News at the University of New Brunswick

Two UNB-led research projects awarded over 10 million from NSERC

Author: Communications

Posted on Feb 5, 2010


Thierry Chopin from the University of New Brunswick in Saint John and Ying-Hei Chui from UNB Fredericton are two of 11 Canadian researchers who will be leading Strategic Research Networks recently awarded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

Dr. Chopin is the scientific director of the NSERC Canadian Integrated Multi-Trophic Aquaculture Network (CIMTAN), which was awarded $5 million over the next five years. Aquaculture production, which already supplies over 47 per cent of the seafood consumed worldwide, has increased rapidly over the last few decades, making it the fastest growing global food production sector. However, there are concerns regarding environmental, economic and social impacts associated with aquaculture.

An innovative solution for the environmental sustainability, economic stability and societal acceptability of aquaculture is integrated multi-trophic aquaculture (IMTA). IMTA combines the cultivation of fed species (e.g. finfish) with inorganic extractive species (e.g. seaweeds) and organic extractive species (e.g. suspension- and deposit feeders) for a balanced ecosystem management approach. Canada is at the forefront of the research and development of this concept.

CIMTAN will conduct research on environmental system performance, biomitigation efficiency and species interactions; system design and engineering; and economic analysis and social implications. CIMTAN will aim at creating the conditions for increased economic opportunities in rural coastal regions, including First Nations communities, providing sustainable, quality seafood to Canadians, concomitant with increased societal acceptance of the aquaculture sector and public policy development for improved government decision-making.

“CIMTAN is a network of 26 scientists from eight universities, six Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) laboratories, one provincial laboratory and three industrial partners, spread over six provinces,” explains Dr. Chopin.

“With $5 million from NSERC, $1.1 million from DFO and significant cash and in-kind contributions from all CIMTAN members, it is a $9.6-million budget over five years, which will allow us to take IMTA from a common sense concept to commercialization, while providing interdisciplinary training to 114 highly qualified personnel.”

Dr. Chui is the scientific director of the NSERC Strategic Network in Innovative Wood Products and Building Systems, which was awarded $5.3 million over five years. This new network will work closely with FPInnovations, the national research arm of the forest products industry to increase the use of wood in mid-rise and non-residential buildings in Canada and other markets. Relative to other materials, wood products have many advantages for mid-rise urban construction. These include reduced construction time; lighter weight, which minimizes cost on foundation; and being a 'green' carbon-neutral, low production energy option.

The research network, called NEWBuildS will create advanced technologies and technical tools that accelerate further developments in wood products and construction industries. NEWBuildS will investigate the use of traditional light wood frame methods in mid-rise construction for residential, as well as heavier systems built with engineered wood products and innovative approaches that combine wood with other materials to create hybrid systems.

Around 40 Canadian researchers with expertise in architectural, structural, fire, serviceability, acoustic, and durability aspects of building design and performance will conduct leading research to provide solutions that meet the needs of society, sustain key industries and train high level experts of tomorrow. Besides Dr. Chui, the UNB researchers involved are Ian Smith and Meng Gong from UNB’s faculty of forestry and environmental management.

“Currently there is worldwide interest in using wood as a primary structural material to construct mid to high-rise buildings, said Dr. Chui.

“This interest has presented the Canadian wood industry with huge market opportunity. Whether the wood industry is able to seize this opportunity and expand beyond the low-rise residential building market will depend on the development of innovative construction technologies and wood-based building systems that meet the performance requirements stipulated by building codes for those types of buildings.”

Greg Kealey, UNB’s provost and vice-president (research), says NSERC has historically supported UNB’s efforts to transfer their research findings to the community.

"As one of Canada’s top comprehensive research universities, UNB is particularly strong at research partnerships,” said Dr. Kealey. “Hence, we are well-equipped to lead NSERC programs aimed at nurturing industry-university relationships.”

The grants from NSERC, totalling $56 million over five years will support 11 research networks focused on areas of social and economic importance. This announcement brings UNB’s total of network grants to three, which is among the top in Canada. The grants were awarded in Ottawa this week by Tony Clement, Minister of Industry.

“Our government’s investments in science and technology are creating jobs, stimulating the economy and improving Canadians’ quality of life,” noted Mr. Clement. “We are investing more in innovation than ever before in Canada’s history. By supporting the research being done by these networks, we are building the economy of tomorrow and helping our universities blaze the way to greater long-term prosperity and innovation that will benefit Canadians for years to come.”'

About UNB

Established in 1785, UNB is one of the oldest public universities in North America. With more than 12,500 students from more than 100 countries, UNB has the best student-to-faculty ratio of Canada’s comprehensive universities, according to Maclean’s magazine. As the largest research institution in New Brunswick, UNB conducts over 75 per cent of the province’s university research. The university has more than 3,500 faculty and staff, and an annual operating budget of more than $160 million. UNB’s two main campuses are located in Fredericton and Saint John, N.B.


Natasha St. Pierre, Communication Officer (506) 458-7969