NSERC Recognizes Winners of Innovation Challenge Awards

OTTAWA, ONTARIO — (Marketwire) — 10/18/10 — This morning, the Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology) joined the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) President, Suzanne Fortier, to celebrate the winners of the 2010 Innovation Challenge Awards. Some of the researchers being recognized here today are developing a better way to assess knee injuries, a device to improve the detection of diseases such as breast cancer, and an improved methanol fuel cell with better run time and recharging capabilities.

“Our government celebrates the achievements of Canada’s young scientists,” said Minister Goodyear. “These researchers are bringing new discoveries into the market place so that Canadians can benefit-through a higher quality of life and a stronger economy.”

The first prize-worth $10,000-goes to David Labbe, a researcher at Ecole de technologie superieure. The two runners-up-receiving $5,000 each-are Jamu Alford, a researcher at Harvard Medical School and formerly of The University of Western Ontario, and Alfred Lam, a researcher at The University of British Columbia. Eight other researchers each received an honourable mention prize of $1,500.

Dr. Labbe is developing a better way to assess the level of instability in the knee joint resulting from a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). Torn ACLs are common sports injuries that result in varying degrees of looseness and instability in more than 10,000 Canadians each year. Labbe’s patented Knee Glide Analyzer combines sensors and software to precisely image and analyze the movement of the bones around the knee joint. The result could reduce, by more than half, the number of people who are routinely referred to orthopedic specialists. The technology is taking the next steps towards commercialization with the help of Emovi, a Canadian company specializing in evaluating joints.

Dr. Alford has developed a device to dramatically improve the molecular imaging of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines, aiding in the detection of diseases such as breast cancer. This innovation, called delta relaxation enhanced magnetic resonance, differentiates diseased tissue from normal tissue. It does this by acquiring several MRI images at different magnetic field strengths-something not possible with conventional MRI systems.

Dr. Lam’s research focuses on a direct methanol fuel cell power system with improved run time and recharging capabilities. Lam’s innovation is anticipated to deliver industry leading energy storage capacity, extended run time and instantaneous “off-grid” recharging capability through a simple fuel cartridge replacement. It will aid in the creation of next-generation portable electronic devices.

“These awards encourage graduate students to consider real-world applications of their research. I am very impressed with the high calibre of the proposals we received from universities across Canada,” said Dr. Fortier. “These young researchers understand that the ability to translate new knowledge into innovative products and services is an important factor for ensuring Canada’s prosperity.”

The Innovation Challenge Award was launched in 2004 by NSERC and the Canadian Science and Technology Growth Fund. The program is currently sponsored by the Business Development Bank (BDC) of Canada and NSERC.

NSERC is a federal agency whose vision is to help make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. The agency supports some 28,000 university students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 11,800 university professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging more than 1,500 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

BDC is Canada’s business development bank. From more than 100 business centres across the country, BDC promotes entrepreneurship by providing highly tailored financing, venture capital and consulting services to entrepreneurs.

2010 Innovation Challenge Awards Backgrounder

The Innovation Challenge Awards honour graduate students in the natural sciences or engineering who have demonstrated an entrepreneurial spirit and have identified ways their research thesis results can be developed into products and processes to benefit Canadians.

There are three awards: one $10,000 grand prize and two $5,000 runners-up prizes. Honourable mention prizes may also be awarded, if applications are deemed meritorious.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and the Business Development Bank of Canada provide the major funding for the Innovation Challenge Awards. Other financial contributors include MDS Analytical Technologies, Research In Motion, Syncrude, the Dairy Farmers of Canada and 3M.

Overview of the Ten Finalists