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Polytechnique Montreal creates packaging research Chair


November 5, 2010
By Bakers Journal

November 5, 2010, Montreal – Polytechnique Montreal is teaming up with industry to create a new team for research into smart and sustainable packaging.

Earlier this week,  Abdellah Ajji, an associate professor with the university's Department of Chemical Engineering, was inagurated as the NSERC/Saputo/Excel Pac Industrial Research Chair in Materials. Ajji will direct a team of 20 researchers – including two research associates, four postdoctoral fellows and 12 graduate students – in developing innovative food packaging that offers consumers improved food safety.

"The expected spinoffs from our research will benefit Canadian companies as well as consumers," Ajji said. "They will benefit from greater competitiveness and safer packaging."

Research will cover four areas: developing safe and cost-effective packaging that has greater airtightness and anti-bacterial properties; developing "smart" packaging that incorporates means of detection; developing sustainable packaging using recyclable, biodegradable materials, and; developing specific applications using multi-layer structures for pouches in which contents can be cooked.

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Ajji intends for this research to create a centre of excellence in the high-performance packaging field, with extensive expertise and equipment available. His team will take a multidisciplinary approach, collaborating with chemists, microbiologists, physicists and others with knowledge relevant to the challenges in developing safer, more sustainable packaging.

The team will have a $2.6 million budget to be spent over the next five years. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) is investing $1.25 million in the research, while Saputo and Excel Pac are each contributing $625,000. Polytechnique Montreal will contribute an additional $100,000 to the project. This relationship between the university and business is seen as a key strategy for driving innovation.

"The partnership between universities and businesses is logical, not just as a strategy for innovation but also as a major catalyst for it," said Excel Pac president Vincent Musacchio. "Co-operation between people from business and from university circles is, in our view, the springboard for innovation. We encourage and believe in the importance of bringing these two communities closer."

The worldwide value of the flexible packaging market is estimated at $60 bilion. North America alone accounts for half this market, with Canada comprising $2.5 to $3 billion annually.