November 15, 2004

Synergy Awards honour R&D teams for environment-related work

Three out of seven winners of the 2004 Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Canada (NSERC) Synergy Awards for Innovation were recognized for their environment-related achievements. At a ceremony in Waterloo, Ontario, the awards were presented to teams representing research and development partnerships between industry and universities.

"These prizes celebrate and recognize effective partnerships that connect our university-based research leaders with those in the private sector who can deliver research results to the marketplace," said NSERC President Tom Brzustowski. The winning university researchers receive a $25,000 NSERC research grant, while their industry partners receive a Synergy sculpture commemorating their shared achievement.

A partnership involving Millar Western Forest Products, Lakehead University and the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation was recognized for the Forest Watershed and Riparian Disturbance (FORWARD) project. This initiative, which received substantial grant funding earlier this year, models the impacts of timber harvesting, as well as natural disturbances such as fire, on soils, hydrological processes, water quality and water flow in Canada's boreal forests. The results are used to develop decision support tools which incorporate social and environmental issues into science-based forest management.

While Millar Western is the lead industry partner, other forest companies are participating in the project: Alberta Plywood, Blue Ridge Lumber, Bowater Canadian Forest Products, Buchanan Forest Products, LP and Vanderwell Contractors. Along with Lakehead, the project partnership involves research teams from the University of Alberta, the University of Saskatchewan, Institut QuÈbÈcois d'AmÈnagement de la FÙret Feuillue, and Dalhousie University. In addition, the involvement of the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation is providing the other partners access to the wealth of First Nations knowledge of the land to help design and implement future research.

As a further step in a long-standing relationship, Millar Western and the Alexis Nakota Sioux Nation earlier this year signed a Forest and Economic Development Agreement (FEDA) to increase economic opportunities for the Alexis community, incorporate community input into the forest management planning process and encourage advanced education for Aboriginal students through scholarship awards. Through the FEDA, Aboriginal concerns, values and knowledge will help guide FORWARD research and other forest management initiatives.

Another Synergy Award went to UniversitÈ Laval and key peat industry partners across Canada, for research and development into restoration and reclamation practices for peatlands. A continuing collaboration between the university and industry partners across Canada is helping to restore and conserve these sensitive ecosystems. Laval researchers share their scientific knowledge and state-of-the-art labs and in turn obtain access to test sites and specialized equipment to conduct field work.

Bringing together scientists from diverse fields led to the creation of the Peatland Ecology Research Group (PERG). Techniques developed through PERG's have resulted in the restoration of large areas of harvested peatland. Research is now under way to find ways to reclaim these peatlands to use for tree plantations, berry crops or wildlife habitat.

The Canadian peat industry is a world leader in the sustainable after-use of peatlands, with some of PERG's innovative conservation strategies and restoration techniques now being used in the U.S., Germany and Finland.

A third partnership receiving an award is headed by Paprican, the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada, along with PAPIER, the Canadian Pulp and Paper Network for Innovation in Education and Research, the University of British Columbia, Ecole Polytechnique de MontrÈal, and McGill University. This team was honoured for its long-term partnership focused on fundamental and applied research across a range of disciplines supporting the pulp and paper industry in its development of environmentally sustainable products and processes.

Paprican operates pilot plant facilities in Pointe-Claire, Que, Vancouver, and Prince George, BC. It is also the lead organization and administrative host of PAPIER, which was formed in 2003 out of the Mechanical Wood-Pulps Network of Centres of Excellence. Through this network, Paprican has direct partnerships with 16 Canadian universities. PAPIER acts as a catalyst, aligning university programs with industry needs and providing industry with a single point to access the innovative capacity of Canadian university researchers.

NSERC began the Synergy Awards for Innovation in 1995 to recognize partnerships in research between universities and industry. More information is available on the NSERC Web site,

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