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Dalhousie University's Institute for Research in Materials expands reach

IRMDalhousie University’s Institute for Research and Materials (IRM) in Halifax is expanding the scope of its ambition by reaching out to early-stage venture funds like Innovacorp, the Atlantic Canadian Opportunities Agency (ACOA) and investors across Canada under the new leadership of Dr. Daniel Boyd, who was appointed IRM director last summer.
“We don’t need evolutionary change in materials design; we need revolutionary change to satisfy the requirements of the 21st century,” said Dr. Boyd to the Dalhousie News.
Now in its 14th year, the IRM works with seven faculties, 16 departments and over 90 faculty members across the university, but if Dr. Boyd gets his way, the research group will be reaching out much further in the coming year beyond the confines of Dalhousie.
Boyd has already solicited input from a variety of stakeholders to develop a five-year plan to develop the school into a world leader in materials research.
“When I think about IRM, I just think opportunity, opportunity, opportunity,” says Dr. Boyd. “It’s an opportunity to put Dal on the map, not just regionally and nationally, but internationally, by tackling some of these big scientific challenges that have been identified around the world.”
Over the past few years, research conducted by the IRM brought in about $40 million, broken down into three key application areas: energy and sustainability ($18 million), resources and advanced manufacturing ($16 million), and health and life sciences ($7 million).
Dr. Boyd spent his first few months in the job working with the vice-president research’s office to evaluate the past five years’ IRM activities and see if they were in line with international trends in materials research, along the lines of strategic objectives regarding materials as spelled out by the European Union and the U.S. National Science Foundation.
Having previously worked in the private sector, helping to launch two start-up firms including Covina Biomedical, that worked with material research that came out of Dalhousie labs, Dr. Boyd sees the potential for linkages between enterprise, government and academia for research opportunities that are going to change how we think of the material world in the 21st century.
Materials that came out of research conducted at the IRM include an injectable glass material used for treating spinal injuries, used by Covina Medical, a battery testing system that allows companies to develop longer lasting cells, used by Novonix, and a process for producing natural materials that heal diabetic ulcers, used by DeCell Technologies.
The objective of Dr. Boyd’s five-year plan will be to reinforce those alliances with the private sector and create new opportunities for research, development and commercialization of advanced materials research produced by the IRM.

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