Government of Canada



Government of Canada

October 15, 2012 12:40 ET

NSERC Celebrates Canada's Young Entrepreneurial Researchers for Excellence in Innovation

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - Oct. 15, 2012) - Some of Canada's leading young researchers were honoured today for applying their leading-edge research to real-world situations. Their work includes the development of a new self-propelled sea vessel to serve offshore wind turbines, creating a new platform technology to produce bacterial vaccinations, and enhancing the capabilities of Atomic Force Microscopes. The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology), noted these achievements today, in announcing the recipients of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), 2012 Innovation Challenge Awards.

"Our government is pleased to celebrate the achievements of Canada's young entrepreneurial researchers during Small Business Week and National Science and Technology Week," said Minister of State Goodyear. "I would like to congratulate these exceptional students for having the creativity and courage to pursue their ideas. Their work is an example of innovation at its best."

"These awards encourage graduate students to explore the real-world implications of their research. I am very impressed with the high calibre of the nominations we received from universities across Canada," said Suzanne Fortier, President of NSERC. "These young researchers understand that the ability to translate new knowledge into innovative products and services is a crucial factor in pushing Canada to new levels of innovation."

Offshore wind turbines present one of the greatest opportunities to achieve a clean energy future, but the ocean's rough waters and the logistical hurdles of transporting crews and equipment to offshore turbines present significant challenges. Peter Gifford and his colleagues have developed the solution. The TranSPAR Craft is a self-propelled marine vessel created to serve offshore wind turbines. For this work, Dr. Gifford, who completed a graduate degree at Memorial University of Newfoundland, received the first prize, worth $10,000.

Canadians will soon be protected against common bacteria like Salmonella enterica-one of the most common food-borne illnesses in the world, thanks to a breakthrough led by Barry Neil Duplantis. While working on his PhD at the University of Victoria, Dr. Duplantis developed a new platform technology that allows researchers to create weakened strains of bacteria to be injected into animals carrying the disease, protecting humans from this, and potentially other, common bacterial infections. This research, expected to help alleviate the health care system of millions of infections each year, has earned Dr. Duplantis, the first runner-up prize, worth $5,000.

Atomic Force Microscopes (AFM) enable researchers around the world to see the smallest phenomena imaginable as they unfold at the nanoscale, but they have difficulty measuring forces that are parallel to the microscope's slide. Aleksander Labuda devised a solution to this technical issue while completing his graduate degree at McGill University, by redesigning an AFM so that it operates perpendicular to the microscope's slide. For giving researchers the tools they need to see nanoscale landscapes with unprecedented clarity and precision, Dr. Labuda received $5,000 as second runner-up.

Six other researchers each received an honourable mention prize of $1,500.

About the Innovation Challenge Awards

The Innovation Challenge Awards were launched in 2004 by NSERC and the Canadian Science and Technology Growth Fund. The program is currently funded by NSERC and made possible through the support of AB Sciex, Hydro Québec, HiretheWorld.com, 3M, Cameco and RIM.

About NSERC

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for all Canadians. The agency supports some 30,000 post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging about 2,000 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

For more information on the award winners, please visit the Innovation Challenge Awards section of NSERC's Web site.

2012 Innovation Challenge Awards Backgrounder

The Innovation Challenge Awards honour graduate students in the natural sciences or engineering who have demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit and have identified ways their research thesis results can be developed into products and processes that will benefit Canadians.

There are three awards: one $10,000 grand prize and two $5,000 runner-up prizes. Honourable mention prizes may also be awarded, if applications are deemed meritorious.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) provides the major funding for the Innovation Challenge Awards. Other financial contributors include AB Sciex, Hydro Québec, HiretheWorld.com, 3M, Cameco and RIM.

