Researchers receive millions in AIF funding
by Michelle Osmond
Drilling for oil, complex genetic diseases and unmanned aerial vehicles all have something in common new funding. Three Memorial University researchers have made the cut in the latest round of Atlantic Innovation Fund (AIF) announcements.
Loyola Hearn, minister of Fisheries and Oceans and regional minister for Newfoundland and Labrador, announced Jan. 22 a $17.7 million investment in research and development in the province.
Dr. Eddy Campbell, acting president, stressed the important role of universities, such as Memorial, as the centres of innovative thinking, and their invaluable contributions to innovations in technology, science and business.
“Memorial has been supporting innovative and entrepreneurial activity in this province for some time,” remarked Dr. Campbell. “Our pure and applied research, in such areas as engineering, earth science, business administration and the health sciences, has helped create a base on which many businesses and industries in this province have been built.
“Petroleum exploration, mining, aquaculture and biotechnology, to name just a few, are industries which have been making great strides, and which have benefited from the technical expertise resident at Memorial University. It is yet another example of how Memorial is a catalyst for the province’s continued growth.”
The Memorial researchers who received AIF funding are:
• Dr. Stephen Butt of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, who received $1.8 million over five years to develop new drilling processes of the oil industry called Vibration-Assisted Rotary Drilling. The total project will cost $3.4 million.
• Dr. Patrick Parfrey, Medicine, will head an interdisciplinary team in human genetics to develop a system of research into both inherited and complex genetic diseases in Newfoundland and Labrador. With a total estimated cost of about $22.6 million, the titled Population-Based Genetic Research Project, will receive up to $3 million from AIF over five years.
• Dr. Siu O’Young of the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science will head up the Remote Aerial Vehicle for Environmental Monitoring (RAVEN ll) project. Dr. O’Young will lead a team working with Provincial Aerospace Limited to develop collision avoidance systems for small unmanned aerial vehicles. With a total estimated cost of about $5 million, this project will receive up to $3 million over four years.
The four other AIF funded projects announced also have connections to Memorial. They are:
• Intelligent Enterprise Knowledge Network headed by Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science alum Emad Rizkalla, Bluedrop Performance Learning received $2.5 million over four years to develop new software application for online learning tailored for the manufacturing sector. This project has a total cost of $4.2 million.
• Chitin Research Quinlan Brothers Limited will conduct research and development into the processing of chitin and chiosan, which are natural derivatives of shrimp and crab-shell waste. With a total estimated cost of approximately $6.5 million, this project will receive up to $2.4 million over three years. $600,000 of this funding was awarded to researchers from the Department of Chemistry and the Marine Institute, who will partner with Quinlan Brothers Ltd., on the research into greener chemical processes to extract valuable chemical products from shellfish waste.
• Software Defined Acoustics and Development of an Underwater Vehicle Marport Deep Sea Technologies, which was co-founded by Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science alum Anthony Paul, will develop sophisticated sonar devices for use with unmanned underwater vehicles. This project is receiving up to $2.2 million of the total $5.3 million cost.
• Radio Frequency Identification Reader Cathexis Innovations Inc., which was founded by four students from the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, will work with Microsoft Corporation to continue the research and development of its IDBlue technology, the world’s first Bluetooth-enabled mobile Radio Frequency Identification reader. This project, with a cost of $4.6 million, will receive up to $2.7 million over three years.
The Newfoundland and Labrador led projects are valued at about $54.5 million as proponents are expected to leverage an additional $35.7 million in private and public sector sources from this announcement. Since 2006, ACOA has invested nearly $57.9 million under AIF in provincial projects valued at $141.5 million.