PARTEQ brings science ‘into the real world’

Technology transfer office receives $13.6 million from province for GreenCentre project

Chen Liang, Sci ’07 and MSc ’09, says the GreenCentre will help promote the work of green chemistry students whose efforts might otherwise go ignored.
Chen Liang, Sci ’07 and MSc ’09, says the GreenCentre will help promote the work of green chemistry students whose efforts might otherwise go ignored.

The grass is looking green for Queen’s.

Last Friday, the province announced $13.6 million in funding for PARTEQ Innovations for a new GreenCentre.

The new funding will be added to the $9.1 million PARTEQ has already received from the federal government to develop the project.

PARTEQ is the University’s in-house technology transfer office that develops Queen’s researchers’ ideas into marketable products, Vice-Principal (Research) Kerry Rowe said.

PARTEQ will be sponsoring the GreenCentre project.

GreenCentre Canada, which aims to be fully operational by 2010, is unique in its goal to take green chemistry innovations out of labs and turn them into real products, Rowe said.

“The idea of the GreenCentre is to look at ideas that have been developed by researchers and assess whether it’s got potential for the market, both technically and in terms of there being a market there,” he said. “And if there is, then try and take it to the next stage, scaling up from being something done by a graduate student or a post-doctoral fellow in a lab to something that’s likely to interest the industry.” The GreenCentre project will develop the green research of not only Queen’s faculty and students, but researchers from across Canada, GreenCentre Technical Director Philip Jessop said.

Jessop, a chemistry and environmental studies professor at Queen’s, said Canada has been a leader in producing research but often fails to market innovations.

“Canadian researchers at universities across Canada are the most innovative and productive among the G8 countries … in terms of citations of their research papers per dollar invested in the research,” he said. “Unfortunately, we rank very poorly in terms of innovation in the marketplace. Why can’t we develop a mechanism for getting those great new ideas and innovations from the academic research world out into the marketplace?”

Jessop said if green chemistry researchers have an idea and want to find a way of developing it, they can approach the GreenCentre for help.

A committee of referees, led by Jessop and made up of chemistry professors from across the country, will determine whether a product is green and whether it’s marketable.

“The commercialization managers will do an assessment of its commercializability, like, is there other competing products, what’s the market size, and are there any prior patents that would stifle our chances of selling it,” he said.

Jessop said he thinks the GreenCentre will put Queen’s on the map as an innovator of green technology.

“Already in the last three or four years, a quarter of the grad students coming to the chemistry department have said, ‘We want to do green chemistry.’ … It’s a great field of interest for young people.” Chen Liang, Sci ’07 and MSc ’09, is one of Jessop’s students.

Liang said he’s excited at the prospect of having a national lab at his fingertips.

“The GreenCentre is unique because it’s not just about science, it’s about getting the science into the real world, getting it done,” he said. “We’re about making things better.”

Liang said green technology has tended to be reactive instead of proactive.

The GreenCentre project will help find ways to stop the problem of pollution before it starts instead of coming up with a band-aid solution after the fact, he said.

“For example, the traditional way to clean up the industry was to add scrubbers [air pollution control devices],” he said. “You’ve got your smokestack and you put a scrubber on there. Well, if there was no pollution coming out of that thing, you wouldn’t have to do that.” Liang said the GreenCentre will also help promote the work of green chemistry students, whose efforts might otherwise go ignored.

“Maybe this lonely grad student in a lab has a good idea, and it’s got potential, and instead of taking years and years of work before it gets commercialized, the GreenCentre’s there to help,” he said. “I’ve got a few patents of my own. I wouldn’t mind seeing my ideas go somewhere.”

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