TechTalk Blog
B.C. Commits to Work Globally to Fight Climate Change

Los Angeles – Premier Gordon Campbell signed the 2009 Governors’ Climate Summit Declaration on behalf of British Columbia, committing the Province to work co-operatively with all levels of government around the world to combat climate change.

“Climate change is a challenge on an unprecedented scale and calls for an unprecedented level of co-operation between governments at all levels – national, state, provincial and municipal,” said Premier Campbell. “This declaration reaffirms our commitment to work collaboratively with other jurisdictions around the world, even as we take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions within our own province. I want to thank California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and all host governors for giving a voice to sub-national governments on this important issue.”

The 2009 Governors’ Climate Summit is being held September 30 – October 2 in Los Angeles and is co-hosted by California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the governors of Connecticut, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin.

The 2009 Declaration includes commitments to pursue clean transportation and mobility; support for national climate change legislation throughout the world; acknowledgement of the increased need for mutual action on  adapting to climate change; and support for the recognition of the role of sub-national governments in all aspects of achieving a global climate solution.

"I'm thrilled that Premier Campbell has once again joined us to sign the joint declaration with over 30 other sub-national governments,” said California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Global warming knows no borders and it is because of the vision of leaders like Premier Campbell that we are able to work together to combat climate change."

B.C. has been at the forefront of efforts to work collaboratively on climate initiatives, including chairing the International Carbon Action Partnership, co-chairing the Western Climate Initiative, sitting as executive committee member on The Climate Registry, and forming the Pacific Coast Collaborative with Alaska, British Columbia, California, Oregon, and Washington.

The Summit brings together a range of experts from more than 75 states, provinces or countries on six continents. More than 1,000 attendees discussed issues including stimulating green economic growth, reducing dependence on fossil fuels and promoting green energy, creating green jobs, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

NRC Report Highlights Park Best Practices

The National Research Council of the National Academies today released the Academies' new report, Understanding Research, Science and Technology Parks: Global Best Practices, at the U.S. Capital. Senator Mark Pryor, D-AR gave opening remarks.

Senator Pryor is sponsoring Senate Bill 583, which provides support for  the development and construction of research and science parks to promote the clustering of innovation through high technology activities. Co-sponsors of S. 583 are Senator Lamar Alexander, R-TN, Senator Richard J. Durbin, D-IL, Senator Tim Johnson, D-SD, and Senator Olympia J. Snowe, R-ME.

The National Resource Council report details findings from a symposium held in 2008 spotlighting park's contributions to government missions and commercializing university research.  It highlights the broad range of S&T parks, including both university- and laboratory-based parks as well as large scale industrial models.  Additionally, it reflects the strategies devised by a number of European and Asian countries to develop S&T parks.  While recognizing the diversity of objectives and the differences in scope and scale of activity, the report identifies common challenges faced by S&T parks both in the U.S. and abroad, including evaluation and the need for appropriate metrics.

"There is strong interest in high growth clusters and S&T Parks and appropriate policy support here in the United States, an interest mirrored in the rapid growth and government support for S&T parks around the world. This report is thus both timely and a potentially important contribution to policy making," remarked Dr. Charles Wessner, Director, Science, Technology and Entrepreneurship, National Research Council.

Brian Darmody, Associate Vice President for Research and Economic Development, University of Maryland, and incoming President of AURP, remarked that "research, science and tech parks are crucial components of a national innovation strategy, which the U.S. clearly needs to formulate. This report clarifies the critical elements of such a strategy."

AXYS Receives $1.8 Million Loan

Written by: Judith Lavoie

A Sidney company has received a loan of $1.8 million from the federal government to work on a high-tech project that will collect information through buoys and surveillance equipment in ports.

The "repayable investment" in AXYS Technologies, which comes from $200 million in federal funding for the Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative, was announced Wednesday.

The AXYS cash injection "builds on Canadian expertise in security technologies while helping the company to play a vital role in the growing security market," said Abbotsford MP Ed Fast, making the announcement for Industry Canada.

AXYS will work on research and development in partnership with the NEPTUNE Program at the University of Victoria and will be conducting work in Nanaimo, Prince Rupert, Sidney, Sooke and Victoria.

The technology, which will collect data on the environment and water quality as well as on vessel or people movements within a port or harbour, will tie together all the information and then relay it in real time to the customer through a communications system such as a satellite.

"Here at AXYS we see an under-serviced global market of over 1,000 ports that need this technology in order to better prepare themselves for the security challenges of today and tomorrow," said a company spokeswoman.

