From data to dollars
Enter Hamid Alemohammad. Originally from Iran, Hamid came to Canada in 2006 to pursue a PhD in mechanical engineering at the University of Waterloo.
Following the completion of his degree, he was awarded an eight-month Mitacs Accelerate internship in 2012 with a developer of customized test solutions for automotive components such as power steering equipment, fuel injectors, and throttle bodies.
During his internship, Hamid co-invented the first optical fibre torque sensor embedded in electric motors. This unique sensor technology enables the measurement of mechanical torsion, or twisting, in the shaft of rotating machinery, such as electric motors.
Hamid realized he was gaining the knowledge required to run a sustainable small business. “I developed strong leadership skills as I was responsible for engaging with domestic and foreign customers plus hands-on experience through conducting engineering needs assessment, evaluating the trade-offs between design and cost, conducting cost analysis, and preparing funding proposals,” he explained.
To complement the experience, Hamid had the professional skills he’d acquired from Mitacs Step workshops, including project management, communication, and presentation skills. “The business skills I obtained from Mitacs Step made significant contributions to my success. I believe that it’s important to have career-enhancing skills, not simply technical skills,” Hamid said. “Especially for people who have immigrated to Canada, Mitacs Step can help prepare them for the local job market.”
Never having had aspirations to be an entrepreneur, Hamid considered launching a company with fellow researchers, Richard Liang and Amir Azhari. With the support of the Waterloo Commercialization Office, Professor Ehsan Toyserkani, and seed funding from the Ontario Centres of Excellence, the three partners established AOMS Technologies in 2014.
AOMS Technologies develops sensing systems for application areas where existing sensors fail or lose performance. Leveraging the power of optics, AOMS provides an end-to-end hardware/software solution for harsh environments where temperature, pressure, and moisture fluctuate, such as deep below the earth’s surface. With broad applications in environmental remediation services, oil and gas production, power plants, and many more, the sensors use optical waves to gather and transmit data.
Our sensors will enable oil and gas companies to implement intelligent wells. Our sensors help oil producers get insight into pressure and temperature to optimize production, especially important when the price of oil is volatile.”
“Oil and gas companies need to manage the amount of energy they are spending to extract each barrel of oil. This is only achievable through data-driven decisions.”
Chasing the elusive big sale
The road to success hasn’t been without its challenges. “Research and development costs when you’re producing hardware can be high, and as a start-up, our operations are already lean,” he says. Another challenge is that many of AOMS’ potential customers are large Fortune 500 companies with multiple layers of decision making. “It can be difficult to find the right person to talk to.”
However, the company achieved a major milestone in the summer of 2015 when it made its first big sale to an environmental services company.
When asked what keeps Hamid motivated, he answers very quickly: “Having passion and knowing you have a knowledgeable team. These are the most important things.”
Mitacs thanks the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario for their support of the Accelerate research internship in this story. Across Canada, the Accelerate program also receives support from Alberta Innovates, the Government of British Columbia, the Government of New Brunswick, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the Government of Nova Scotia, the Government of Prince Edward Island, the Government of Quebec, the Government of Saskatchewan and Research Manitoba.
Do you have a business challenge that could benefit from a research solution? If so, contact Mitacs today to discuss partnership opportunities: BD@mitacs.ca