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Synergy awards honour innovation leaders


Winnipeg, MB – The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), recently honoured seven partnerships between some of Canada’s leading-edge companies and the university researchers who collaborate with them.

One of the partnerships is responsible for more than 40 patents on controlled-release drugs and drug-loaded implants, used in more than two million heart patients. Another involves technologies to reduce industrial CO2 emissions, especially those produced by coal-fired generating stations and refineries. A third consists of telecom companies that have teamed up with research engineers and scientists to develop new optical transmission technologies.

At the individual level, a recent PhD recipient was recognized for a new computer algorithm for rapid real-time processing of three-dimensional images, with potential applications ranging from better-fitting prostheses to video games.

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

– The University of British Columbia and Angiotech Pharmaceuticals for their ongoing collaboration in the development of a number of controlled-release drug delivery systems and drug-loaded medical devices.

– The University of Regina, EnergyINet, SaskPower, EnCana, HTC Purenergy, E-On, Saudi Aramco, Research Institute of Innovative Technology for the Earth, Alberta Energy Research Institute, Neill & Gunter, Babcock & Wilcox, Natural Resources Canada, and Saskatchewan Industry & Resources for their leadership in developing technologies to reduce industrial carbon dioxide emissions, including research into permanent storage and alternative industrial uses.

– McGill University, Nortel, Telus Communications, JDS Uniphase, BTI Photonic Systems, and Anritsu Electronics for advances resulting from their collaboration in the Agile All-Photonic Networks, which seeks to improve Canada’s communications infrastructure through research into developing ultra-high bit-rate optical networks.

– The Universite de Sherbrooke and Tekna Plasma Systems for the development and marketing of innovative induction plasma torch systems for use in industrial processes such as the synthesis of nanopowders, deposition of protective layers, and fabrication of shaped parts by plasma spraying.

– Ecole Polytechnique de Montreal and LTRIM Technologies for the development of a laser-based technology for fine-tuning high-performance analogue integrated circuits for use in a variety of microelectronics products.

– Concordia University and Bell Helicopter Textron Canada for major innovations in the use of carbon-epoxy composite materials in aircraft engineering resulting from their 18-year collaboration.

– Twelve Canadian universities (represented by the University of Waterloo) and IBM Canada received the prestigious NSERC Leo Derikx Award for the technological advances and productive relationships that have emanated from the IBM Centre for Advanced Studies, an innovative model of university-industry collaboration.

“The Synergy awards celebrate those partnerships that stand out as leaders in transferring tangible research results to the community by connecting the best and brightest of Canada’s university researchers with the most innovative leaders in the private sector,” says Dr Suzanne Fortier, NSERC president.

Also honoured was Dr Dragan Tubic, of Universit Laval, the top prize winner in NSERC’s Innovation Challenge Awards competition. In this annual competition, graduate students from across Canada are invited to identify potential products and services that could be created from their thesis research. Dr Tubic won the top prize of $10,000 for his outstanding work in developing computer software that allows real-time data capture and modelling of three-dimensional structures.

Two runners-up in the competition – Dr Lucien Junior Bergeron of the Universite de Sherbrooke and Elizabeth Gray of McGill University – received $5,000 each. Dr Bergeron was honoured for his proposal to develop and commercialize a gene-inactivation system that can target specific RNA sequences at the cellular level. Ms Gray was recognized for her discovery of a new bacteriocin, named Thuricin 17, and her proposal to develop and commercialize it for medical and food-processing purposes.