ARCHIVED - NRC Annual Report 2006 - 2007
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Table of contents
- ARCHIVED – Annual Report (PDF, 6.4 MB)
- Financial Statement Discussion and Analysis
- ARCHIVED – Financial Statements (PDF, 3.9 MB)
The financial statements of the NRC have been audited by the Auditor General of Canada, the independent auditor for the Government of Canada. Signed in Ottawa on June 15, 2007 by Dr. Pierre Coulombe (President) and Daniel Gosselin (Chief Financial Officer).
The National Research Council's annual report for 2006 – 2007 reflects a year of accomplishment that supports the directions of Canada's federal S&T strategy, Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage.
Science and technology are vital for realizing health, environmental, societal, and economic benefits, which will ultimately generate wealth and promote a better quality of life for Canadians.
When Canadian researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs develop new ideas and bring them to the marketplace, they contribute to our strong economy. True, we are facing global pressures including technological advances, new trade agreements, and the emerging roles of developing countries. Although these changes can impact our business environment, Canada must keep pace and we need to seize new opportunities.
Part of my mandate, through the collective organizations that form the Industry Portfolio, is to increase Canadian productivity and competitiveness. By ensuring that our industries grow, Canadians will continue to enjoy one of the highest standards of living in the world. But with that economic prosperity comes a need for responsibility and balance. Scientific and engineering progress can also assist industry sectors in creating and adopting cleaner, greener operations to protect the environment and the health of Canadians.
The fundamental importance of science and technology to our economy and quality of life is recognized in Advantage Canada, the government's long-term economic plan. We accomplished much this year by following that plan together with the federal S&T strategy, Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage, as our roadmap. We will continue to focus on these goals to support the conditions for a strong economy — an environment that Canadians expect and deserve.
Minister of Industry
The National Research Council (NRC) is Canada's leading federally funded resource for science and technology (S&T) development and commercialization. Over the years, NRC has consistently demonstrated its worth by identifying Canada's S&T-based opportunities and adapting its R&D, industry support and commercialization services, programs and networks to meet national needs and priorities. Fiscal year 2006-2007 was no exception.
New Business Strategy
In 2006, following earlier industry and stakeholder consultations, NRC launched and began implementing its new corporate vision and business strategy, Science at Work for Canada. Building on its established strengths and capacities – from its highly qualified employees and their vast S&T networks to unique Canadian facilities and multi-disciplinary collaborations – NRC will deliver on its strategy for 2007 to 2011.
Focused R&D Programs to Meet Canada's Needs
NRC is continuing to work with universities, industry and other government departments and S&T organizations to help Canada lead in important areas of technology, particularly those that respond to three national priorities: protecting the health and wellness of Canadians; safeguarding the environment; and developing sustainable energy. Many of the successful research projects and strategic collaborations described in this report are grouped under those three priorities.
While NRC contributes significantly to specific industry sectors with direct connections to the three national priorities mentioned above, NRC also helps strengthen other sectors of Canadian industry, particularly high-impact and emerging sectors of Canada's economy. The new NRC business strategy called for the identification and development of key sectors of activity which, from 2007 to 2011, would benefit most from NRC's expertise and produce the most impact for Canada. In early 2007, NRC announced that it would focus on aerospace, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology, construction, information and communication technologies (ICT), agriculture, chemicals, automotive, electronic instruments, manufacturing, and materials engineering. NRC began developing targeted R&D and innovation support strategies to ensure maximum use of its resources to help these sectors become more competitive.
Another important component of NRC's strategy is its national programs. In 2006-2007, NRC selected the R&D focus for national programs that will be implemented over the next few years. The first such program, announced in January 2007, is a bioproducts R&D national program. University stakeholders and other major S&T organizations in Canada saw NRC as the best positioned national organization to lead this important initiative because NRC had been active in related fields since launching its biotechnology program in 1983. NRC is now seeking to establish partnerships with other federal departments with a stake in bioproducts, especially for the development of biofuels, industrial biomaterials and chemicals, as well as health products. NRC's objective is to bring together the collective expertise and resources of key stakeholders, including industry partners, to achieve the critical mass of experts and R&D programs to help Canada reach its full potential in this area. The bioproducts program will begin in 2008, with other national programs to follow.
Supporting Technology-driven Companies
In 2006-2007, NRC worked with many of Canada's technology-driven small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), providing financial and technical assistance to those with the potential to lead in a new area of technology. As it has done for several years, NRC gave these firms access to top research expertise and networks as well as Canada's best collection of current S&T information. NRC provided design, testing and calibration services, laboratory space, business development and commercialization support, and help with intellectual property. NRC also offered firms the opportunity to co-locate with NRC in facilities designed to help them develop new technology and prepare for the marketplace.
Throughout the year, NRC accomplished a great deal in its initiatives to help strengthen Canada's national innovation and commercialization capacity at the community level. The 11 technology cluster initiatives that NRC helped to establish across the nation are gaining traction in sectors vital to our future. These clusters include: photonics, nanotechnology, IT and e-business, nutrisciences and health, biomedical technologies, plants for health and wellness, ocean technologies, sustainable infrastructure, aluminium transformation, life sciences, and fuel cell and hydrogen technologies. NRC also plays a key role in other well-established clusters in Canadian communities, such as biopharmaceutical and aerospace clusters.
Throughout 2006-2007, NRC worked closely with industry, government and academia to increase the competitiveness of Canadian industry through S&T. It has mobilized the public and private sectors to invest in new S&T initiatives and research facilities, and to strengthen NRC technology cluster initiatives across Canada. Through the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), a coast-to-coast network of NRC industry partnership facilities (IPFs), and the NRC Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (NRC-CISTI), NRC has helped many innovative firms adopt new technologies, develop new products and services, access leading-edge S&T information, grow their networks, and become more competitive in today's markets.
Getting Canadians Excited About S&T
In 2006-2007, NRC took extra steps to raise awareness about Canada's past S&T advances as well as the importance of S&T for this country's future. To coincide with its 90th anniversary, NRC developed and distributed a Canadian S&T timeline poster for students, and launched a Web site highlighting nine decades of accomplishment and reiterating NRC's role in stimulating innovation in Canada. NRC also prepared a book to showcase its historical S&T accomplishments and is planning a public display of selected milestones through highly visible banners at its Sussex Drive facility for the peak 2007 Ottawa tourism season. This outdoor exhibit will align past successes with future S&T opportunities for Canada through NRC's key sectors.
