The Chemistry of Commercialization
If the journey is as important as the destination, then it can be said that the process is as important as the product. In a world where pressure from consumers, governments and organizations to conform to responsible environmental standards increases daily, the challenge for manufacturers is not just to create a “greener” product but the process to produce that product must be ecologically sound as well.
Synthetic polymers such as polystyrene and polyethylene make up part of almost every product of daily life - plastics, electronics, packaging, medical supplies and construction materials, just to name a few. The problem is that the production of these polymers traditionally requires solvents and catalysts that are not only expensive; they create by-products that are hazardous both to humans involved with their manufacturing as well as to the environment.
Associate Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry at Mount Allison University, Dr. Khashayar Ghandi and his student Kyle Greenway developed a new process for creating various types of commonly used polymers.
“What makes our polymerization process unique is that it does not use traditional costly catalysts and the solvent used in the process does not emit any toxic vapors,” says Dr. Ghandi. “That the solvent can also be recycled up to twenty times during production makes this process more cost-effective, efficient and environmentally beneficial.”
When the Office of Research Services at Mount Allison University learned of Dr. Ghandi’s discovery, they knew that establishing the market feasibility of the process would be an important first step towards successful commercialization.
“In an effort to maximize the university’s resources and capitalize on the real-life learning opportunities, Research Services enlisted the help of business professor Dr. Nauman Farooqui and his Venture Capital and the Financing of Innovation class,” says Harold Jarche, Knowledge Transfer and Partnerships Officer. “Dr. Farooqui’s students worked with Dr. Ghandi to develop a business plan for his process that eventually led to winning a New Brunswick Innovation Foundation Breakthru competition in the form of a $100,000 equity investment. This equity investment was instrumental in further development of the technology to make it market-ready.”
Since that time, the Office of Research Services and their Springboard connections also facilitated the award of a provisional patent, provided funding for proof of concept as well as interns and helped with the incorporation of a private spin-off company, ChemGreen.
With Dr. Farooqui as President and CEO and Dr. Ghandi as Chief Research Officer, ChemGreen is presently involved in the scale-up stage of their unique process. Mount Allison’s Office of Research Services continues to work with ChemGreen on funding and expertise required to develop and license their polymerization technologies, as well as fostering interest from potential customers from around the world.