Information from buoys on waves, turbidity or salinity will enable port authorities to make timely decisions. At the same time, surveillance, using radar, sonar, satellites, hydrophones and cameras mounted on buoys, ports and harbours, will make authorities aware of what vessels are doing on the water.

The company started in 1974, conducting wave studies for Environment Canada. In the late 1980s AXYS designed, manufactured and installed Canada's Marine Weather Buoy Network.

New Facility to Train Hundreds More Pharmacists for BC

The Province is investing $86.4 million in a new state-of-the-art building at the University of British Columbia that will house the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Science, enabling the expansion of the undergraduate program by 72 students, and helping address the shortage of pharmacists in B.C., announced Premier Gordon Campbell today.

“This facility will ensure increased numbers of pharmacists are able to train in B.C. to help meet the health care needs of British Columbians now and for the future,” said Premier Campbell. “This expansion of pharmacist training will build on the steps we’ve taken over the past eight years to expand training of medical professionals here in B.C., including doubling the number of doctor training spaces and nurse training spaces at our province’s universities and colleges.”

The new Pharmaceutical Sciences Building will feature almost two hectares of floor space containing research and teaching laboratories, office space and classrooms, as well as additional space to be leased out to tenants operating in the drug research, development and commercialization field. The total project cost is $133.3 million, and it will create approximately 850 construction jobs.

“The construction of the Pharmaceutical Sciences Building at UBC is part of our commitment to offer students more choices and more access to a post-secondary education in a variety of health professions,” said Moira Stilwell, Minister of Advanced Education and Labour Market Development. “We’re providing these opportunities so students can receive the education they need to succeed in our province, while helping to ensure healthy communities.” 

The new building space will also allow the professional pharmacy degree program to expand 47 per cent in enrolment. An additional 72 students will be able to start the program by 2011 for a total of up to 224 new pharmacists by 2015. The faculty’s masters, doctoral and Pharm.D. graduate programs will also expand during the same period and the building will provide space for 896 undergraduates.

The facility will be built to target Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design gold certification. LEED is the recognized standard in green building design.

“We are grateful for the Province’s foresight in making this remarkable contribution,” said University of British Columbia President, Prof. Stephen J. Toope. “UBC’s new Pharmaceutical Sciences Building will provide a world-class learning environment and a place to make crucial discoveries for health care delivery in B.C.”

The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) will occupy research laboratories and office space in the building alongside the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences. CDRD’s close proximity will benefit the Pharmaceutical Sciences program by providing an opportunity for students and the next generation of pharmacists to participate in pharmaceutical research as well as learn in an environment of innovation and discovery.

“This important bold investment by the B.C. government helps address the significant pharmacist shortage in B.C. and assures that future generations of pharmacy professionals will be ready to help meet the health care needs of British Columbians well into the future”, said Dr Robert Sindelar, Dean of Pharmaceutical Sciences at The University of British Columbia.

Since 2001, the Province has invested more than $1.8 billion in new funding for more than 840 capital projects on post-secondary campuses around B.C., opened seven new universities, added 35,500 seats, and increased spending to post-secondary institutions by 53 per cent.

Victoria Shipyards Wins Coast Guard Contract

The government of Canada has awarded a $20 million contract to Victoria Shipyards, for construction of five small search and rescue vessels for the coast guard. The boats will be about 15 meters, 47 feet, in length and are described as 'motor lifeboats'.

Two will be stationed on the west coast, with the remaining three each in Ontario, Quebec, and Nova Scotia. Delivery is to be in March of 2011. 

 

Camosun College Hires New Dean of School of Business

A new dean at Camosun College rings in the new school year.

“I am pleased to announce that Joan Yates accepted the position of Dean of our School of Business, effective August 1, 2009,” says Baldev Pooni, Vice President, Education and Student Services.

Yates holds a Master of Education from the University of Calgary in Adult and Workplace Learning, and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Regina, and also has a professional designation from the Canadian Public Relations Society.

Yates has been very involved in educational development at Camosun and across Canada. In addition to faculty responsibilities at Camosun, she has taught marketing, corporate social responsibility, public relations and management courses at the university and college level.

Yates served two terms as Chair of Camosun’s Education Council; was a member of the Camosun Board of Governors until this summer; and was responsible for chairing and presenting at provincial and national conferences including the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC).  Her work as a member of the program review and renewal team in the Education Support and Development area has been especially gratifying.