To reach national and international audiences, NRC began distributing NRC Newslink and From Discovery to Innovation: Building a Stronger Canada through Science and Technology, quarterly and annual publications targeting S&T stakeholders in industry and universities as well as government decision makers. In February 2007, NRC took the opportunity to display its accomplishments to MPs and senators at an exhibit on Parliament Hill. NRC will continue seizing opportunities to increase recognition of the role that NRC and its partners play in Canadian innovation.
NRC also stepped up its science outreach activities directed at students and teachers. After years of participating in the national Marsville event, in 2006, NRC took on the leadership role for this pan-Canadian initiative. Marsville brings elementary and intermediate students together with engineers from industry, universities and government labs, in person, through videoconferences and the Marsville blog. NRC also participated in the National Engineering Challenge and the Sanofi-Aventis Biotechnology Challenge; opened its facilities to students and visitors from St. John's to Victoria through tours and visitor centres; and shared science learning resources directly with instructors through presentations and exhibits at science teacher conferences. In addition, NRC researchers got involved by visiting classrooms to give students a sampling of their knowledge and enthusiasm for science and technology. New interactive content to foster greater interest in science and technology was added to NRC's Student Science and Tech Web site, and NRC distributed more than 212,000 print publications to students in every province, covering topics from astronomy and chemistry to biology and Canadian inventions.
In 2006-2007, NRC made significant economic contributions to Canada through collaborative research agreements, licensing its technologies, support for industry, new companies created, community-based technology cluster initiatives, and other activities.
Licence agreements show the direct flow of innovative technologies into business applications. By negotiating a licence agreement to use NRC technology, an industrial partner endorses the merit of NRC research. NRC entered into many new license agreements in 2006-2007.
Over the years, NRC has launched new companies to commercialize NRC-created technologies for which there was no identified receptor capacity in Canadian industry. The continuing success of earlier NRC spin-offs is another indicator of NRC's economic impact. For example, NRC spin-off Zelos Therapeutics, Inc., which raised one of the largest rounds of investment among Ottawa-based biotech companies in 2005, had another banner year in 2007. In February, the company announced top-line results from a Phase 2 study of its novel parathyroid hormone (PTH) analogue, Ostabolin-C™, in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. Ostabolin-C is a proprietary PTH analogue that has demonstrated strong bone-building activity in preclinical studies and is in late stage clinical development for the treatment of osteoporosis. Ostabolin-C may become a best-in-class compound in the growing PTH market and a leading therapy for the treatment of osteoporosis.
In 2006-2007, NRC signed new formal collaborative research agreements with Canadian partners, and examples are provided in the Research Results and Strategic Collaborations section of this report. NRC also entered into international research agreements to contribute knowledge in areas for which Canada is a leader, gain access to international facilities and research networks, increase international opportunities for Canadian firms, and build new research and technology alliances.
The NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program is NRC's innovation and technology assistance program. It supports Canadian industry by helping small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) augment their own capacity to innovate and commercialize their innovations.
In 2006-2007, NRC-IRAP contributed technical expertise and funding to Canadian firms for new and continuing innovative projects. NRC-IRAP also contributed funds to SMEs, youth initiatives and organizations providing technical and research assistance to Canadian industry.
Among the many companies that have benefited from NRC-IRAP support, there are three examples of firms that demonstrated exceptional growth and successful market penetration this year, and which touch on NRC's three areas of national priority and its key sectors.
XSENSOR Technology Corp. (Calgary, Alberta) – People with medical conditions who must spend their time sitting or lying down often get pressure ulcers that can lead to life-threatening infections. XSENSOR has developed a technology to minimize or eliminate this pressure, and produces a range of transducers that convert pressure readings into electrical signals that can provide continuous, real-time measurements for any surface.
Installed on the seat and back of a wheelchair, these sensors can map out all the contact points with an individual's body and identify those that exert the greatest pressure. Such information can be vital to clinicians who handle patient cushioning, bandaging, or the fit of an orthotic device. By providing the thinnest, most flexible sensors on the market, XSENSOR has positioned itself on the leading edge of innovation with a wide range of applications.
NRC-IRAP helped the company create the new technology platform by providing financial support and helping to identify and investigate technology aspects more aggressively. With this support, the company was able to take more research risk, which paid off by accelerating the development cycle of its core technology. Among its honours, XSENSOR has received the RBC Small Business of the Year award, and the Alberta Science and Technology Industrial Research Prize, and was selected as one of 20 Cool Companies in Western Canada. Today, XSENSOR products are sold in the U.S., Europe, Asia and Australia.
Mirus International (Mississauga, Ontario) – Mirus competes globally in the specialty electrical transformer market, and the company's success in resolving difficult power quality problems led to a decade of growth and profitability in the 1990s. But in 2003, the electrical transformer industry experienced significant consolidation, leading to a steep decline in sales for Mirus. Determined to regain its market share, Mirus came to NRC-IRAP with a plan to develop a unique new harmonic filter for variable speed drives.
Unlike anything on the market, the filter was conceived as a tool to mitigate the harmonic frequencies introduced by electrical currents drawn by non-linear loads, such as variable speed drives. NRC-IRAP supported the development of Mirus' new Advanced Universal Harmonic Filter and convinced the company to invest in guidance to study the evolving marketplace for the new product.
Today, Mirus has successfully transformed itself and is rapidly gaining steam. Its sales jumped 62 percent in the past fiscal year and it won the 2006 Frost and Sullivan Technology Leadership Award. Mirus attributes much of its success to the funds and support it received from NRC-IRAP to improve its new device and identify new market opportunities.
Scanimetrics Inc. (Edmonton, Alberta) – All the semiconductor chips in computers, cellular phones, automobiles, medical equipment and other goods must be tested before being incorporated into products. Current testing methods involve touching the chips and can easily damage circuits, significantly driving up costs. Edmonton's Scanimetrics Inc. is now using a unique "virtual probe" technology to test many circuits simultaneously without touching the chips, reducing costs by as much as 1,000 times compared to current methods.
