Paul Chirak, a Princeton University researcher specializing in catalysts for new methods of chemical synthesis, has turned to GreenCentre Canada for help in commercializing products he has been developing. GreenCentre, an organization based in Kingston, Ont., was established to assist Canadian academics with this kind of work, but Princeton’s interest in this same kind of service  reveals that it meets a need that is not being addressed in the United States. “You’d think with all the resources and all the people in the US that this would be something that exists,” says Andrew Pasternak, GreenCentre’s Director of Commercialization and Business Development. “But it’s pretty clear that it doesn’t — GreenCentre is unique in this respect.”

Through an agreement with the Princeton University Office of Technology Licensing, GreenCentre Canada will apply its commercial and technical expertise, access to industrial networks and laboratory facilities to accelerate the progress of Chirak’s catalysts to make them ready for market.

“GreenCentre is very pleased to have the opportunity to work with the high level of researchers at Princeton University and assist them in getting their catalysts to be used by industry,” GreenCentre executive director Pete Pigott said in a formal announcement on the deal. “These technologies being developed at Princeton have the potential to offer real sustainable solutions to the fine chemical industry.”

GreenCentre was recently renewed as part of the federal government’s Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research program to continue this work with members of the academic community as well as build similar bridges with entrepreneurs and larger enterprises in the chemical sector. Among other activities, the organization’s Kingston facilities offer researchers the ability to scale up the output of their laboratory efforts from a matter of milligrams or millilitres to the kilogram or kilolitre amounts necessary for potential industrial partners to take stock of its commercial potential. 

According to Pasternak, an even more important role for GreenCentre is putting researchers in touch with their counterparts in the private sector. “The hard part is finding the correct technical people in industry who make the decisions for catalysts, who can use it and try it,” he says. 
In this respect, establishing such a network for Chirak also represents a much larger opportunity for GreenCentre, which will now be conducting this process in a much wider setting. 

“When we’re promoting these catalysts that come from the US, we get to know who the players are in the US and globally,” says Pasternak. “That knowledge is invaluable. The more catalysts we bring in, the more people get exposed to GreenCentre. That can help GreenCentre in all its catalyst distribution efforts, no matter where it comes from.