Two Western Engineering researchers receive Ontario Research Funding

September 6, 2011

Western Engineering researchers Franco Berruti and Jeffrey Wood were among University of Western Ontario recipients receiving Ontario Research Funds this summer.

Khalil Ramal, MPP London-Fanshawe, officially announced the funding on behalf of the Ministry of Research and Innovation at an event held at the Claudette MacKay-Lassonde Pavilion Atrium on July 27, 2011.

Chemical and biochemical engineering professor Franco Berruti was granted $1.1 million to support the development of technologies to convert pulp and paper byproducts and forestry waste into green fuels and chemicals for global markets.

Berruti explains, “The generous contribution from the Ontario Research Fund is critically important to support our research efforts directed at revitalizing the pulp and paper and forestry industries by generating value-added products from their residual resources.”

Mechanical and materials engineering professor Jeffrey Wood was awarded $2.4 million to help develop new lightweight polymer composites aimed at giving Ontario’s auto industry a technological edge.

"Polymer composites offer significant opportunities for mass reduction in engineering structures," explains Wood. "In the automotive industry, mass reduction translates to improved fuel economy, extended vehicle range and reduced GHG emissions."

The widespread adoption of composite materials, however, will require advances in a wide range of technical fields from raw material formulation through processing technology to establishing best practices for design.

“With this contribution from the Ontario Research Fund, along with the matching support of automotive OEM and Tier suppliers, we are able to assemble a critical mass of academic researchers from multiple institutions,” says Wood. “We will have the ability to support and enhance research and development initiatives along the entire value chain of the polymer composites industry.”

In addition to the two recipients from Western Engineering, Dr. Christopher Schlachta, professor of surgery and oncology at the Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry and Medical Director of CSTAR (Canadian Surgical Technologies & Advanced Robotics) received $3.2 million operating grant for his research in the area of computer based simulation training for surgeons.

“The way we train medical professionals is undergoing a revolution,” says Schlachta. “We are moving away from apprentice based training and, through close collaboration between clinicians and our talented Western engineers, more toward highly efficient computer-based simulation. This generous support from the Ontario Research Fund, along with our industry partners is going to allow us to develop training curricula and technologies that will improve the efficiency, quality and safety of surgical training.”

The Ontario Research Fund (ORF) is a key part of the government's plan to support scientific excellence by supporting research that can be developed into innovative goods and services that will boost Ontario's economy. Through a commitment of $730 million over four years, Ontario is providing talented researchers with the support they need to undertake cutting-edge research. The ORF is designed to provide Ontario’s research community with one window for research funding.
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