Yates is particularly committed to ensuring that the School of Business remains competitive by offering quality applied programs and by meeting the needs of the next generation of Victoria business leaders. “Students today face dramatic change including shifts in enterprise, the environment, technology and of course the economy,” says Yates. “Our challenge is making sure that they leave Camosun ready to adapt and to participate fully in what will inevitably be an exciting era.”

Yates joined Camosun College in 1991 as Manager, College Relations, which later became the Executive Director, the Camosun Foundation and Director, College and Community Relations, and held that position until 1999 when she left to pursue a career in the private sector.

While working as a partner and consultant for Indaba Communications and Training Inc., she stayed connected to the college by taking term teaching contracts within the School of Business and becoming a continuing instructor in the school in 2003.

Subsequently Yates became the Program Leader within the school for various programs, and in 2007 was instrumental in having Camosun qualify to offer a Bachelor of Business Administration-Marketing Communications Management major.

Prior to moving to Victoria, Yates held the position of Director of Communications, Saskatchewan Housing Corporation. Her industry experience includes marketing, communications and public relations management positions in Saskatchewan.

 “Joan’s appointment resulted after a lengthy, vigorous search process that attracted a huge pool of highly qualified applicants from across Canada as well as internationally,” says Pooni. We’re very pleased to have one of ‘our own’ in this important leadership role.”

 

-copy ends-

 

Media contact:

 

Baldev Pooni, Vice President, Education and Student Services

Camosun College    e: waterman@camosun.bc.ca

p: 250-370-4543

 

Joan Yates, Dean, School of Business

e:  sofbus@camosun.bc.ca

 p: 250-370-4565

Nature Magazine Reports: BC Taking Charge in Clean Energy

By Virginia Gewin

The Canadian province of British Columbia has a simple strategy for becoming a hub of clean technology — be bold. Under its premier Gordon Campbell, the province has established aggressive clean-energy initiatives, including North America's first carbon tax (see http://tiny.cc/HkvYn) to meet its goal of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions to 33% below 2007 levels by 2020. Carbon-based fuels will be taxed at a rate of Can$10/tonne (US$9.28) of carbon emissions now and at Can$30 per tonne by 2012. Campbell's government has also made reducing carbon emissions part of a wider plan to stimulate job growth in the region, where the traditional natural-resources industries of forestry and fisheries are struggling. From biofuels to wave energy, the province's government and the Canadian federal government have made sizeable investments in the research, development and commercialization of clean-energy alternatives to fossil fuels.

The plan seems to be paying off. Early-stage companies are getting the funding they need to hire additional staff, and energy-related training opportunities abound. The big challenge, however, will be bringing these technologies to fruition. In the face of an uncertain market and the significant up-front costs of commercializing a new energy technology, British Columbia's leaders have encouraged investment in clean energy, "The real prize is becoming a 'go-to' place to sell technologies to the rest of the world," says Andrew Walls, director of the British Columbia Innovation Council's ocean sciences and energy programme.

To complement the federally funded Can$1-billion Sustainable Development Technology Canada (SDTC) fund, devoted to developing clean energy, most notably biofuels, British Columbia has created its own clean-tech funds. The Can$25-million annual Innovative Clean Energy Fund (ICE) and the Can$25-million British Columbia Bioenergy Network (BCBN) emphasize help to companies that are developing biofuels. In 2008, the provincial government released a bioenergy strategy to help guide its energy plan. "This is one of the few sectors that has legs, and people actively developing technologies," says Michael Weedon, executive director of the BCBN.

Lignol, an emerging biofuel company based in Burnaby, has received funding from the ICE, the SDTC and the BCBN to support its efforts to produce ethanol from woody materials. It wants to recruit scientists, primarily those with biology and chemistry backgrounds, to explore and develop new technologies. Lignol's chief operating officer Michael Rushton says the company looks for people with skills in chemical processing or enzyme chemistry as it continues to improve the efficiency of the conversion of lignocellulose into ethanol.

Despite the emphasis on biofuels, there are also job opportunities in the areas of wave energy and carbon sequestration. In March, SyncWave, a company in Pemberton, received Can$2.7 million from the SDTC to field test its technology, which taps the energy of ocean swells. Chief executive Nigel Protter says he needs scientists and engineers who understand hydrodynamics and fluid dynamics. British Columbia will also be the site of one of eight Canada-wide projects that will share Can$140 million in government funds to conduct carbon-capture and storage demonstrations. Spectra Energy, based in Houston, Texas, which specializes in natural-gas infrastructure, will oversee the carbon-capture project in British Columbia from its offices in Vancouver and Calgary, Alberta. Tony Irwin, the company's director of climate change and energy efficiency, says he is looking for people who can combine multiple skills, including chemistry, hydrogeology, policy and engineering.

