Lab Canada

Connecting Canadian industry to scientists in Ukraine

Winnipeg, MB – For the past ten years, the University of Manitoba has been at the centre of an international effort to provide research funding and partnership opportunities to Ukrainian scientists and engineers.

The Science and Technology Centre in Ukraine (STCU) is an intergovernmental organization that was established to enhance international cooperation and partnerships. Located in Kiev, Ukraine, the STCU was established in 1993 by Canada, Sweden and the United States, with the European Union replacing Sweden in 1998.

The Canadian arm of the project has been based at The University of Manitoba since 1995, and it was originally administered by Research Services. Ostap Hawaleshka, now professor emeritus in the department of mechanical and manufacturing engineering, was the first director of STCU. In 2002, STCU was taken over by the Faculty of Engineering, and the current project leader is Nabil Bassim, director of international programs for the faculty.

“STCU is an actual building in Kiev, that employs about 50 or 60 people,” says Bassim. “It is owned jointly by the three founding members – Canada, the United States and the European Union – and all three countries contribute money to fund this centre. Its role is to act as the centre and the monitor of research projects funded by these governments for Ukrainian scientists who used to work on weapons of mass destruction under the former Soviet regime.”

Twice a year, STCU provides between US $2 million and US $3 million in funding for a wide range of projects in Ukraine, including those focused on medical research, materials science, electronic technology, and agriculture. To date, STCU has provided more than US $100 million to Ukrainian scientists and engineers.

The Canadian funds come through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).
“All of the projects we fund are peaceful projects,” he said. “Ukraine has made a commitment not to have weapons of mass destruction, and we insist that all of the projects have a noticeable impact in terms of improving the technology, the environment, human health, and so on.”

STCU also works to build partnerships between Ukrainian researchers and Canadian industry. Under the partnership program, interested Canadian high-tech companies participate in missions to Ukraine, where they have the opportunity to network with scientists that might be able to work with them on applied research.

“To date we’ve done this kind of matchmaking for about 40 Canadian companies. We go once or twice a year with a group of companies from all across Canada. Some of the featured areas right now are things like medical applications and instruments, photonics and nanotechnology,” says Bassim.

A relatively new initiative is something Bassim started last year, which he calls “reverse missions.” Under this program, Ukrainian scientists are brought to Canada to tour high-tech facilities and university research labs.

“I didn’t have too much difficulty convincing CIDA of its merits and its potential,” says Bassim. “Each trip targets a specific research area, like nanotechnology, aerospace and materials, or medical technology. The goal is to promote sustainable linkages between Canadian industry and Ukrainian scientists that should, hopefully, last for a very long time.”