Initially, Scanimetrics worked with the University of Alberta where the technology was developed. Then Scanimetrics began working with NRC-IRAP, receiving funding and advice to support its technology development activities. NRC-IRAP put the company in touch with expert advisors who understood the technological and market challenges, and helped Scanimetrics determine the best application of its technology in industry.
The company has conducted customer trials of its technology with two large integrated device manufacturers: one in Europe, the other in the United States. Scanimetrics also has signed an agreement with a Taiwan-based foundry, United Microelectronics Corporation, to fabricate its first product prototype. The company's continued success will advance the semiconductor industry in Canada and worldwide, and promote Alberta's growing knowledge-based economy.
Every year NRC staff present leading-edge Canadian research at international conferences and publish their work in peer-reviewed publications. Scientific papers in leading peer-reviewed publications and conference proceedings are internationally acknowledged measures of research quality and relevance. They are also a key tool for dissemination of knowledge and the creation of value for Canada in the long term.
NRC has consistently produced more than 1,000 peer-reviewed publications each year over the last five years. In 2006-2007, NRC organized external conferences, workshops or seminars within Canada, and helped put Canadian R&D on the map by organizing or hosting international conferences and workshops, and by receiving foreign delegations.
Highly qualified experts at NRC were also invited to represent Canada and professional associations on international committees, standards-setting bodies and multi-national project teams.
Here are several examples of international collaborations in which NRC played a pivotal role:
- Uncovering da Vinci's Mona Lisa – NRC, in collaboration with the Centre de recherche et de restauration des musées de France (C2RMF), announced the completion of the most important scientific study ever done of Leonardo da Vinci's portrait of the Mona Lisa. C2RMF requested that NRC researchers travel to Paris to create a detailed three-dimensional model of the Mona Lisa using a sophisticated 3D laser scanner designed and built by NRC. The scanner – capable of scanning at a depth of 10 micrometres, or about one-tenth the diameter of a human hair – revealed secrets of da Vinci's unparalleled brushstroke technique and will also help to address conservation and deterioration concerns. NRC's 3D technology has a range of applications in the industrial, medical, space, forensic and entertainment sectors.
- The Secret Life of Electrons – A three-nation team of researchers led by NRC has captured the first direct "light signatures" of electron-like particles called composite fermions. For more than 20 years, these mysterious fractionally charged particles have been deduced from measurements of electronic current flow, but never directly observed with light – until now. NRC worked with France's Grenoble High Magnetic Field Laboratory, home to the world's second most powerful research magnet, and NTT Basic Research Laboratories in Atsugi, Japan. The research has wide-ranging potential applications from understanding the structure of matter to developing next-generation electronics, including quantum computers.
- New Technology for Industrial Applications – A new R&D consortium headed by Airbus UK is exploring the industrial applications of an innovative technology, developed at NRC, which may impact on the way components are formed in the aerospace and racing car industries. Laser consolidation technology is a computer-aided manufacturing technology that uses a laser beam to melt injected metallic powder to form a functional net-shape component. NRC developed this innovative method to manufacture parts and tools in a single step with high-performance materials such as high-strength steel, stainless steel, and aluminium, nickel, cobalt and titanium alloys. This technology will lead to stronger materials, greater freedom of design and faster product development cycles.
- Kryptonite Found on Earth – NRC and British scientists have jointly identified a new mineral matching the chemistry of the fictitious kryptonite – the mineral that could bring Superman to his knees. Like its fictional counterpart, the new mineral – found by a mining firm in Serbia – contains sodium, lithium, boron, silicate and hydroxide. But unlike the stuff of fiction, the real kryptonite is white, powdery and not radioactive. London's Natural History Museum needed help to identify it because the sample crystals were too small for traditional analytical methods. So the Museum enlisted NRC's experts to conduct sophisticated analyses of the mineral's structure, confirming that the mineral was indeed a "new borosilicate material" worthy of being documented by the European Journal of Mineralogy.
In 2006-2007, NRC attracted visiting workers to its research facilities – including postdoctoral fellows and research associates – as part of NRC's commitment to and role in preparing Canada's next generation of researchers.
NRC's highly qualified scientists also continued to garner recognition, receiving awards from external organizations. The honours and accolades ranged from being elected fellows of the Royal Society of Canada and garnering the prestigious Killam Prize to earning the Canadian Association of Business Incubators' CABI President's Award and being named Technology Partnership of the Year by the Ottawa Centre for Research and Innovation (OCRI).
In addition to being recognized for outstanding research, NRC employees earned praise in 2006 for best practices in official languages and diversity. NRC employees in Vancouver received a Public Service Award of Excellence for their employment equity and diversity initiatives. The Public Service Human Resources Management Agency's Annual Report on Official Languages commended NRC's Consultative Committee on Official Languages for its Maintenance of Second Language Skills Campaign. Activities undertaken as part of this campaign will serve as best practices for other organizations wishing to increase the language skills of employees.
In 2006-2007, NRC also reached pay equity settlements reinforcing its commitment to ensure an equitable workplace for all. In July 2006, NRC and the Research Council Employees Association reached a settlement involving employees classified as clerical and regulatory (CRs), secretarial, stenographic, and typing (STs) or administrative support (ADs) staff. In early 2007, a settlement was reached with the personnel administration (PE) group of NRC employees, and payments will be made to eligible employees by July 2007.
Over the last several years, the Government of Canada has invested in the development and growth of NRC technology cluster initiatives across Canada. NRC continues to nurture the growth of these community-based clusters by encouraging more involvement and leadership from partners. In this role, NRC provides innovative firms with R&D expertise, research assistance and access, a collaborative environment, and opportunities for engagement with key players, regionally and nationally.
In 2006-2007, NRC completed an evaluation of six of its western and central technology cluster initiatives. Findings pointed to strong growth in these Phase II initiatives, supporting progress previously made by NRC in clusters across Atlantic Canada. To date, NRC's proven track record in spurring community-based innovation across the country has garnered almost half a billion dollars in support from the Government of Canada.