Both the public and the private sectors are taking steps to ensure that British Columbia's human scientific resources match the clean-tech initiative. The provincial government has established the Leading Edge Endowment Fund, a Can$56.25-million joint government–private sector initiative to create 29 permanent endowed chairs at British Columbia universities and colleges in areas including health, technology and the environment. The hope is that 20 permanent leadership research chairs will attract top talent and that nine 'regional innovation chairs' will spur technology transfer at smaller colleges and technical institutes.

 

Training grounds

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada's Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) programme aims to fill interdisciplinary gaps. For example, the CREATE program in interdisciplinary climate science will partner with the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis at the University of Victoria with the Institute of Ocean Sciences on Vancouver Island, run by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. The programme will carry out research in areas crucial to industry and government, such as developing new ways of predicting the evolution of terrestrial and oceanic ecosystems, and climate diagnostics research to uncover signatures of climatic variation. Other CREATE programmes will target British Columbia's health and life-sciences industries, and those devoted to the environment and energy include bioenergy, biorefining and biodiversity. Each programme receives Can$1.65 million to split among stipends for undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students.

Meanwhile, a new climate-science initiative should mean several million dollars in funding for graduate students, postdocs and visiting scientists. In March 2008, the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions (PICS) was established with a Can$90-million endowment. PICS, a partnership between the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, the University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University in Burnaby and the Univ
ersity of Northern British Columbia in Prince George, will spend around Can$1 million of its operating budget on training. Projects are still being planned but scientists will be needed to address how ecosystems and humans can adapt to climate change, says Nancy Olewiler, director of the public-policy programme at Simon Fraser University and a member of the PICS programme committee. She expects teams from each university to participate in interdisciplinary projects such as developing solutions to water shortage, tracking climate-induced emerging health issues and exploring how timber can meet bioenergy needs.

Formal partnerships with two recently established oceanography initiatives should extend PICS's interdisciplinary reach. The newly established Can$100-million North-East Pacific Time-Integrated Undersea Networked Experiments (Neptune Canada) and the Can$25-million Victoria Experimental Network Under the Sea (Venus) project, a deep-sea and coastal ocean observatory, will provide climate-science opportunities for oceanography graduate students and postdocs. They will have the task of sifting through an unprecedented variety and amount of data, which can be used, for example, to visualize the sea floor and monitor conditions such as oxygen depletion and ocean acidification, says Verena Tunnicliffe, professor of deep-sea research at the University of Victoria and Venus's project director. Tunnicliffe's team is exploring ways to help oceanographers handle the huge amount of data generated by the Neptune and Venus programmes. She says the training possibilities for young scientists in British Columbia are endless.

Connecting graduate research to burgeoning industries in British Columbia is the goal of the Accelerate programme, run by the mathematical and science research network MITACS, in Vancouver, which fosters graduate internships with potential employers in high-tech industry, government and non-profit organizations. The aim is to give companies, and in particular those in the clean-tech sector, access to cutting-edge university research, while students get a first-hand experience of what industry needs."British Columbia is moving away from its history as a resource extractor," says Tunnicliffe, "to a region using technology to find exciting ways to use and develop these resources sustainably."

Bioenergy investment benefits cash-strapped life-sciences sector

The economic downturn is hitting Canadian life-science companies hard. On 15 July, BIOTECanada, Canada's biotechnology industry organization, released survey data suggesting that, including jobs already lost, 7,000 highly skilled researchers and scientists could be laid off throughout the country in the next year if short-term financing from private or government sources cannot be obtained to keep struggling companies afloat.

Although British Columbia has a relatively mature biopharmaceutical sector that is better placed to weather the storm, the recession has had an impact, says Bob Ingratta, bioproducts and bioenergy sector specialist at the non-profit industry-support organization LifeSciences British Columbia, based in Vancouver.

The Canadian government's investment in bioenergy and clean technology could offer a welcome respite, and create opportunities for those with genomics or bioinformatics skills. For example, Jörg Bohlmann, a forest biologist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, has a grant of Can$7.5 million (US$7 million) from Genome British Columbia, one of six centres that vie for funds from the central organization Genome Canada.

