is to make investments in people, discovery and innovation for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency invests in people by supporting some 23,000 university students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 11,000 university professors every year and helps make innovation happen by encouraging about 1,300 Canadian companies to invest in university research and training. Over the past 10 years, NSERC has invested $6 billion in basic research, university-industry projects and the training of Canada's next generation of scientists and engineers.

For more information, contact:

Michael Dwyer
Media and Public Affairs Officer
NSERC Public Affairs
Tel.: 613-992-9001
Cell: 613-794-9170
E-mail: michael.dwyer@nserc.ca

Deirdra McCracken     
Press Secretary
Office of the Honourable Jim Prentice
Minister of Industry
Tel.: 613-995-9001
E-mail: McCracken.Deirdra@ic.gc.ca

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