Mac lands water tech deal with Chinese company

Imagine being able to ensure drinking water is safe in a community water system by using a series of remote sensors to instantly identify contamination before anyone gets sick.

That’s the goal of technology being developed at McMaster University, which is the focus of a new agreement between the university and Chinese and other Canadian partners.

The deal will see a $3-million investment by the Chinese company Jiangsu Delin Environmental Protection Technology Co. and $1 million from China’s science and technology ministry.

The university will provide office and lab space at the McMaster Innovation Park and is hoping the province and perhaps the federal government will throw in some cash as well.

The agreement was signed by McMaster officials taking part in the recent Ontario Science and Technology Mission to China led by Premier Kathleen Wynne.

The deal is significant because, as it is now, water samples have to be taken and then tested, a process that can take hours or days. Remote sensing offers the promise of continuous testing that can be watched in real time at a central facility.

“The idea of being able to monitor the water quality without actually having to send somebody to do the measurements is a very attractive proposition,” said Peter Mascher, McMaster’s associate vice-president of international affairs.

He said there’s huge interest in the technology in China because “people there are less and less accepting of the poor water and poor air quality.

“The Chinese government over the next few years is going to invest unbelievable amounts of money to find ways to purify their water and clean up their air.”

The technology would also be useful in remote areas of Canada where water systems can be unreliable, he said.

McMaster researchers have been working on the technology for several years, but it “only now has taken off because really many of the partners are at the right stage of development to really do something exciting.”

The deal would see researchers in Hamilton collaborating online with researchers at a laboratory in Jiangsu Province, China, to develop the technology with the goal of creating sensing equipment to detect biological contaminants at first and other pollutants such as heavy metals later on.

Asked if there were considerations about striking a deal with a country known for human rights abuses, Mascher said the deal is consistent with university ethical guidelines. “Given our prime minister just came back from China with a whole wagonload of commercial deals, you can’t be holier than thou.”

He said Chinese researchers and academics involved in water research “are not the people who violate human rights.”

Mo Elbestawi, McMaster’s vice-president of research and international affairs, said the deal will “allow for the two-way flow of technology, talent and capital between partners” and is the kind of enterprise the innovation park was designed to develop and commercialize.

See the full article at the Hamilton Spectator.

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