Tomorrow's LEaDers in Canada

June 25, 2009
Canada is becoming a hotbed for LED educational activities, reports Brian Owen.
Canada is becoming a hotbed for LED educational activities, with the development of the SSLNet at the University of Toronto Institute of Photonics, as well as the further development of the research and testing lab facilities that will enrich the educational experience.

I had the pleasure to be in Welland in Ontario’s Niagara Region recently to attend a Program Advisory Committee at Niagara College, where faculty member Alexander McGlashan presented a proposed to enrich the Photonics course curriculum with more lighting technology related education, namely solid-state lighting.

This, along with other enhanced marketing activities for attracting and recruiting students into the Photonics program, would then turn out additional trained graduates ready for the workplace. This is good news for LED manufacturers and Niagara Region, which is shifting its economic focus from heavy manufacturing to innovation and technology.

Brock University is also located in Niagara Region and has been investigating energy efficient LED street lighting and has begun retrofitting older HPS fixtures with new LED fixtures.

Brock has chosen BetaLED, which uses individual lighting modules encased in light bars. Light is directed fully downward making light pollution virtually non-existent. Brock is confident this new technology is both environmentally friendly and cost effective in the long run.

Never mind adding Brock or Niagara as an LED University, it is evident that we need a designation of ‘LED Region’ for Niagara!

MITACS project

Also recently, I was invited to a reception hosted by MITACS to recognize companies, interns and universities participating in a scientific research and technology program offered across Canada. What became most interesting to learn, was about the number of LED related internships with Canadian companies and universities.

MITACS ACCELERATE is a unique cost-shared internship program managed by MITACS Inc, a national research network, which connects companies, governments and community organizations with the vast research expertise in Canada’s universities, from applied sciences, engineering, social sciences, business, arts, life sciences and much more.

The conduit between the partner organization, being a company, government department or agency or not-for-profit and the university is a graduate student or post-doctoral fellow. Armed with the very latest tools, techniques and innovations, the intern brings a new perspective and the latest knowledge to a research challenge faced by the partner. Internship projects can be undertaken in a wide range of areas including manufacturing, technical innovation, business processes, IT, social sciences, design and many more.

An intern spends approximately half of their time over a four-month period on site with the partner, gaining a better understanding of the research issue in question. The balance of the intern’s time is spent at the university, further advancing the research under the guidance of a faculty supervisor. Internships can be combined into larger 8 or 12 month projects.

“Each one of these interns represents the future of Canada’s knowledge-based economy,” said Dr. Arvind Gupta, Scientific Director and CEO of MITACS. “Our unique model of academic, industry and government collaboration is one now that is being replicated across Canada and around the world. Our goal is to partner with Canadian businesses to develop 1200 new internships in Canada this year. In partnership with the federal and provincial governments, we’re working to create a whole new culture of innovation in Canada that will generate additional economic activity and jobs.”

Successful projects

Two projects of note involved Carmanah Technologies Corporation and the University of Victoria, both in British Columbia, Canada.

Carmanah manufactures and sells solar-powered LED lights and LED-illuminated signs to various industries around the world. The company wished to further develop its illuminated sign offering by using optimization techniques and numerical simulations of the lighting systems. The optimization had to be done within industrial constraints to improve overall beam-steering and uniformity of back-lit sign illumination.

U of V engineering graduate Kiran Swaroop Kumar interned on this project under the direction of Dr. Reuven Gordon, Department of Engineering. “This design enabled Carmanah to transition this type of product from the use of incumbent fluorescent lights to high efficiency LEDs. It was also a great opportunity to work outside an academic environment and appreciate the different motivations and processes in an industry.” commented Kiran Swaroop Kumar, who was resultantly hired as a product designer at Carmanah Technologies, an acknowledgment to the success of the MITACS ACCELERATE program.

"The internship program has enriched the practical engineering education provided to a few of my graduate students by giving them industrial training related to their thesis projects,” said Gordon, adding, “As an educator, this has been rewarding to me. At the same time, the internship program has the potential to enhance my own research program and to provide connections to industrial partners; however, these aspects will take time to develop and evolve."

In another project directed by Carmanah, Gordon's intern and engineering graduate Mei Ting Cha devised a strategy that would maximize the operating efficiency of the LEDs over the life of the product they were integrated into. The net effect would be to maintain a brightness that complies with the end user's expectations while broadening the number of sites the product can be deployed to. With better operating efficiencies, it becomes possible to install solar powered marine lanterns at higher and lower latitudes than was previously possible.

“Broadening the geographical areas to which Carmanah has access for successful deployments, provides a benefit for both Carmanah and the end user that previously had no alternative to solar powered lighting,” commented Alain Mangano, Development Manager at Carmanah.

MITACS ACCELERATE is made possible through funding support from both the federal and provincial governments.

Canadian companies are encouraged to contact MITACS if they are facing a challenge in research, manufacturing, engineering, technical innovation, business, IT, design, process optimization, marketing analysis, human resources, product development, to name just a few. MITACS can help define a suitable project and find the matching expertise.


For more information about MITACS ACCELERATE, please visit, and contact the business development team in your area. For the Photonics program at Niagara College, contact Alexander McGlashan, Coordinator of Photonics at 905.735.2211 Ext. 7513 or [email protected].