Bohlmann is hunting for genomic clues to the outbreaks of mountain pine beetle that threaten Canada's forests (pictured), and is exploring how the biofuels sector might use infested wood as biomass. He wants to train people in genomics, bioinformatics and ecological risk modelling. "If we can't truly stop forest impact of the pine mountain beetle, we may be able to better utilize forest resources that are infected," he says.

Pierre Meulien, Genome British Columbia's chief scientific officer, says that although Genome Canada did not receive any new funding in this year's budget, it is funded up to the end of 2013. Genome British Columbia also receives money from the provincial government specifically for research on local priorities such as bioenergy. For example, researchers funded by Genome British Columbia at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and the University of Victoria are investigating how to maximize the fermentation of lignocellulose to bioethanol, using poplars.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation has provided Can$71 million in funding for 16 major infrastructure projects in British Columbia, with particular emphasis on ocean research and the life sciences. The focus is on maintaining cutting-edge research platforms in life sciences, including a Can$10 million ultra-high-throughput DNA sequencing platform for large-scale genome analysis at the University of British Columbia. Such investments are considered key to maintaining British Columbia's success.

Christoph Borchers, director of the University of Victoria–Genome British Columbia Proteomics Centre, sees ample promise in the province's diverse portfolio of genomics research despite funding woes. "Genome British Columbia has a lot of funding from the provincial government, which wants to see the community broadly apply 'omics to all areas that affect human health from trees to fisheries," he says.

 

 

From Shirts to Suits for Immuno-Precise President

Written by Dickson Melville

Winter or summer, Dr. Jody Haddow, president of Immuno Precise at VITP, was readily recognized by his short pants.  It was his “go-to-work garb” for more than four years.  But, times are a changing.  Last week he went out and bought two suits, five shirts and a couple of ties.

His conversion did not take place on the road to Damascus, but not far from there, as he prepared to take on a teaching job half-way around the world from VITP in the Arab Emirates where suit, shirt and tie are mandatory for assistant professors.

While retaining his presidency of Immuno Precise Antibodies at VITP, Haddow, who received his PHD at the University of Victoria, will be teaching biochemistry and doing research at United Arab Emirates University, located at Al Ain, a short distance from Dubai.  He expects to be there at least four years, accompanied by his wife and two children. 

“It really is a wonderful opportunity,” Haddow said. “The housing is provided and the children will be attending private school.”

He gets 11 weeks vacation each summer and expects to return to Victoria at those times.

The offer to Haddow has been made frequently over the last four years since he worked with UVic  Proteomics and met an instructor on a sabbatical from the United Arab Emirates University. Finally, after long talks with his family and Immuno Precise Robert Beecroft, he bought the suits.

His email, for those who want to keep in touch, is: haddow@uvic.ca.

Vigil selected as one of the Top 100 fastest-growing companies in BC

Vigil Health Solutions Inc. (“Vigil”), is pleased to announce its selection as one of the top 100 fastest-growing companies in B.C. by Business In Vancouver newspaper.  The list cited Vigil’s revenue increase of 299% over the last 5 years as reason for earning a spot in the top 50 of the list. 

“We are delighted to be recognized as one of B.C.’s fastest growing companies.  During the last several years Vigil has developed innovative new products, sold to leading providers in the seniors housing industry and built a culture of customer excellence.  It is rewarding to see the results of the team’s hard work translate into this recognition,” said Troy Griffiths, President and CEO, Vigil Health Solutions.

About Vigil Health Solutions Inc.

Vigil offers a proprietary technology platform combining software and hardware to provide comprehensive solutions to the expanding seniors’ housing market. Vigil has established a growing presence in North America and an international reputation for being on the leading edge of systems design and integration. The Vigil Integrated Care Management System™ (Vigil® System) includes the award-winning Vigil Dementia System, a nurse call system, bed monitoring, resident check in, and the latest development the Vigil Wireless call system. The first to supply dementia specific care technology, Vigil facilitates the highest standard of care for cognitive residents while helping dementia residents enjoy a higher quality of life and greater dignity.

Dr. Tom Pederson Appointed Director of Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions

The University of Victoria has appointed Dr. Thomas Pedersen as director of the Pacific Institute for Climate Solutions. Pedersen moves from his current position of dean of science at UVic, which he has held since 2003. His previous positions include director of UVic's School of Earth and Ocean Sciences, and associate dean, research, for the faculty of graduate studies at the University of B.C. He holds a degree in geology from UBC and a PhD in marine geochemistry from the University of Edinburgh.