April 24, 2017 – Paul Morden, The Observer – An $850,000 federal grant announced Monday is expected to boost Lambton College’s contribution to the work of attracting new economic development and jobs to Sarnia-Lambton.
London West MP Kate Young, parliamentary assistant to the minister of science, came to Sarnia Monday to announce the funding, part of a total of $7 million supporting six research projects at colleges across the country.
Lambton’s share will be used to buy new equipment for its Bio-Industrial Process Research Centre.
“Today’s announcement is good for students, good for companies, good for the environment,” Young said.
“We are very excited about the new funding and the opportunity it will create for us to collaborate with our companies, in particularly our small and medium size enterprises, on their applied research, development and commercialization,” said Mehdi Sheikhzadeh, the college’s dean of applied research and innovation.
In recent years, the college has joined a community effort to diversify the local economy by attracting companies with new bio-technologies to operate alongside its established petrochemical manufacturers.
Those efforts have already attracted a commercial plant built recently by BioAmber and an announcement by London-based Comet Biorefining that it plans to set up a manufacturing site in Sarnia.
Sheikhzadeh said the efforts have also attracted new companies looking for a spot to run pilot plants to help them get new technologies ready for market.
“In order to commercialize, they needed to have access to more comprehensive R and D (research and development,)” he said.
“That is the place where Lambton College comes in.”
It established a Bio-Industrial Process Research Centre in 2015 to fill that gap in applied research as a way of supporting bio-industrial companies, he said.
While the centre has attracted industry partners, it needs more equipment, Sheikhzadeh said.
That’s where Monday’s announcement of funding through the Canada Foundation for Innovation will help, he said.
“We are going to enhance our capacity to help the companies better.”
The funding, combined with provincial support, will pay for 11 new pieces of equipment, including a pilot-scale 30-litre bio-processing reactor, Sheikhzadeh said.
“It will be used to help companies to come and test their technology” before they move to commercialization, he said.
The new equipment will be housed initially in lab space the college uses at the Western Sarnia-Lambton Research Park, but will move to the college when a $12-million renovation of its technology wing is complete.
Sheikhzadeh said the college research centre has already completed seven research projects in collaboration with industries, and has 12 on-going projects. Another seven projects are in development, he added.
“The BPRC, in two years time, has been very successful in terms of building partnerships and executing projects,” Sheikhzadeh said.
“These projects will consequently help the companies to enhance their market and competitiveness, create jobs, growth their revenue and reduce emissions.”
He noted the centre contributed to Lambton College being ranked recently as the top applied research college in Ontario, and third in Canada.
One of the community groups the college research centre works closely with is Sarnia-based Bio-Industrial Innovation Canada and Murray McLaughlin, an adviser with the agency, attended Monday’s announcement.
“I think this announcement is fantastic for not just the college but for the whole community,” McLaughlin said.
It will help tie research and education with development and commercialization of technology, he said.
“Having that full value chain from the lab all the way out to commercial entities is really what we want to get happening here,” McLaughlin said.
“That’s when you really start seeing the growth.”