In communities across the country, NRC helped young firms succeed by providing co-location and industry partnership facility (IPF) tenants with full-service facilities. IPF tenants benefit from proximity to vibrant technology clusters; access to R&D expertise; design, testing and prototyping services; technical information and business planning services; and opportunities for research collaborations and networking.
Here are a few examples of major announcements involving NRC's technology
NRC Nutrisciences and Health Open for Business – In February 2007, NRC officially opened its nutrisciences and health research facility in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. The $13.5 million state-of-the-art facility creates a dynamic research and commercialization hub for the province's emerging bioresources cluster. Here, NRC scientists are working with their counterparts from Agriculture and Agri‑Food Canada and researchers from the University of Prince Edward Island to see how compounds found in nature can be used to tackle critical health problems such as infection and immunity-related issues, neurological problems such as Alzheimer's and multiple sclerosis, and complications related to obesity.
Established through a cooperative funding arrangement between NRC, the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, the Province of Prince Edward Island, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, and the University of Prince Edward Island, the facility will enable nutriscience companies in the early stages of research to benefit from the equipment and collaborative expertise offered on site. Researchers will also work with their private-industry counterparts to help turn PEI's expertise in bioresources into marketable products for disease prevention and therapy – positioning Canada to further capitalize on a global nutrition market valued at more than $182 billion annually.
- Public-Private Partnership for Tiniest Technology – In February 2007, NRC entered into a nanotechnology R&D partnership involving NRC, the University of Alberta, Xerox Research Centre of Canada, and the Government of Alberta's Advanced Education and Technology program. The $4.5-million, three-year partnership will focus on collaborative materials-based nanotechnology projects, including document and display-related technologies, in Edmonton, Alberta and Mississauga, Ontario.
- NRC Launches BioAccess Commercialization Centre – In November 2006, NRC officially opened its BioAccess Commercialization Centre in Saskatoon. The Centre is helping innovative firms in Western Canada's nutraceutical, functional food and natural health products industries bring products to market and stake a claim in the lucrative $150 billion global market. At the Centre, NRC provides research expertise, business development support programs, expert business knowledge, resources and advice to help new companies survive the challenges of their developmental years. To mark the event, the Centre hosted an inaugural workshop, BioMapping: Your Pathway to Commercialization, bringing SMEs from across Western Canada together in Saskatoon.
- NRC Opens Fuel Cell Research Facility – In September 2006, NRC officially opened its new $20 million facility in Vancouver on the University of British Columbia campus, positioning NRC at the hub of the city's expanding fuel cell and hydrogen technology cluster. NRC's research facility provides a specialized and safe research environment for scientists from NRC, other federal organizations, and collaborative industry and university partners. The 70,000 ft2 facility provides an excellent platform for hydrogen and fuel cell technology demonstration activities as well as a home for the Vancouver Fuel Cell Vehicle Program and a node on the Hydrogen Highway™. Key building highlights include state-of-the-art hydrogen-safe labs, a hydrogen fueling station, and building-integrated fuel cell technologies, including ground source heat pumps and photovoltaic hydrogen production technologies.
In addition to its specialized facilities, NRC provides industry, universities and other research organizations with access to unique R&D tools. The following are examples of tools that were unveiled in 2006-2007:
- NRC Houses Canada's Most Powerful Research Magnet – In June 2006, the Government of Canada, in partnership with the University of Ottawa and the provinces of Quebec and Ontario, officially opened the $15 million W.G. Schneider Building at NRC's Ottawa campus, home to a critical mass of five spectrometers. Canadian scientists and industry now have access to a multimillion dollar 900 MHz (21.1 Tesla) spectrometer, Canada's most powerful magnet. This unique tool will help scientists develop new battery composites, nanomaterials for electronics, plastic polymers for vehicles, glasses for more sensitive sensors and faster computer processors, new materials for hydrogen storage, as well as health-enhancing antibiotics.
- A New Tool Supporting Advances in Health – In March 2007, NRC acquired a MALDI-TOF/TOF mass spectrometer, a state-of-the-art technology that promises to significantly advance research in neuroglycobiology, cancer and infectious diseases. MALDI-TOF/TOF is an effective analytical tool for glycomics studies, rapid identification of microorganisms by 2D mass fingerprinting, and molecular imaging of tissues. The research-grade instrument will also support the development of chemical measurement standards and open new fields for metrology in the bio-molecular arena. It is expected to facilitate new collaborative interactions, both within NRC and with external stakeholders.
- Nanotechnology Measurement and Calibration – NRC has established a program for accurate measurement and calibration of nanoscale length artefacts, acquired an atomic force microscope, and developed an in-house three-dimensional stage for 3D characterization and manipulation. NRC now offers a client calibration service for grating pitch calibration using optical diffraction, which is directly traceable to the SI definition of the metre. Commercial and in-house instrumentation will complement its diffractometer capability to provide a broad spectrum of nanoscale dimensional characterization.
NRC works continuously to increase innovation in Canada through strategic R&D alliances with other countries. International research collaborations generate greater foreign investment in Canada's economy and lead to stronger S&T networks from which Canadian researchers and companies may benefit. In addition to less formal interactions, NRC announced the following global reach activities in 2006-2007:
- Canada-India Agreement to Advance Biotechnology Research – In December 2006, NRC signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with India to extend scientific collaboration in biotechnology. The MoU recognizes the importance of India and Canada's research cooperation, and reaffirms the benefit of S&T in Indo-Canada relations. The priorities for this collaboration include: harnessing the properties of certain plants to improve human and animal health, and understanding and exploiting the genomics of plants of common interest to the benefit of both countries. The two nations will also jointly explore additional areas of research such as vaccine design, production and delivery systems, and biodevices.
- Canada-China Collaborations – In January 2007, NRC participated in a federal delegation visiting Shanghai and Beijing where Canada signed the Canada-China S&T Accord and the Joint Training Program. NRC President Dr. Pierre Coulombe is co-chair of the Canada-China Joint Committee overseeing the Accord, which focuses on areas of research that are also NRC priorities – clean, renewable energy; environmental technologies; health and life sciences; biotechnology, agri-foods and bioproducts. NRC and China's Ministry of Education signed an MoU to establish a joint training program that will involve matching Chinese and Canadian researchers in NRC labs.
