London Community News: London tech firm Trojan receives leadership award for water treatment efforts

London-based Trojan Technologies has received an award for exceptional leadership.

The award —presented in Ottawa on Nov. 18 by London West MP Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology) — recognizes Trojan’s collaboration with researchers across the country to help advance the company’s innovative UV disinfection systems. The systems are used to treat common microbial contamination issues found in drinking water and wastewater, such as bacteria, viruses and protozoa.

Called the Mitacs Award for Exceptional Leadership, it was given by Mitacs, a national private, not-for-profit organization that partners companies, government and academia to promote Canadian research and training. As part of the Mitacs program, Trojan worked with researchers at Western University, the University of British Columbia, the University of Guelph, McMaster University, the University of Waterloo and the University of Windsor.

“By tapping into the expertise of the researchers, we gain valuable in-house skills and knowledge that we wouldn’t have otherwise,” said Ted Mao, Trojan vice-president of research. “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.”

Since 2010, Trojan has invested a significant portion of its research budget to hire Mitacs interns, an amount that was more than matched through Mitacs funding for a total of $1.5 million in innovation spending. Internships range from four months to two years, depending on the program. All of the interns working with Trojan over the years have gone on to enjoy productive careers in academia, industry or within Trojan itself.

The contributions made by students, Mao said, 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.

“Normally we would not be able to hire a scientist specializing in food chemistry until we had a proven business case,” said Mao. “Ankit’s research focused on determining whether our technology could be applied in new application areas.”

Dr. Wenjun Sun, a former Mitacs Elevate postdoctoral fellow and now a member of Trojan’s research staff, helped to 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.

Young researchers are also helping to advance the company’s efforts to treat ballast water, the water system huge cargo ships use to maintain buoyancy, which is prone to transporting invasive species to a new eco zone. Mao said Trojan is actively working to advance UV-based treatment technologies that can be housed onboard such ships in order to treat the water while at sea, preventing the transfer of species.