Funding will fuel innovation at SFU

James Moore, the Minsiter of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, checks out a microscope at Simon Fraser University
James Moore, the Minsiter of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, checks out a microscope at Simon Fraser University's 4D Labs research facility. He was there to announce $215 milion in funding for research and innovation in support of 75 projects at 34 institutions across the country.

Philippe Schick’s lightbulb idea was to get rid of the lightbulb.

The vice president of engineering for Cooledge Lighting Inc. had an idea to create solid state lighting arrays that could illuminate broad areas without the heat generation or energy inefficiencies of conventional incandescent or florescent lights. But to turn his patents into a marketable product would require a huge investment in technology and talent, a challenge for a fledgling company already relying on venture capital to get off the ground.

Schick and his Burnaby-based team of engineers searched the world, but the solution to their needs was in their own backyard, at Simon Fraser University’s 4D Labs.

“They welcomed us with open arms,” said Schick of the applications and science-driven research institute that helped his company get his idea to the prototype stage. “They had the nanotechnology and expertise we needed so we didn’t have to spend our money on expensive new equipment.”

So it’s little wonder why he was all smiles as James Moore, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Official Languages, announced $215 million in federal funding through the Canada Foundation for Innovation to support 75 leading-edge projects at 34 institutions across the country.

SFU’s portion of the money, about $8.7 million, will go towards infrastructure like labs, equipment and data storage and processing for projects that will create new materials for science, engineering and technology innovations as well as collaborating in the global effort to sort and analyze the 60 billion gigabytes of information generated by the CERN particle collider in Geneva, Switzerland that will further understanding of how the universe formed and operates.

“This is great news for us at SFU,” said Andrew Petter, the university’s president. “It will help us with our research strength that makes us a world leader in knowledge mobilization.”

“These funds allow us to provide the tools our researchers need,” said Mario Pinto, SFU’s vice president of research. “We are in the midst of a global innovation race and we have to be able to compete.”

The results of that research will resonate beyond the labs and classrooms. One project, Prometheus, a joint effort by SFU, BCIT, and the universities of Victoria and British Columbia, has already filed 67 patents, generated 243 new processes and products and created 13 spin-off companies.

“This will enable us to have a more prosperous society,” said Petter.

“It’s going to do great things for us,” said Schick, who expects the first commercial application of his company’s solid state lights to reach the market by spring.


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