- Multinational Firm Invests in Canadian Biotechnology Research Expertise at NRC – In February 2007, NRC signed a $1.5 million multi-year Research Partnership Agreement with an American firm, Valent BioSciences Corporation, to conduct plant hormone research at NRC in Saskatchewan. Valent will also expand its Canadian operations by establishing its own research group at NRC, creating several jobs for highly skilled personnel in Saskatoon. The research will focus on plant hormones that affect how plants respond to stressful environmental conditions, such as seasonal weather variations, by regulating water use and plant growth. A better understanding of the effects of these plant hormones may lead to improved plant performance and plant adaptability.
The NRC Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (NRC-CISTI) has information specialists, client services officers and technical business analysts located at NRC institutes and in technology clusters across Canada. In 2006-2007, NRC-CISTI staff in the Atlantic cluster alone performed searches for and assisted more than 2,600 clients, a 16 percent increase in the number of clients over the previous year.
For the second year in a row, the Outsell Inc. survey (May 2006) of enterprise buyers from the corporate, not-for-profit, government, education and healthcare sectors ranked NRC-CISTI top overall for document delivery. The survey measures a number of attributes that drive buyer satisfaction: depth/breadth of coverage, fair pricing, ease of doing business, and whether clients would recommend services to others. Outsell is the leading research and advisory firm providing actionable market analytics for the information industry.
To support the commercialization thrust of the new NRC Strategy, NRC-CISTI laid the groundwork to expand its competitive technical intelligence (CTI) services beyond NRC researchers, institute business development officers and senior management, to include Canadian SMEs served by the NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program. In two years, the number of NRC-CISTI professionals providing competitive technical intelligence services has grown from 2 to 10. They delivered 250 reports to clients in 2006-2007, compared to 75 in 2005-2006.
Decision makers value CTI services that assess the commercial potential of new technologies, validate market demand, identify competitors and potential partners, propose technology applications, and recommend product price. Such information gives their organizations a competitive advantage in the international marketplace, and supports successful applications for R&D capital investments that will generate substantial economic benefits for Canada.
The NRC Research Press has implemented a new policy on providing free or "open" access to selected articles and journals. All users have free access to selected "newsmaker" articles. As well, the author, funding agency or other sponsor now has the option of paying a fee to cover the costs of peer-review and publication, thus ensuring that access to that particular article in a journal will be free. In addition, on a trial basis NRC Research Press will provide open access to articles in Genome, its biomedical journal, one year after publication.
Research Results and Strategic Collaborations
In 2006-2007, NRC's multi-disciplinary researchers achieved leading-edge discoveries, conducted important R&D tests and struck strategic collaborations with broad-ranging potential for Canada's economy, the health and wellness of Canadians, and critical aspects of the environment and energy. Following are some examples of the important work undertaken across the country in NRC labs.
Better Diagnosis for Prostate Cancer – NRC and the Atlantic Cancer Research Institute in Moncton, New Brunswick have developed a more accurate method for identifying prostate cancer – a disease that strikes one in seven Canadian men over their lifetime. Current prostate specific antigen screening is only 75 percent accurate for diagnosis, while the new method has a 96 percent accuracy rate. Using data from DNA microarrays to identify the genetic markers of prostate cancer in biopsy samples, the new method requires fewer tests to confirm a diagnosis, promising to reduce patient discomfort, health care costs – and ultimately mortality rates. The team has filed a patent for this technology, which has an estimated global market of US$4.5 billion, and now plans to identify biomarkers for colon and breast cancer as well as some non-cancerous diseases. This project has contributed to the creation of the Cancer Populomix Institute, based at an NRC facility in New Brunswick.
Molecular Imaging for Better Diagnostics – NRC is working with Advanced Research Technologies Inc. to expand R&D in the emerging field of molecular imaging, which combines traditional and novel imaging techniques to non-invasively determine the anatomical location and molecular characteristics of diseases. The "molecular diagnosis" of disease will enable the selection, administration and monitoring of personalized treatments in patients. Among its applications, molecular imaging research can help identify and characterize brain-specific targets that could lead to therapies for neurodegenerative diseases that affect an aging population. Imaging-based approaches also promise to accelerate drug evaluation and shorten the time to clinical application.
Better Protection for Canada's Troops – Soldier fatalities due to the hazards of driving wheeled light armoured vehicles on Afghanistan roads led Canada's Armed Forces to decide to use tracked vehicles such as the Leopard 2 tank. However, the new Leopard tanks lacked many of the communications, situational awareness, and command-and-control systems in use by the Armed Forces. NRC played a central role in the design and integration of these systems for the Leopard 2 tanks using a virtual design environment. NRC researchers also helped to evaluate various cooling systems to combat the effects on the tank and crew of operating a 66-ton metal vehicle in desert conditions. NRC's unique facilities and expertise helped Canada meet tight timelines to ship the tanks to Afghanistan to protect soldiers' lives and improve how Canadian troops function in a threatening environment.
Crops for Enhanced Human Health – NRC has successfully engineered the Brassica carinata oilseed to produce higher levels of nervonic acid, a naturally occurring fatty acid suitable as a feedstock in pharmaceutical, nutraceutical and industrial applications. Nervonic acid has commercial potential in enriched infant formulas and dietary supplements to help promote optimum brain and neural development in infants and young children, and in pharmaceuticals to alleviate symptoms of Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis. This substance also has potential for use in polymers, polyurethane plastics and foams, coatings and adhesives, composite materials and cosmetic formulations.
Improving the Triage and Tracking of Disease – A project coordinated by NRC and funded by Defence Research and Development Canada has produced innovative medical software: a triage program that can turn any computer into a powerful manager of emergency medical information, and a disease-tracking system that allows public health officials to analyze vast amounts of medical data efficiently. Developed in collaboration with AMITA Corporation, Carleton University and the University of Ottawa, the Rapid Triage Management Workbench is a portable, wireless, Internet-based program for managing medical crises of practically any scale. It allows emergency responders and health personnel to create a database for monitoring multiple casualties and their status – information that can then be shared instantly with doctors in the field and institutions that await the arrival of injured parties by ambulance. The triage program promises to help reduce the chaos associated with natural and industrial disasters or terrorist attacks, and is now being marketed by AMITA internationally.
