Berruti honoured for collaborative research approach

Franco Berruti

Franco Berruti, Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering and Director at ICFAR, is the recipient of the 2012 Engineering Prize for Achievement in Research. 

Western Engineering News | April 18, 2013

There is no ‘I’ in research. 

No one knows this better than Franco Berruti, a Professor in the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering and Director at ICFAR.

“Franco Berruti's research approach is to develop strong collaborations, where the research team considers not just the problem at hand, but related factors including environmental issues such as sustainability, efficiencies and economy,” explains Jesse Zhu, a professor in the Department of Chemical and Biochemical Engineering and Berruti's award nominator.

Zhu further explains Berruti is results-oriented and builds on the members’ strengths to see results.

“This team approach accelerates knowledge generation,” says Zhu. “As a result of this approach, Berruti and his collaborators have been extremely successful in integrating academic research with industrial applications, resulting in international recognition for their work.”

Specific examples include 124 papers in refereed journals; 70 refereed papers in conference proceedings; four patents, three invention disclosures, two patents under consideration and one additional patent pending; over $35 million in funding; plus many international awards and recognitions.

Technology transfer and commercialization is also an important goal for Berruti in regards to his research activities.  To do this, he has developed a huge number of industry contacts, both on his own and with his primary collaborator, Cedric Briens.

“He has secured industrial sponsors including Syncrude Canada, Imperial Oil, FPInnovations, Molson Coors, and Chemtex, just to name a few,” says Zhu.

In addition, Berruti and Briens have created a spin-off company called Agri-Therm Inc., bringing their novel mobile pyrolysis technology to market.

“There has been great interest in this technology worldwide,” explains Zhu. “A university in Mexico purchased the first unit.  Negotiations are underway with other potential buyers, including serious interest from Asia.”

Together, Berruti and Briens also brought to life their vision to create a research institute that would become an internationally recognized centre where academics, students and research personnel could conduct fundamental and applied research and development activities in the fields of renewable energy, vaporization of residues for the production of renewable fuels and chemicals, and environmental protection and sustainability.

This research institute is known today as ICFAR, the Institute for Chemicals and Fuels from Alternative Resources.  The team at ICFAR strives to quickly move research from the laboratory to large demonstration projects at ICFAR and on to industry.

In recognition of Berruti's strong international research reputation, collaborations, and commercialization successes, he has been awarded the Engineering Prize for Achievement in Research. Franco will be presented with the award at the Western Engineering Faculty & Staff Awards Luncheon on May 16.