Two professors in their research facility
Award-winning researchers Prof. Manjusri Misra and Prof. Amar Mohanty in the Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre.

University of Guelph professors Amar Mohanty and Manjusri Misra have received the Synergy Award for Innovation from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

The prestigious award recognizes dynamic partnerships between universities and Canadian industry in natural sciences and engineering research and development.

The announcement was made today in Ottawa during a special event at the Governor General of Canada’s residence in Ottawa.

Automotive parts made from bioplastics
Automotive components developed at the BDDC.

Working with industry partners Competitive Green Technologies, 1797472 Ontario Ltd. and Prism Farms Ltd., the researchers are bringing innovative consumer and industrial products to the market.

Based in U of G’s Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre (BDDC), Mohanty and Misra produce bio-based, sustainable materials that lower greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the impact of plastics.

“We are honoured and deeply humbled to receive this recognition of our research achievements from NSERC,” the duo said in a joint statement, which gave credit to researchers and students in the centre. “This award is an opportunity to promote the talent and excellence we have here at the BDDC.”

The centre’s collaborations with industry partners have led to a range of products, from compostable food packaging and greenhouse supplies to bio-carbon for light-weight automotive parts.

Professors Misra and Mohanty inspect new equipment being installed in the BDDC.

Industry partners have been essential in commercializing the lab’s work through effective product implementation and assembly, marketing and distribution, said Mohanty, who is BDDC director and is also cross-appointed between the Department of Plant Agriculture and School of Engineering.

“Our partners share our strong belief in the environmental benefits realized by substituting non-renewable petroleum resources with renewable biomass,” said Misra, who is cross-appointed to engineering and plant agriculture. “We are continuing collaboration to further integrate sustainability elements in future bioproducts.”

Launched in 1995, the Synergy Awards for Innovation showcase outstanding collaborations between industry and Canadian academic talent, said Digvir Jayas, interim president of NSERC.

He said the partnership between the U of G team and industry partners “is a perfect example of the kind of successful collaboration that generates true innovations. Their collaboration is a prime example of the talent that NSERC supports to push forward the limits of knowledge and discovery.”

Jars full of plant stalks
Some of the raw materials that go into BDDC bioproducts.

The award provides a $200,000 research grant to Mohanty and Misra as well as funding for their industrial partners for a new NSERC partnership grant application involving the U of G researchers.

Calling the scientists “immensely deserving recipients of this recognition of their research excellence,” Malcolm Campbell, vice-president (research), said: “This award highlights the phenomenal discoveries and impactful innovations being made by Dr. Mohanty and Dr. Misra in the Bioproducts Discovery and Development Centre, a research platform dedicated to fostering sustainability and improving life on our planet.”

“Dr. Mohanty’s lab is bridging discovery and commercial innovation,” said Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield. Pointing to applications in automotive parts and greenhouses, he said the U of G research is “providing opportunity for fighting climate change by substituting petroleum-based carbon and petroleum oil with plant-based carbon and oil.”

Mohanty said the BDCC is studying better use of waste biomass and other waste sources. “We see waste as a resource for creating a new industrial product for societal uses.”