The second system, called ECADS (Early Chemical/Biological/Radiological/Nuclear Attack Detection Surveillance), was originally designed to look for syndromes associated with health threats or terrorist activities. In pilot tests, ECADS showed it could have provided an earlier warning that deadly E. coli bacteria had infiltrated the water supply of Walkerton, Ontario in 2000 – thus reducing the extent of illness and perhaps saving lives during this crisis. ECADS has been installed by the Grey Bruce Health Unit, which handled most of the Walkerton cases. The system could also be modified to study the occurrence and treatment of chronic ailments such as diabetes or heart disease, which are difficult to analyze using traditional medical records.
Practice for Brain Surgery – Using software being developed at NRC, surgeons-in-training will be able to rehearse delicate brain surgery before participating in real operations, much as pilots train on flight simulators before flying a plane. The software creates a 3D "virtual neurosurgery" that provides haptic – or touch – feedback that simulates the pressure of cutting into a patient with a scalpel or scissors. NRC's haptic system is being developed jointly with Montréal-based MPB Communications. Beyond teaching medical students neurosurgical skills, the system would help more experienced surgeons keep up with new surgical techniques, and could even provide hands-on instruction for surgeons working in remote communities.
Shedding Light on Building Safety – In October 2006, NRC tested a new fire safety system that uses photoluminescent material (PLM) to help occupants safely evacuate a blacked-out or smoke-filled building. PLM stores energy from natural and artificial light and becomes highly visible in darkness. For an office tower test, PLM was used in the signs on walls, floors, stairs and handrails in various stairwells of the building. During a surprise fire drill, employees were videotaped going down the stairwells to help NRC researchers measure their movement time and ability to find destinations. NRC's work in photoluminescent way guidance will help researchers to understand human behaviour in life-threatening situations and can be used to improve safety standards, codes and guidelines.
Sensing an Opportunity for Biopharmaceuticals – NRC researchers have demonstrated the first silicon photonic wire evanescent field (PWEF) sensor element. It is sensitive enough to eliminate the need for polymerase chain reaction amplification in DNA-based assays, and supports high throughput screening. The silicon-based sensor could fill a need for fluorescent label-free sensor arrays in genomics and proteomics-based diagnostics and research, as well as for drug screening in the pharmaceutical industry.
Better Oral Health – NRC scientists and their collaborators are using Raman spectroscopy and optical coherence tomography to develop a cost-effective technology to help dentists detect, prevent and possibly reverse patients' early dental decay. In 2006, the U.S. National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research awarded a four-year US$1 million grant to researchers from NRC, the University of Manitoba, Dalhousie University and Quebec's National Optics Institute to develop intra-oral probes and validate the methods for clinical use. The non-invasive technology uses non-ionizing radiation. The team believes it can help overcome the limitations of a single technique like dental x-rays, which cannot catch early lesions. The goal is to help dentists focus more often on cavity prevention and tooth preservation than restoration.
A Profitable Partnership for Producing Bacterial Protein – NRC and Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine division of the Sanofi-Aventis Group, successfully established a strong, efficient and effective partnership to develop the processes for the scale-up, production and purification of sizable quantities of a bacterial protein. NRC not only offered Sanofi Pasteur the infrastructure, but also the scientific know-how to perform the mandate. The company's decision to partner with NRC was also based on the quality of the microbial and enzymatic technology group's integrated team, with upstream and downstream expertise and the openness of communication that established the group's credibility. One of the major outcomes of this project was the development of a high yield GLP process.
Identifying Marine Medicines – Nearly 80 percent of today's medicines were initially derived from land plants, but pharmaceutical firms are now looking for new sources. NRC and Florida Atlantic University (FAU) have teamed up to search for marine-derived pharmaceuticals. FAU has expertise in isolating natural compounds, while NRC scientists specialize in assaying naturally derived chemicals. This collaborative research will mainly focus on discovering compounds with analgesic or cancer-fighting properties, but the partners may also investigate the properties of conotoxins – powerful neurotoxins derived from the venom of marine cone snails.
Safety of Rural Mail Delivery – In 2006, postal workers in New Brunswick refused to deliver mail in rural areas, alleging an unsafe work environment. Surface transportation experts at NRC worked with Canada Post's senior management to investigate the claims of the postal workers; analyze various federal, provincial and local regulations; and develop recommendations to resolve the issue safely and productively. Working with vehicle safety experts, NRC pulled together essential elements of highway and motor traffic safety to create a new method for evaluating rural routes for postal worker and public safety. This expert knowledge helped forge an agreement between the postal union and senior management. NRC's work was instrumental in diffusing a situation that had captured the attention of rural communities across Canada, and NRC was recognized by the Prime Minister's Office for this work.
Safety at Sea – NRC continues to study how technology can help to improve the working lives of Canada's mariners. Capsizing is one of the biggest risks to fishing boats. Using physical models and numerical predictions, NRC researchers are studying the physics of capsize. This research, which is being done for Transport Canada and other clients, will be used to accurately predict vessel motions in rough waters, making it possible to develop tools for design and regulation. NRC is also looking at the potential for injury or death in various parts of a vessel from sudden jolts caused by the vessel's response to waves – research that will help to identify habitability considerations for fishing boats and develop numerical tools for predicting crew safety.
Life Raft Performance – With more than $2 million from the National Search and Rescue Secretariat and a research consortium, NRC is studying how life rafts perform as weather deteriorates, what physical and mental demands are placed on the crew, and what type of training could increase the odds of survival. The result of this research will be better products, increased survival time, and reduced risk for search and rescue personnel. In March 2007, NRC held a workshop to share the results of the work with attendees from life raft manufacturers and users, the Canadian coast guard and research organizations. In another project, NRC researchers are studying how factors such as environment, raft occupants and the raft itself affect heat loss in order to develop tools to predict survival time for life raft occupants.
