London-based company sees the value in research partnership
In 2010, London, Ontario’s Trojan Technologies, a world leader in water treatment technologies including ultraviolet (UV) and filtration, was looking for expertise in a new research area. To help solve their research challenge they turned to a Mitacs Accelerate internship with Western University Professor Ajay Ray in the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering. The internship was a success; the company was able to access a highly skilled graduate student and conduct an early-stage investigation at a manageable cost.
Supported by Mitacs, the partnership between Trojan Technologies and Western University has grown considerably over the last four years. Since 2010, Trojan has invested a significant portion of its research budget to hire Mitacs interns, an amount that has been more than matched through Mitacs funding for a total of $1.5 million in R&D spending.
Currently, the company is building a three-year research program that will further expand their collaborations to include research on opaque fluids, as well as UV treatment of ballast water, waste water, and drinking water.
“By tapping into the expertise of the researchers, we gain valuable in-house skills and knowledge that we wouldn’t have otherwise,” says Ted Mao, Vice-President, Research at Trojan. “Adding academic researchers to our team gives us the critical mass we need to accelerate research, and the same time, our interns get opportunities to solve real-world problems, providing them with the industry experience required to launch successful careers.”
Dr. Wenjun Sun, a former Mitacs Elevate postdoctoral fellow and now a member of Trojan’s research staff, helped determine the appropriate UV wavelength required to effectively treat viruses that may be present in drinking water. Left untreated, viruses can cause gastrointestinal illness, flu-like symptoms, pneumonia or other non-specific febrile illnesses.
As Mao explains, the contributions made by students are significant because they help lead products to commercialization. Dr. Ankit Patras, a former Mitacs Accelerate intern, applied his knowledge of food chemistry to determine whether UV technology can be used to achieve milk pasteurization without affecting its taste or nutrient value. “Ankit’s research focused on determining whether our technology could be applied in new application areas. Normally we would not be able to hire a scientist specializing in food chemistry until we had a proven business case” says Mao.
Mitacs gratefully acknowledges the Government of Canada, the Networks of Centres of Excellence's Industrial Research and Development Internship program and the Government of Ontario for their support of Mitacs Accelerate in the province.