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How New Brunswick is Linking Science and Industry

The Biorefinery Technology Scale-Up Centre (BTSC), located on the Grand Falls site of the Collège communautaire du Nouveau-Brunswick’s (CCNB) Edmundston campus, supports industry in its bioproduct promotion efforts.

The centre’s activities focus on two branches of fermentation technology and chemical analysis. The first sees the BTSC team working with fermentation and other bioprocesses for industrial-grade products like biogas, ethanol or other high-value molecules. The second is dedicated to alcoholic beverages and the value chain surrounding them.

Josée Landry manages both the BTSC and the Eastern Canada Soil and Water Conservation Centre (ECSWCC), the latter focusing on agro-environmental sciences. Landry, an Edmundston native, completed her Bachelor of Science Degree in Microbiology and Master’s in Plant Biology at Université Laval. She spent her initial post-graduate years working for her alma mater as a researcher. In 2012, the opportunity to lead the BTSC presented itself.

Opportunities NB (ONB) spoke with Landry to learn how the BTSC supports Atlantic Canada’s bioscience industry, and about her move back to New Brunswick.

ONB: During our chat with Mycodev David Brown mentioned the collaboration his company has had with the BTSC. It sounds like private industry can essentially test their products at the centre. Is that correct?

Biorefinery Technology Scale-Up CentreLandry: Yes. One of the centre’s specialties is there in the name; scale-up. With Mycodev, David and Brennan had an idea they knew could work, but that still required validation. In his case we started in the lab at a low volume, then scaled-up the process from there. We’d move from a few millilitres to a litre, to four litres, to forty, and so on. David was always heavily involved in our lab working alongside our technicians and researchers.

The goal is to bring a technology as close as possible to commercialization so the company sees their risk reduced before going to market.

We have big projects with long-term relationships like Mycodev, and we have smaller projects where clients need help with one aspect of a technology; sometimes it’s just ironing out a glitch. It can involve us doing the bulk of the work and getting a client their answer from there, or it can involve the client being here in the lab with us taking the lead. We are very flexible about that. 

ONB: Are there other notable clients you can single out?

Landry: L’Érablière Denis Côté is another one of our long-term partnerships. One of their available products that we’ve worked on is the Davia Sap Water.

We also work with Laforge Bioenvironmental, they work in biogas. That work is mostly analysis-based, for example when they have a new biomass we test it before it goes into their anaerobic digester. This is to ensure that the biomass is worth using, and that it won’t crash the system.

ONB: What sets the BTSC apart from similar research centres?

Landry: We do not do basic research here; our focus is on applied research. All we do here is answer the industry’s challenges. We do not bring projects to industry; it’s really them coming to us with ideas and challenges. Our staff works on research projects full time; they have no teaching duties so our turnaround time is quick. We are able to put full focus on projects without having to split time in the classroom. But, most importantly, we have an awesome team of talented, hard working scientists. 

ONB: Does this mean CCNB students do not take courses around BTSC areas of focus?

Landry: Not at the Grand Falls site where the BTSC is located. At the academic level it all happens in Edmundston. Students do get involved indirectly with our projects, however. They can do four-month internships here and get actively involved in the work; we typically take on four or five interns per year.

We also get involved in curriculum development as much as possible. While we don’t teach full time we can and do send staff to teach some courses, or students come to Grand Falls for specific subjects, like using High-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) as an example. CCNB instructors can also come here to work on projects.

ONB: We love talking to people that have returned to New Brunswick for opportunities. Were you actively looking for a chance to come back?

Landry: Yes, my husband and I were looking for an excuse to return. I was on maternity leave with our first child, and decided to come to NB to look for work. Had I not found anything I would have returned to Québec, but after about six months the BTSC opportunity presented itself. We jumped at the chance to return to the province.

We aren’t alone either; our chemist is originally from here. He was working in Halifax when the BTSC recruited him and also took this opportunity to return here with his wife. This has been a great opportunity for all of us.

ONB: Compare doing business in New Brunswick to your past work experiences.

Landry: If you’re stuck on something you can call any number of locals and they’ll help, because if they don’t have the answer they know someone who does. It’s a tightly-knit community so experts and decision makers are highly-accessible. Compared to larger centres like Québec it’s easier to get face time with important people.

In terms of work-life balance, we have never had to worry about things like finding a good daycare, because here you’re not on a wait list for years. We have found land to be reasonably priced here as well, and that’s big. It’s a great place to raise a family.

ONB: Let’s talk about the province’s bioscience authority, BioNB. What role does that organization play with yours?

Landry: We have a strong working relationship with BioNB, much of that involves co-organizing things like conferences and workshops. They also refer industry clients to us and vice versa. They are easy to work with and serve as a great advocate for the bioscience industry in New Brunswick.

ONB: We should take a moment then to plug the upcoming Atlantic Biorefinery Conference. Tell us about that.

Landry: The conference is organized by BioNB, BTSC, and Springboard Atlantic. It’s in its fifth year and this year’s event is in Halifax. The dates are May 30th through to June 1st.

The conference involves a technology tour where we bring attendees around the area to visit with industry. It’s a great opportunity to speak with industry professionals and see exactly what they’re working on.

The next two days involve numerous speaker sessions and networking events. We even provide a business-to-business room where attendees can do ‘speed dating’ style face-to-face chats with researchers or other industry players.

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Images via CCNB