Quantum Leap in Controlling Molecules – NRC researchers have developed a new technology that uses laser pulses to control quantum processes. The method was demonstrated by using an ultra-fast laser pulse to change the outcome of a chemical reaction. Quantum technologies aim to manipulate matter at the molecular scale in ways not usually seen in nature. This new technology has possible implications for quantum computers, which are the subject of an international race. Other possible applications are new forms of optical microscopy of live cells, in which quantum methods could be used to sharpen images, enhance microscope sensitivity, and even perform molecular-scale surgery on individual cells.
Laser Sensors to Analyze the Atmosphere – Practical, portable laser spectrometers require a laser diode light source. NRC has developed an antimonide-based laser diode – a breakthrough that could accelerate the development of mid-infrared sensor technology to revolutionize laser gas analysis. The combination of laser diode technology with high-sensitivity detection techniques enables the highly selective and sensitive measurement of trace gases that are important for atmospheric and combustion research, and environmental and chemical process monitoring.
Clouds Sampled to Determine Influence in Climate Change – In the winter of 2006-2007, NRC and Environment Canada conducted a major international satellite remote-sensing validation project to increase understanding of the impact of clouds on climate change. Funded by the Canadian Space Agency, the Canadian CloudSat/CALIPSO Validation Project involved two satellites launched in April 2006 – CloudSat and CALIPSO – that are conducting the first-ever comprehensive three-dimensional study of clouds and aerosols. To validate the measurements and develop algorithms for determining the properties that can be fed into weather and climate models, researchers used instrumentation on NRC's Convair-580 aircraft to sample clouds beneath CloudSat as it passed overhead. This project used the aircraft's newly installed dual-wavelength radar system, the most advanced in the world, to measure cloud properties. Given that even small changes in cloud cover and cloud optical properties can significantly alter climate, the information gained from the study will be invaluable in helping researchers understand the effects of clouds on the climate.
Harmful UV Sheds Clue to Early Survival on Earth – NRC scientists have gained new insight into how DNA deals with harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation. Their findings shed new light on how molecules use ultrafast mechanisms to protect themselves against UV damage. These studies have implications for how early life was able to sustain itself on Earth without the protective ozone layer. Researchers developed a comprehensive model explaining how the constituents of DNA use ultrafast mechanisms to quickly convert UV light into heat. These mechanisms operate on picosecond (a millionth of a millionth of a second) timescales, far faster than any biological function. Understanding how to protect molecules from light-induced damage could provide important perspectives for the design of new nanoscale molecular devices, in which molecules themselves are being proposed as light-activated "nanoscale" switches or modulators.
Profiling Plant Hormones – NRC has developed a powerful new tool called plant hormone profiling to help researchers around the world identify the signaling molecules that regulate plant growth and development. NRC currently analyzes several thousand tissue samples each year for universities, research institutes and corporations in Canada and abroad. Hormone profiling has been used to study a broad range of agricultural and forestry issues such as drought tolerance in corn, fruit ripening, canola oil seed maturation, and pine seed development. In addition, NRC now synthesizes and sells plant hormone analogs for use as mass spectrometry standards.
Examining a Cold Threat – Climate change could create greater hazards for shipping in the Canadian Arctic. In research projects funded by Transport Canada and the Program for Energy Research and Development, NRC analyzed conditions at seven points along the Northwest Passage and equipped two ice floes with satellite tracking beacons (provided by the Canadian Ice Service) to measure the thickness and strength of multi-year ice.
The results showed that the decrease in annual ice cover that might be expected from global warming could potentially lead to a passage clogged with multi-year ice. The research information could be used to assist Transport Canada in updating Canada's Arctic Shipping Regulations, and help the Canadian Ice Service forecast the trajectory of multi-year ice and whether it poses a threat to ships. Reliable ice data is especially important to forecast ice conditions like those that trapped more than 100 fishing vessels off Newfoundland for several weeks in 2007.
Cleaning Up with Biostimulation – A bioremediation system has been developed by NRC in collaboration with the National Defence's Directorate of Environmental Protection, CFB-Trenton, CEMRS and Terrapex Environmental Ltd. In an efficient and cost-effective manner, this technology addresses the treatment of sites contaminated with high concentrations of 1,1,1-trichloroethane (1,1,1-TCA), a solvent used as a degreaser. It uses indigenous populations of Dehalococcoides, a dehalogenating bacterium capable of completely degrading 1,1,1-TCA. The technical innovations included: the identification of appropriate anaerobic conditions ensuring optimal biostimulation and biodegradation; the design of a nutrient injection and pumping system to circulate the groundwater; and the development of monitoring tools. Several months of system operation at the Canadian Forces Base-Trenton have demonstrated efficacy to reduce contaminants from 40,000 parts per billion (ppb) to 200 ppb, the accepted non-toxic concentration level. In 2006, this project won the first award given for technical innovation at the Federal Contaminated Sites Workshop and has generated $260,000 in revenues for NRC. The technology is now being transferred to a Canadian company.
Certifying Canadian Satellite for Launch – In February 2007, NRC completed an acoustic qualification test on RADARSAT-2, a Canadian remote-sensing satellite, which is scheduled for launch into orbit later this year. The test verified that RADARSAT-2 can withstand the noise environment generated by rocket engines during launch, including the first 60 seconds – the worst structural environment that the spacecraft will encounter. NRC has the only Canadian reverberant acoustic chamber facility capable of performing such tests. Developed by MacDonald Dettwiler and the Canadian Space Agency, RADARSAT-2 will provide the most advanced commercially available C-band radar imagery in the world for applications such as ice and coastal monitoring, land use and resource management, cartography and disaster response.
Building on Canada's Bio-strengths – A tool developed by NRC in collaboration with federal partners and Five Winds International, and with support from the Canadian Biomass Innovation Network, could represent a significant competitive advantage for Canadian companies. The Sustainability Assessment Framework and Toolkit V2 (SAFT) is a framework for developing a "sustainability profile" of new and emerging bio-based technologies based on environmental, economic and social criteria. The tool could help Canadian firms manage the risk of developing new technologies and improve commercialization outcomes.
