Pulp, paper research gets provincial boost

by Stephen Forgacs
Staff writer

An $8.5-million provincial investment in an advanced papermaking initiative announced recently will help UBC remain at the forefront in pulp and paper-related teaching and research.

"We're very strong in chemical pulping technology, the environmental side of the pulp and paper process, and in process control," said Prof. Dick Kerekes, director of UBC's Pulp and Paper Centre and leader of the initiative. "Now is the time to build on our strengths in papermaking."

The initiative will also play a role in supporting the economic health of the province, Kerekes said.

"To maintain a prosperous industry, more value must be added to the province's pulp and paper products. Knowledge is a key factor in adding value, and post-secondary education is a key component of the knowledge base," he said.

Funding for the initiative will allow UBC to hire two new faculty members with expertise in papermaking, while BCIT will hire one new faculty member to teach in its pulp and paper program. Funds will also be used to purchase equipment, provide student scholarships, and establish a technology network aimed at making information and expertise widely available.

Funding of the initiative by Forest Renewal BC (FRBC), reflects a move by the province to add value to the province's paper sector and to increase long-term competitiveness, Kerekes said.

"Over 40 per cent of B.C.'s timber harvest is manufactured into pulp and paper," he said. "This investment significantly strengthens B.C.'s two post-secondary programs for this sector."

The FRBC funds will be complemented by UBC re-allocating a faculty position to papermaking chemistry, and by the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada (PAPRICAN) which will provide staff resources to support advanced papermaking at UBC.

Barry McBride, UBC's vice-president, Academic, said the initiative reflects an opportunity for immediate transfer of academic research results to the workplace.

"The initiative shows how B.C.'s universities can provide `added value' to industrial activity. The traditional view of universities was that they were isolated from the real world," he said.

"We still teach young people and we still do fundamental research, but in addition, we realize that our responsibilities in both the creation and dissemination of knowledge are much broader."

Kerekes said the initiative and additional resources will give B.C. a world-class post-secondary educational infrastructure in advanced papermaking. This will mean enhanced capabilities in teaching, research, expert advising and professional community service.

New courses in paper and papermaking will be introduced at UBC and BCIT, as well as a new specialization in advanced papermaking in the UBC pulp and paper engineering master's program.

Areas of focus for applied research include fibre processing, paper forming, papermaking chemistry and paper products. The research will be carried out in close collaboration with B.C.'s pulp and paper industry.