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For 21 years they have worked side-by-side developing technologies that save companies millions of dollars in production costs. On October 19, this university/industry research-and-development collaboration was recognized with a Leo Derikx Synergy Award from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Christopher Swartz, director of the McMaster Advanced Control Consortium (MACC), and professor of chemical engineering at McMaster, accepted the award on behalf of consortium members at a ceremony held at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa.

“Much credit must be given to the founders of the consortium who had the foresight to understand the benefits of universities and industry working together in research and development,” said Prof. Swartz. “That also holds true for current consortium members. Their contributions have had a significant industrial impact and produced some of the top talent in the field of process automation.”

McMaster University’s industrial partners in MACC’s Synergy Award are: ArcelorMittal Dofasco Inc., E.I. DuPont Canada Company, Essar Steel Algoma Inc., Honeywell Process Solutions, Imperial Oil, Johnson Controls Inc., PepsiCo Foods Canada, Praxair Inc., Suncor Energy Products Inc. and Tembec.

“MACC serves as a model for how industry and academia can work together successfully,” said David Wilkinson, Dean, Faculty of Engineering. “Each is able to achieve its objectives while advancing our collective national interests. I am proud of the creativity and leadership shown by my colleagues in the Faculty who have shown how to build deep, long-lasting industrial partnerships".

MACC was established in 1988 to promote and advance process automation and related process systems engineering technologies through academe-industry interactions. It is responsible for significant advances in multivariate statistical methods that have been applied to fault diagnosis systems and used to monitor operating performance. Researchers also pioneered real-time optimization, the continual evaluation and adjustment of operating conditions to achieve the highest economic productivity. Due to the success of these innovations, the technologies have been adopted by many companies around the world, with technology transfer enhanced by over 90 MACC graduates with advanced degrees.

“Success stories such as this demonstrate that there are ways to build and maintain a strong and vibrant manufacturing industry in Canada,” said Mo Elbestawi, Vice President, Research and International Affairs. “The foresight, leadership and commitment of faculty like Chris, and his predecessors, Profs. Thomas Marlin and John MacGregor, are what make successes such as this possible.”

The Leo Derikx Award recognizes an established innovative model of long-standing university-industry partnership in pre-competitive research and development that has improved the general well-being of an industry. Leo Derikx was director general of research partnerships for NSERC and helped to establish the Synergy Awards.

The NSERC Synergy Awards for Innovation were launched in 1995 to recognize partnerships in research and development between universities and industry. Winning universities currently receive a $200,000 NSERC research grant. Industrial partners receive the prestigious Synergy sculpture and an opportunity to hire an NSERC Industrial R&D Fellow for two years (NSERC will bear the cost of the industrial portion of the fellow’s salary).

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