Showcasing Canada's Alternative Energy Technologies – Canadian fuel cell products are available in the global marketplace in forklifts, transit buses, power supplies for the telecommunications sector, and other niche applications. To commercialize Canadian technologies for mass markets, greater efforts are needed to demonstrate, test and promote our industry's capabilities and expertise. This is the role of the Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Gateway, a technology demonstration and exhibit centre located at NRC's facility in Vancouver. The Gateway is a public-private partnership between NRC, Natural Resources Canada, Industry Canada, the Government of British Columbia, and Hydrogen & Fuel Cells Canada – a national industry association. The Gateway aims to increase visibility, international sales and strategic research collaborations for Canada's hydrogen and fuel cell sector. It features static and video displays, along with commercially available hydrogen and fuel cell technologies.
Collaborating to Advance Fuel Cell Science – NRC is creating research consortia focused on fuel cell science to address fundamental areas that could facilitate commercialization – including fuel cell contaminants, which affect fuel cell durability and reliability. The Contaminants Consortium is investigating the impacts of airside feed stream contaminants on fuel cell performance, and developing models to predict fuel cell performance under the influence of contaminants. This consortium has generated strong interest from Canadian industry, with two of Canada's largest fuel cell companies already participating.
Predicting Dangers to Offshore Oil and Gas Platforms – A unique computational model for more accurately predicting the path of icebergs is helping Canada's offshore oil and gas industry stay out of harm's way. The iceberg drift forecasting tool was developed by NRC in partnership with McGill University and the Canadian Ice Services. Canada's three producing oil rigs on the Grand Banks – Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose – all sit in the path of icebergs calved mainly from glaciers on Greenland's west coast. NRC's new model mathematically simulates the factors that can affect an iceberg's drift, such as iceberg size, wind and currents. The first Canadian technology of its kind, the tool can incorporate complex ocean currents in its calculations and is at least 30 percent more accurate than existing models.
Reliable Ocean Technology – Evaluating the performance of technology in the marine environment is of commercial value to ocean industries and helps to protect people, assets and the ocean environment. In 2006-2007, NRC evaluated the performance of ships, components for offshore oil and gas operations, energy efficient propellers, systems for harvesting renewable ocean energy, and yacht hulls for three countries competing in the 2007 America's Cup. This research was carried out for a range of industry and government clients such as the Canadian Coast Guard, the Canadian Navy, Transport Canada, Memorial University of Newfoundland, and Oceanic Consulting Corporation. NRC's physical and numerical modelling of wind, wave and current forces gives Canada a unique resource for competing in the world market, and its expertise in design optimization is critical in an era of concern for energy costs, marine pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
Measuring the Sun's Energy Output – An NRC astronomy researcher, working with colleagues at Université de Montréal and University of Saskatchewan, has demonstrated a connection between the Sun's output at radio wavelengths and its total energy output. Based on a 60-year record of measurements made by NRC (recently in partnership with the Canadian Space Agency), the team has shown that the Sun's output has increased by about 0.2 percent since 1650 CE. This work is highly relevant to the issue of global warming because an increase in the energy the Sun delivers to the Earth's environment will add to the warming caused by human activities. Because this will influence future estimates of the Earth's warming trend, it should be incorporated into the models used for projecting future temperatures on Earth.
Documenting the Faintest Hydrogen-Burning Stars Ever – Using the Hubble Space Telescope, a University of British Columbia astronomer and NRC scientists have located and photographed the faintest stars ever seen. The astronomers estimated that the cluster was formed roughly 12 billion years ago, about 1.5 billion years after the universe was formed in the Big Bang. This discovery, published in Science and selected by NSERC for its inaugural list of top 50 discoveries, provides a critical check for stellar evolutionary theory of the faintest stars. It also demonstrates that the Hubble Space Telescope is capable of detecting the faintest hydrogen-burning stars in globular clusters.
This past year has seen NRC take the first steps in implementing its five-year business strategy, Science at Work for Canada, 2007-2011. NRC has attained two of its strategic goals for 2007 by launching its first national R&D program and announcing the industry sectors where NRC will intensify its R&D efforts. As the next few months unfold, NRC will announce more developments that will further align the organization to its new strategic orientation and the newly released Federal S&T Strategy, Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage.
NRC will continue delivering the programs and activities that have proven effective in generating economic and social benefits and improving the global competitiveness of Canadian firms. Providing technology and advice to SMEs; forging research partnerships with Canadian companies, universities and international R&D organizations; and transferring NRC technologies to industry – these are just a few of the ways in which NRC helps Canadian companies innovate and successfully commercialize new products and services.
Our many R&D accomplishments this year demonstrate the value of NRC as Canada's leading federally funded research organization. The organization's capacity to work hand in hand with industry partners through formal research partnerships and various industry support programs continues to be the hallmark of NRC's success.
In the coming year, NRC will continue focusing on national R&D initiatives that will increase the critical mass of expertise working on issues of top concern to Canadians. With the right capabilities and resources to do the job, NRC will deliver on its promise – a promise made to industry, government and all Canadians – to be Science at Work for Canada.
Dr. Pierre Coulombe
NRC Research Institutes, Programs and Technology Centres
NRC Biotechnology Research Institute (NRC-BRI)
NRC Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information (NRC-CISTI)
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NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP)
Toll Free 1-877-994-4727
NRC Institute for Aerospace Research (NRC-IAR)
NRC Institute for Biodiagnostics (NRC-IBD)
NRC Institute for Biological Sciences (NRC-IBS)
NRC Institute for Chemical Process and Environmental Technology (NRC-ICPET)
NRC Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation (NRC-IFCI)
NRC Institute for Information Technology (NRC-IIT)
Saint John 506-635-0622
NRC Institute for Marine Biosciences (NRC-IMB)
Charlottetown 902-566-7465 ― NRC Institute for Nutrisciences and Health (NRC-INH)
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NRC Institute for National Measurement Standards (NRC-INMS)
NRC Institute for Ocean Technology (NRC-IOT)
St. John's 709-772-4939, 709-772-6001
NRC Institute for Research in Construction (NRC-IRC)
NRC Integrated Manufacturing Technologies Institute (NRC-IMTI)
NRC Plant Biotechnology Institute (NRC-PBI)
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