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Canada: Yukon College awarded federal research grant

Yukon CollegeYukon College and University of Saskatchewan have been jointly awarded $660,600 in project funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC). This award comes only one year after the Yukon Research Centre at Yukon College became the first territorial institution eligible for such funding.

“For us to receive this grant speaks to the strength of the partnerships Yukon College is forging with older, more established research universities in a very short time,” said Karen Barnes, Yukon College president.

Barnes is confident that receiving such high caliber funding recognition will serve to attract high caliber researchers to the Yukon.

Beyond the economic activity of spending increased research dollars, the Yukon benefits through researchers working directly with communities and businesses, and sharing knowledge through presentations and courses.

“These investments provide colleges with access to the people, resources and tools they need to be at the forefront of innovation,” said Suzanne Fortier, President of NSERC. “The ultimate goal is to create sustainable partnerships that will help sharpen our innovative edge and have a positive impact on the bottom line of our country and industry.”

The College-University Idea to Innovation (CU-I2I) Grants are intended to develop and strengthen research links between colleges, universities and businesses. The end result being to accelerate the development of promising technologies and promoting their commercialization in the Canadian marketplace.

The three-year project being funded by this grant will help Whitehorse-based Zakus Farms further develop and commercialize an organic soil product, biochar, suitable for restoring sites contaminated with oil and petroleum in the north.

Biochar results from heating various biological ingredients, such as wood, fish or animal bone under oxygen limited conditions.

“We are really only at the cusp of being able to understand biochar, its’ characteristics, and all the ways it can be used,” said Katherine Stewart, the Northern Biochar for Northern Remediation project coordinator at the Yukon Research Centre. “We are conducting research at the university level and our intent is to build capacity in the north for this work.”

Researchers from the University of Saskatchewan and Yukon Research Centre will be working with Whitehorse-based Zakus Farms, and two companies who wish to offer biochar based restoration services in the north – Nunatta Environmental in Iqaluit and Federated Co-op Limited in Saskatchewan.

The two companies and Zakus Farms are providing approximately $333,000 in funding and in-kind contributions towards the project, bringing the total funding to $994,000 over three years.

The project will bring together the expertise and experience at Yukon College and University of Saskatchewan to overcome the challenges of developing commercial biochar production in Whitehorse and Iqaluit.

They will experiment to determine the optimum biochar formulation for breaking down oil products in northern soils and to discover exactly how best to deliver the biochar under northern conditions.

The partners hope this will reduce restoration costs and increase restoration success in northern Canada.

The Yukon Research Centre at Yukon College operates six key programs: Cold Climate Innovation, Technology Innovation, Northern Climate ExChange, Biodiversity Monitoring, Science Adventures, and Resources and Sustainable Development for the Arctic.

NSERC is a federal agency that helps make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for all Canadians. The agency supports some 30,000 post-secondary students and postdoctoral fellows in their advanced studies. NSERC promotes discovery by funding more than 12,000 professors every year and fosters innovation by encouraging about 2,000 Canadian companies to participate and invest in post-secondary research projects.

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