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NSERC Celebrates Canada’s Young Entrepreneurial Researchers for Excellence in Innovation

Ottawa, October 15, 2012 - Some of Canada's leading young researchers were honoured today for applying their leading-edge research to real-world situations. Their work includes the development of a new self-propelled sea vessel to serve offshore wind turbines, creating a new platform technology to produce bacterial vaccinations, and enhancing the capabilities of Atomic Force Microscopes. The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology), noted these achievements today, in announcing the recipients of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), 2012 Innovation Challenge Awards.

"Our government is pleased to celebrate the achievements of Canada's young entrepreneurial researchers during Small Business Week and National Science and Technology Week," said Minister of State Goodyear. "I would like to congratulate these exceptional students for having the creativity and courage to pursue their ideas. Their work is an example of innovation at its best."

"These awards encourage graduate students to explore the real-world implications of their research. I am very impressed with the high calibre of the nominations we received from universities across Canada," said Suzanne Fortier, President of NSERC. "These young researchers understand that the ability to translate new knowledge into innovative products and services is a crucial factor in pushing Canada to new levels of innovation."

Offshore wind turbines present one of the greatest opportunities to achieve a clean energy future, but the ocean's rough waters and the logistical hurdles of transporting crews and equipment to offshore turbines present significant challenges. Peter Gifford and his colleagues have developed the solution. The TranSPAR Craft is a self-propelled marine vessel created to serve offshore wind turbines. For this work, Mr. Gifford, who completed a graduate degree at Memorial University of Newfoundland, received the first prize, worth $10,000.

Canadians will soon be protected against common bacteria like Salmonella enterica—one of the most common food-borne illnesses in the world, thanks to a breakthrough led by Barry Neil Duplantis. While working on his PhD at the University of Victoria, Dr. Duplantis developed a new platform technology that allows researchers to create weakened strains of bacteria to be injected into animals carrying the disease, protecting humans from this, and potentially other, common bacterial infections. This research, expected to help alleviate the health care system of millions of infections each year, has earned Dr. Duplantis, the first runner-up prize, worth $5,000.

Atomic Force Microscopes (AFM) enable researchers around the world to see the smallest phenomena imaginable as they unfold at the nanoscale, but they have difficulty measuring forces that are parallel to the microscope's slide. Aleksander Labuda devised a solution to this technical issue while completing his graduate degree at McGill University, by redesigning an AFM so that it operates perpendicular to the microscope's slide. For giving researchers the tools they need to see nanoscale landscapes with unprecedented clarity and precision, Dr. Labuda received $5,000 as second runner-up.

Six other researchers each received an honourable mention prize of $1,500.

About the Innovation Challenge Awards
The Innovation Challenge Awards were launched in 2004 by NSERC and the Canadian Science and Technology Growth Fund. The program is currently funded by NSERC and made possible through the support of AB Sciex, Hydro-Québec, HiretheWorld.com, 3M, Cameco and RIM.

About NSERC
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for all Canadians. The agency supports some 30,000 post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging about 2,000 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

For more information on the award winners, please visit the Innovation Challenge Awards section and refer to the backgrounder.

For further information, please contact:

Martin Leroux
Media and Public Affairs Officer
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Tel.: 613-943-7618
E-mail: media@nserc-crsng.gc.ca

Michele-Jamali Paquette
Director of Communications
Office of the Honourable Gary Goodyear
Minister of State (Science and Technology)
Tel.: 613-947-2956

Media Relations
Industry Canada
Tel.: 613-943-2502

Backgrounder

2012 Innovation Challenge Awards

The Innovation Challenge Awards honour graduate students in the natural sciences or engineering who have demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit and have identified ways their research thesis results can be developed into products and processes that will benefit Canadians.

There are three awards: one $10,000 grand prize and two $5,000 runner-up prizes. Honourable mention prizes may also be awarded, if applications are deemed meritorious.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) provides the major funding for the Innovation Challenge Awards. Other financial contributors include AB Sciex, Hydro Québec, HiretheWorld.com, 3M, Cameco and RIM.

Overview of the Winners

First Prize

Peter Gifford
Nominating School: Memorial University of Newfoundland
Currently at: Memorial University of Newfoundland and
ExtremeOcean Innovation Inc.

Propelled Spar technology—An access vessel for future offshore wind turbines
Peter Gifford and his colleagues have developed the TranSPAR Craft—a self-propelled sea vessel created to serve offshore wind turbines. This vehicle will provide a solution to the significant challenges presented by the ocean's rough waters and the logistical hurdles of transporting crews and equipment to offshore turbines.

Runners Up

Barry Neil Duplantis
Nominating School: University of Victoria
Currently at: University of Victoria

Vaccines comprising heat-sensitive transgenes
Barry Duplantis developed a new platform technology that allows researchers to create weakened strains of bacteria to be injected into humans without fear of spreading as an uncontrollable infection. Thanks to this breakthrough, Canadians will soon be able to be vaccinated against common bacteria like Salmonella enterica—one of the most common food-borne illnesses in the world. This research is expected to help alleviate the health care system of millions of infections each year.

Aleksander Labuda
Nominating School: McGill University
Currently at: Asylum Research, Santa Barbara, California

Measuring molecular forces on an optical microscope
Atomic Force Microscopes (AFM) enable researchers around the world to see the smallest phenomena imaginable a