Government of Canada

Government of Canada

November 17, 2010 22:00 ET

Government of Canada Recognizes Innovative Collaboration Between Business and the University of British Columbia

2010 Synergy Awards for Innovation highlight a partnership that fosters economic growth

VANCOUVER, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(Marketwire - Nov. 17, 2010) - The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry, today extended his congratulations to the recipient of one of the 2010 Synergy Awards for Innovation from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). The award recognizes university–industry collaborations in research and development (R&D) that lead to innovative products that are key to economic growth. The University of British Columbia received the 2010 Synergy Award in recognition of its collaboration with Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies Inc. and other partners, which has resulted in the development of efficient wastewater treatment applications.

"Science, technology and innovation contribute greatly to fostering productivity, competitiveness and growth in Canada," said Minister Clement. "The advances made by the winners of the Synergy Awards are examples of the best of Canadian innovation and showcase the types of partnerships that will drive our economy forward."

Dr. Donald Mavinic of the University of British Columbia is being recognized for developing an innovative fertilizer technology and for successfully implementing it at the Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plant in Edmonton. This project was carried out in collaboration with Ostara and contributing partners Clean Water Services, EPCOR Water Services Inc., Metro Vancouver and Stantec Inc.

Phosphorus is a key ingredient of fertilizer, and it cannot be extracted, manufactured or substituted. Dr. Mavinic and his team of researchers developed the Pearl® Nutrient Recovery Process that recovers 85 percent of phosphates from wastewater streams and then converts them into a new type of fertilizer. This recovery system reduces operating costs for wastewater treatment plants and provides significant benefits to the environment.

Award-winning researchers receive a $200 000 research grant, and each industry partner has an opportunity to hire an NSERC Industrial R&D Fellow for two years, with NSERC supporting the industrial portion of the fellow's salary.

"The strategic investments that NSERC has made over the years have led to numerous successful collaborations such as those we are recognizing today," said Dr. Suzanne Fortier, President, NSERC. "The Synergy Awards highlight partnerships that bring together the best researchers from Canadian universities and the leading innovators from the private sector, resulting in the transfer of tangible research results to those who can translate them into economic and social benefits for Canadians."

NSERC is a federal agency whose vision is to help make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency supports some 28 000 university students and post-doctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 11 800 university professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging more than 1500 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

For more information on the NSERC 2010 Synergy Awards for Innovation, see the backgrounder.

Backgrounder

Presentation of a Synergy Award for Innovation to the University of British Columbia

The Synergy Awards for Innovation were launched in 1995 by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) to recognize partnerships in natural sciences and engineering research and development (R&D) between universities and industry. Since their inception, the awards have honoured the most outstanding achievements of university–industry collaboration in the natural sciences and engineering.

By working together, award-winning companies and universities have proven that effective partnerships are the foundation of achievement. Their success has enriched the academic and research programs in Canadian universities while providing tangible benefits to Canadians.

The universities each receive a $200 000 NSERC research grant. Industrial partners each receive the prestigious Synergy sculpture and an opportunity to hire an NSERC Industrial R&D Fellow for two years (NSERC will bear the cost of the industrial portion of the fellow's salary).

The Synergy Awards for Innovation showcase innovation and the benefits of pooling resources to make the most of Canadian ingenuity. Synergy Awards are offered in four categories:

  • Small and Medium-Sized Companies — a partnership with a single company of up to 500 employees

  • Large Companies — a partnership with a single company of more than 500 employees

  • Two or More Companies — a partnership with two or more companies of any size

  • Leo Derikx Award — an established innovative model of long-standing university–industry partnership in pre-competitive R&D that has improved the general well-being of an industry

About the University of British Columbia

The Synergy Award in the Two or More Companies category goes to Dr. Donald Mavinic.

As a component of DNA and a key ingredient of fertilizer, phosphorus is essential to all living things. It cannot be extracted, manufactured or substituted, making the world's resources finite. China and Morocco have the world's only major rock phosphate reserves and, they are expected to decline after 2035.

To counter this limited supply of phosphorus, Dr. Mavinic and his co-researchers at the University of British Columbia's Department of Civil Engineering have developed technology that recovers 85 percent of phosphates from wastewater streams and converts them into an innovative new fertilizer. The technology was licensed to Ostara Nutrient Recovery Technologies Inc. in 2005 and developed from a pilot project to a full-scale system. With input from partners Clean Water Services, EPCOR Water Services Inc., Metro Vancouver and Stantec Inc., the first reactor using the Pearl® Nutrient Recovery Process began operating at the Gold Bar Wastewater Treatment Plant in Edmonton in May 2007.

The reactor reduces operating costs for wastewater treatment plants and provides significant benefits to the environment. In sewage treatment plants, phosphorus is a multi-million dollar headache. It forms a crystalline compound called struvite that builds up on the inner walls of sewage plant pipes, thus requiring expensive maintenance. The reactor collects this phosphorus, which is then packaged by Ostara and sold as Crystal Green® fertilizer. It is designed for commercial users that require the slow release of nutrients, such as nurseries, turf operations and golf courses. Through fertilizer sales, the nutrient recovery system will pay for itself in five to seven years.

Ostara has extractors in Portland, Oregon, and Suffolk, Virginia, with work underway to have reactors operating in China in the near future. Meanwhile, the City of Edmonton is currently building a facility to house four more reactors that will treat all of its wastewater and, by 2012, it will be the first city to fully adopt the recovery technology.

Contact Information

  • Office of the Honourable Tony Clement
    Minister of Industry
    Lynn Meahan - Press Secretary
    613-995-9001
    or
    Industry Canada
    Media Relations
    613-943-2502
    or
    Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
    Martine Perreault
    Media and Public Affairs Officer
    613-996-7238
    martine.perreault@nserc-crsng.gc.ca