Overview of the Winners
FIRST PRIZE
Peter Gifford
Nominating School: Memorial University of Newfoundland
Currently at: Memorial University of Newfoundland and ExtremeOcean Innovation Inc.
Title: Propelled Spar technology-An access vessel for future offshore wind turbines
Peter Gifford and his colleagues have developed the TranSPAR Craft-a self-propelled sea vessel created to serve offshore wind turbines. This vehicle will provide a solution to the significant challenges presented by the ocean's rough waters and the logistical hurdles of transporting crews and equipment to offshore turbines.
RUNNERS UP
Barry Neil Duplantis
Nominating School: University of Victoria
Currently at: University of Victoria
Title: Vaccines comprising heat-sensitive transgenes
Barry Duplantis developed a new platform technology that allows researchers to create weakened strains of bacteria to be injected into humans without fear of spreading as an uncontrollable infection. Thanks to this breakthrough, Canadians will soon be able to be vaccinated against common bacteria like Salmonella enterica-one of the most common food-borne illnesses in the world. This research is expected to help alleviate the health care system of millions of infections each year.
Aleksander Labuda
Nominating School: McGill University
Currently at: Asylum Research, Santa Barbara, California
Title: Measuring molecular forces on an optical microscope
Atomic Force Microscopes (AFM) enable researchers around the world to see the smallest phenomena imaginable as they unfold at the nanoscale, but they have difficulty measuring forces that are parallel to the microscope's slide. Aleksander Labuda devised a solution to this technical issue by redesigning an AFM so that it operates perpendicular to the microscope's slide. This will give researchers the tools they need to see nanoscale landscapes with unprecedented clarity and precision.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS
Scott Fitzpatrick
Nominating School: McMaster University
Currently at: McMaster University
Title: Minimally invasive posterior segment therapeutics
Scott Fitzpatrick developed a minimally invasive drug delivery method for numerous conditions that affect the back of the eye and threaten vision. This treatment has the potential to increase drug efficacy, decrease unwanted side effects, improve patient compliance and allow for ease of use.
Liang Han
Nominating School: École Polytechnique de Montréal
Currently at: Apple Inc.
Title: Integrated communication and radar scheme for future intelligent transportation systems
Laing Han has designed a completely original wireless system for intelligent transportation systems (ITS) that combines both radar-sensing and wireless communication functions, and allows them to operate simultaneously without interference. This technology will play a role in ensuring road safety and managing road traffic.
Dylan Logan
Nominating School: McMaster University
Currently at: University of Toronto
Title: Deep-level enhanced silicon photonics
Dylan Logan's groundbreaking work to extend photonic functionality of silicon has developed a device responsible for the encoding and decoding of optical signals for short-haul transmission in high-traffic networks, such as within data centers. On the basis of this work, he incorporated a company-kT3 Photonics Inc.-in August 2011.
Maryam Sadeghi
Nominating School: Simon Fraser University
Currently at: University of British Columbia
Title: Research2Clinic Action: Technology-enabled prevention and early diagnosis of skin cancers
Maryam Sandeghi has developed unique solutions for the prevention and early diagnosis of skin cancer by taking advantage of low-cost social media and mobile technologies such as smart phones. She developed and launched "UV Canada"-a free public health education app for sun protection, and programs that can analyze dermoscopy images using intelligent computer technologies for skin cancer detection and screening.
Kanwarpal Singh
Nominating School: Institut national de la recherche scientifique
Currently at: Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS)
Title: Measurement of the pulsatile ocular dynamics of the human eye for glaucoma diagnosis
Kanwarpal Singh has developed a device called the Dynamic Laminometer (DL)-a non-invasive diagnostic instrument for the rapid screening and early diagnosis of glaucoma. Currently the only instrument that can perform such advanced diagnostics, the equipment could contribute to the detection of glaucoma at an earlier stage, increasing the potential for limiting irreversible eye damage and preserving vision.
Andrew Tait
Nominating School: University of British Columbia
Currently at: Tait Laboratories Inc.
Title: Insights into viral mechanisms of MS and the use of a botanical extract from traditional Chinese medicine to reverse demyelination
Andrew Tait's research has led to a better understanding of the role of the protein U24 in myelin degradation-a key factor in neurodegenerative conditions such as multiple sclerosis. As a result of this research, he has established a company-Tait Laboratories Inc.-to develop and market a mandarin-orange peel-based extract found in traditional Chinese medicine that may potentially help many people suffering from neurodegenerative disease associated with aging and multiple sclerosis.

Contact Information

  • Martin Leroux
    Media and Public Affairs Officer
    Natural Sciences and Engineering Research
    Council of Canada
    613-943-7618
    media@nserc-crsng.gc.ca

    Media Relations
    Industry Canada
    613-943-2502

    Michele-Jamali Paquette
    Director of Communications
    Office of the Honourable Gary Goodyear
    Minister of State (Science and Technology)
    613-947-2956