The Government of Canada recently announced its investment of $118 million in funding through the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) inaugural Alliance grants program. More than $6 million was secured by 12 Queen’s researchers, with four projects awarded more than $1 million each. Of the 20 projects that received more than $1 million, Queen’s and the University of Calgary tied for attracting the largest individual investments.

The Alliance grants program was established in 2019 to provide resources to support greater collaboration in research and development between researchers and partner organizations in the private, public, and not-for-profit sectors. The goal is to develop collaborative teams with different skills and perspectives to generate new knowledge in the natural sciences and engineering and accelerate the real-world application of research results.

“My congratulations to our researchers and industry partners on their extraordinary success in the new Alliance program,” says Kimberly Woodhouse, Vice Principal (Research). “Through their work, we will advance knowledge in fields critical to the prosperity and economic growth of Canadians.”

Four projects received more than $1 million in funding:

Edge Computing

Researchers Hossam Hassanein and Sameh Sorour (Computing) with partners from Kings Distributed Systems, including President Dan Desjardins (PhD'15)


Queen’s researcher Hossam Hassanein, Director of the School of Computing, has received $1.2 million to develop “A Framework for Democratized Edge Computing and Intelligence” with industry partner and Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation collaborator, Kings Distributed Systems (KDS). Edge computing is a distributed, open IT architecture that has significant impact on user quality of service and will likely be a necessary component of all digital business by as early as 2022. This project will focus on creating distributed edge computing clusters that will make this technology accessible to all, reduce existing monopoly power of cloud service providers and network operators, and open an entirely new market for Canadian businesses and governments. Working with KDS, Dr. Hassanein also intends to train more than 20 highly qualified personnel to further advance edge computing technologies and applications.


Renewable Nano Power Grid

Praveen Jain, Canada Research Chair in Power Electronics

A team of researchers led by Praveen Jain with Majid Pahlevani and Suzan Eren at the Queen’s Centre for Energy and Power Electronics Research (ePOWER) received $1.2 million in funding to partner with Cistel Technology and EION Wireless to develop a “Renewable Nano Power Grid for Wireless Communications.” Modern communications networks employ wireless towers at remote locations where grid power may not be available. Dr. Jain and his team are venturing into the next-generation renewable nano energy grid that will provide “five nines” availability required in the communications networks.


Nuclear Energy

Queen’s researcher Suraj Persaud, UNENE Research Chair in Corrosion Control and Materials Performance, secured funding for two projects related to nuclear energy. The first is a partnership with Bruce Power, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, Ontario Power Generation, and UNENE, with $1.4 million in support, to investigate “Corrosion Control and Materials Performance in Nuclear Power Systems.” In collaboration with the University of Toronto, Dr. Persaud will investigate metallic corrosion, in particular the combined effect of irradiation and corrosion on material performance in nuclear power plants and small modular reactors. Application of innovative microscopy methods will be a key component to identify the effects of stress and corrosion on materials degradation at the nanoscale. The team will leverage state-of-art research infrastructure, such as the proton accelerator and microscopy facilities, available at the Ontario Centre for Characterization of Advanced Materials (OCCAM) in Toronto and the Reactor Materials Testing Laboratory (RMTL) at Queen’s.

Suraj Persaud, UNENE Research Chair in Corrosion Control and Materials Performance

Dr. Persaud’s second project applies the same focus on nanoscale corrosion and materials degradation to the safe disposal of nuclear waste, an often-cited drawback of nuclear energy. With $1.03 million in funding, Dr. Persaud has partnered with the Nuclear Waste Management Organization (NWMO) to collaborate on the “Advanced Characterization and Modelling of Degradation in Nuclear Waste Canister Materials” with an interdisciplinary scientific approach and a diverse team of senior and early-stage researchers. NWMO is the organization mandated to develop a plan for disposal of spent fuel, which is currently focused on design and commission of the deep geological repository (DGR) where spent nuclear fuel is stored in a multi-barrier system. Dr. Persaud and his team will work with NWMO scientists to employ novel microscopy, experimental and modelling methods, and state-of-the-art facilities to study micro-to-atomic scale interactions and the performance of materials proposed for DGR application with the ultimate goal of ensuring Canada’s safe and responsible disposal of nuclear waste.


Nine other projects were funded through the program, including:

Civil Engineering Associate Professor Kevin Mumford in partnership with McMillan-McGee received $320,000 for the “Enhanced in situ thermal treatment of soil and groundwater: high temperature treatment and combined remedies” project.

Canada Research Chair in Nuclear Materials and Mechanics of Materials Dr. Mark Daymond in partnership with Kinectrics received $292,000 for the “Mechanistic understanding of hydrided region overload cracking” project.

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Yan-Fei Liu in partnership with GaNPower International, Magna International received $259,190 for the “Technology development for high efficiency high power density EV DC – DC converter” project.

Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor and Department Head Carlos Saavedra in partnership with Guildline Instruments received $111,000 for the “Broadband gallium nitride power amplifier for microwave calibration instrumentation” project.

Mechanical and Materials Engineering Assistant Professor Laurent Karim Béland, the Walter F. Light Scholar in Applied Science, in partnership with Canadian Nuclear Laboratories received $90,000 for the “Development of artificial neural networks to analyze micrographs of zirconium-based alloys and hydrides for nuclear power applications” project.

Chemical Engineering Professor Aristides Docoslis in partnership with Correctional Service of Canada, Spectra Plasmonics received $60,000 for the “A portable illicit drug detection device for Correctional Service Canada” project.

Chemical Engineering Professor Kimberley McAuley in partnership with National Research Council of Canada, Natural Resources Canada received $40,000 for the “Variability and uncertainty analysis of wood waste as a feedstock for gasification” project.

Mining Engineering and Geological Sciences and Geological Engineering Associate Professor Julian Ortiz in partnership with ArcelorMittal Mining Canada G.P. received $40,000 for the "Geometallurgical modeling of mining complexes: testing causal hypothesis to improve plant performance" project.

Outside the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Biology Professor of Evolutionary and Conservation Genetics Victoria Friesen in partnership with African Lion Safari, Wildlife Preservation Canada received $118,632 for the “Population management and recovery of the endangered loggerhead shrike” project.

This article, in its original form, was first published in the Queen’s Gazette.