Incoming Alberta Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education Don Scott perhaps summed up the reason for TEC Edmonton’s “Innovation … Makes Sense” event at the University of Alberta’s Timms Centre on Tuesday, October 7, 2014.
“My young daughter asked me, ‘Daddy, what’s your new job?’ I tried to make it as simple as possible for her. I told her, ‘I’m the minister for the future.’ ”
“Innovation … Makes Sense” was all about celebrating the future through the imaginations, innovations and inventions of hard-working University of Alberta researchers.
TEC Edmonton is a not-for-profit business incubator and accelerator and is the University of Alberta’s commercialization agent. It launched the event in 2013 to give back to the community it serves.
Ostensibly the focus was more narrow, honouring 13 University scientists granted patents (intellectual property protection for their inventions) from the United States Patent and Trademark Office in 2013.
Also acknowledged were those entrepreneurial-minded researchers who went on to form four new “spin-off” companies from their UAlberta research.
Finally, UA Solve, a new program set up by TEC Edmonton and the U of A’s Department of Mechanical Engineering program was highlighted for its novel matching of expert University researchers with Edmonton companies looking for solutions to technical challenges.
Every one of those patents, new companies, and UA Solve is about creating a better future for our city, region, country and the world. Indeed, all the research scientists at the U of A honoured for their past and present contributions are “ministers for the future.”
Ladies and gentlemen, the honourees:
Dr. Jonathan Veinot (Chemistry): Dr. Veinot’s team revisited the semi-conductor germanium from the original transistor days, finding possible new commercial uses for non-toxic germanium nanoparticles.
Dr. Jingli Luo (Chemical and Materials Engineering): Her paraffin fuel cell patent makes ethylene from ethane through a new electro-chemical method that cuts the heat required in current production and also produces useable electricity and heat.
Dr. Suresh Narine (formerly Agricultural, Life & Environmental Sciences, now at Trent University): His patented process completely removes trans-fats and reduces saturated fats from margarine and shortening, while still maintaining taste and texture. It is now in commercial use.
Dr. Raymond DeCorby (Electrical and Computer Engineering): Building optic circuits on micro-chips, Dr. DeCorby’s patent is for a novel way of making nano-sized guided pathways on chips, for both light and fluids.
Dr. Glen Baker: (Psychiatry): Creating new derivatives from older anti-depressant drug Phenelzine, Drs. Baker and colleague Ed Knause are paving the way for a possible anti-schizophrenia drug with fewer side-effects than those currently available.
Dr. Steve Kuznicki (Chemical and Materials Engineering): World-renowned for his work on molecular sieves. Dr. Kuznicki’s 52nd patent is a process to grow a particular silicate with unprecedented consistency of pore size. PRZ could be used to purify natural gas/methane from landfills.
Dr. Al Meldrum (Physics): Many of the challenges of making light-emitting devices directly on a silicon chip have been overcome by Dr. Meldrum. His patented LED is made entirely out of silicon, reducing heat, accelerating switching speeds, allowing operation at visible or infra-red wavelengths.
Dr. Zaher Hashisho (Civil and Environmental Engineering): Activated carbon – commonly used to capture and adsorb pollutants – can be made more quickly and at less cost through Dr. Hashisho’s patented microwave heating process, and the process can easily convert coke, a largely wasted upgrader byproduct, into activated carbon. The process has been licensed to AltaCarbon Inc.
Dr. David Mitlin (Chemical and Materials Engineering): A long-standing problem within commercial nano-applications, namely good electrical conductivity within silicon structures, could be solved with Dr. Mitlin’s patent. By controlling metallic geometry to create smooth and uniform metal structures, it opens the door to nano-scale electrical conductivity.
Dr. Abdulhakem Elezzabi (Electrical & Computer Engineering): A pioneer in the nano-world of spinplasmonics, Dr. Elezzabi’s patented devices represent a coordination between charged electrons, electromagnetic light waves, metal nanostructure and electron quantum spin that offers improved nano-device functionality.
Dr. X. Chris Le (Laboratory Medicine & Pathology): Dr. Le’s team has designed and patented DNA-based molecules that can bind to pathogenic Streptococcus pyogenes cells responsible for diseases from strep throat to necrotizing asciitis – the flesh-eating disease. By identifying the usually hidden cells, Dr. Le is paving the way for new drugs to find and attack these pathogens.
Dr. Chris Cheeseman (Physiology): After developing new fructose-based compounds able to reveal previously illusive cancer tumours, Dr. Cheeseman has now patented a method for making fluorinated fructose compounds.
Four new spin-off companies were congratulated by the dignitaries present – Minister Scott, TEC Edmonton CEO Chris Lumb, City of Edmonton Deputy Mayor Michael Walters, Rollie Dykstra of AITF, University of Alberta Associate VP Research Walter Dixon, Edmonton Economic Development Corporation COO Derek Hudson and NSERC Regional Manager Irene Mikawoz – on continuing down the road from patent protection to actually setting up “spin-off” companies from their University research to create commercially viable products or services.
NanoBlue: With 10% of the world’s generated electricity lost to heat generation, inefficient power conversion results in energy losses that presently far exceed the world’s supply of renewable power.NanoBlue is developing next generation power conversion semiconductor devices that dramatically improve energy efficiency in power management systems. NanoBlue was founded from research at the University, by two former Intel engineers and a Silicon semiconductor entrepreneur.
Prophysis: Composed of researchers from the Li Ka Shing Institute of Virology at the University of Alberta, is developing a broad spectrum of antiviral drugs and cancer-fighting agents. Prophysis also works on computer-assisted drug design and drug toxicity assessment services. The company is considering development of new diagnostic tools to identify viral and autoimmune diseases.
Onlea: Onlea is a not-for-profit Canadian company producing online flexible, interactive learning courses, educational experiences and assessment (grading) tools across a wide variety of Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) platforms. Onlea was born out of the University of Alberta Digital Strategy Team that launched Alberta’s first MOOC, the very successful Dino 101. Onlea will produce MOOCs for the University of Alberta, other educational institutions and corporations.
Extraordinary Adsorbents Inc: Extraordinary Adsorbents Inc. designs and licenses technology based on separation agents under IP developed with TEC Edmonton and the University of Alberta. Its high-performance adsorbents are capable of decontaminating nuclear reactor discharge, removing nitrogen from low-grade fuels, or purifying other streams, such as the generation of high-purity oxygen. Extraordinary Adsorbents is built primarily around the patents of molecular sieve expert and University of Alberta professor Dr. Steven Kuznicki.
A very special guest was mentioned and thanks by most of those making the trip to the podium. In the audience was past interim Premier/Minister of Innovation and Advanced Education David Hancock. Throughout his long and honourable political career, Dave was a consistent champion of encouraging a provincial innovation-based economy.
“Innovation … Makes Sense” was sponsored by NSERC-CRSNG, Imperial Oil, Janssen Pharmaeutical Companies and Dynacor Media.
Congratulations to all! You are ministers of the future!