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The opportunities seem endless for advanced materials R&D.

Canadian companies should look beyond national borders in seeking innovations that will help them

The technology and adoption opportunities for Canadian companies to tap into the international advanced industrial materials (AIM) network exist, but to take advantage of them, Canadian industry, as a whole, needs to change its mindset.

This was one of the messages delivered at "The International Network": Gateways for Technology Interaction with Europe & U.S.A. meeting, presented by the Canadian Advanced Industrial Materials Forum (CAIMAF).

CAIMAF's executive director, Richard Glinski, welcomed delegates, explaining that the purpose of the meeting was to try to give some insights to technology leveraging and to show Canadians the interactions among our major trading partners; in short, networking.

We need to improve linkage with offshore technology users, to export Canadian expertise. "To survive globally, Canadian business needs to network, even with trading partner competitors," Glinski said.

The outward orientation of Canadian business is weak compared to its global competitors. "Canadian companies looking for innovation in their technologies should not confine themselves to national borders in looking for it. Find it and exploit it," Glinski stressed.

The CAIMAF conference did an excellent job in bridging the business and technical aspects of AIM. For example, the lead speaker was Ed Neufeld, executive vice-president, economic and corporate affairs, Royal Bank of Canada, speaking about Is Canada Ready for Europe?

The 12-country European community forms the largest integrated market in the world yet Canada has ignored it and that's dangerous, said Neufeld. The Free Trade Agreement, North American free trade and the emergence of the Pacific Rim has dominated our trade thinking.

The Treaty of Maastricht, despite its present problems, provides for a co-ordination of economic, defence and foreign policy with provisions for a common currency. "This process did not start yesterday, but right after the second world war," Neufeld added.

In 1985 the Europeans realized they would have to complete the integration process to complete with the rise of the Pac Rim. There was a removal of technical barriers and the recognition of standards. "We can't even have a lawyer go from B.C. to Ontario. We are a long way behind," Neufeld said.

Neufeld noted that arguments being heard in Canada today against the North American free trade deal were heard in Europe 30 years ago. "The fact is the whole community grows stronger and culture is not threatened. When you do things to improve the health of your economy, it strengthens culture."

At present, only 8% of Canada's exports are destined for Europe. The value-added content is not high; resource materials still predominate. About 25% of the total direct investment in Canada comes from Europe.

To operate in Europe, Neufeld told delegates that you must be there. "You can't do it from Toronto." Is Canada ready? "Generally speaking, no. Why? It's the mindset."

Money is not a problem, according to Neufeld. "We're spending a lot. Therefore, one must conclude that we're spending money badly -- inefficient and 'wrong-thing' spending."

BRITE idea

The first technical presentation featured the director, economic and commercial affairs, Delegation of the Commission of the European Communities, Frank Deeg. His topic was R&D Networks in the EC: The BRITE-EURAM Program. The BRITE-EURAM (Basic Research in Industrial Technology for Europe and European Research in Advanced Materials) program is now in its second stage. Stage I ran from 1989 until 1991 and had a budget of $750 million. BRITE-EURAM II was approved in September 1991 and runs until 1994, with a budget of almost $1 billion.

The aim is to strengthen traditional manufacturing industries in Europe by reinforcing their scientific and technological base through transnational collaboration in R&D.

The strategic aims include:

* increasing the application of advanced technologies by small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs);

* increasing the involvement of manufacturing SMEs in European R&D through developing links with other enterprises and promoting a better management of their resources;

* ensuring an appropriate dissemination and exploitation of results, especially for the development of standards and user specifications.

The scope of the technical areas covered reflects the programs's multi-sectoral approach and emphasizes the need to bring together, in research and technological development, partners drawn from suppliers, producers and end-users, as well as from basic research institutes and industrial enterprises.

One example of BRITE-EURAM collaboration is the Concerted European Action on Magnets (CEAM). Started in 1985, it has involved more than 60 industrial and academic libraries in the 12 EC member states. Its objectives are:

* to develop high-performance iron-based rare-earth permanent magnets, and design devices to exploit their properties;

* to generate European collaboration by an exchange of scientists and stimulate a new generation of researchers to undertake projects in applied magnetism of industrial relevance;

* to provide a skills and information database to allow European industry to exploit advanced magnets effectively.

The results? More than 500 published papers, more than 10 patents and new manufacturing technologies in commercial use by five companies in the EC. Improvements have been made to the thermal stability and corrosion resistance of magnets.

Gerard Beck, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), went From Basic Research to Industrial Products in the Field of Materials in France.

Beck provided a general overview of CNRS. It receives 22.7% (US$2 billion) of the French civil budget R&D budget annually. It has seven scientific divisions. There are seven CNRS offices abroad and it has concluded 57 agreements with 39 countries.

PIRMAT (Interdisciplinary research program on materials) is one of CNRS' seven major programs of this type. It involves more than 300 research laboratories.

CNRS working with a large company on supercrystalline alloys, used for solidification of turbine blades for high-performance jet engines.

One area of concern is the lack of smaller companies involved in co-operative research projects with CNRS. To overcome this, the centre has organized regional centres for information and technology transfer (CRITT).

CNRS is also looking to extend its international work. International co-operative scientific programs (PICS) have been formed. Beck said agreements between CRITT and the Canadian equivalent would be welcome.

A long way to go

Two speakers from the Community of Independent States (CIS, formerly the Soviet Union) attended the conference, Nikolai Vorontsov and K.M. Dyumaev, Ministry for Science, Higher Education and Technology Policy. There is no need to elaborate on the massive changes which have taken place in the CIS including the attempted coup in August 1991, and the problems which the country faces in trying to overhaul its entire political and economic infrastructure.

The CIS has very broad overall goals, as a matter of necessity. The question of quality control must be addressed. New metallic, ceramic, polymer, glass and rubber technologies will be studied. Co-operative ventures with foreign companies have started, including Canada and Germany.

The speakers said that the turmoil in the CIS has affected operations and they expect a decline in operating efficiency until late 1992 or 1993. They said that they face a "long road, but we will overcome the difficulties and perspectives and strategic aims will be clear."

They estimated that only 10% of all proposals they receive can be accepted. Decisions are difficult to make because of the task of trying to assign relative importance to various projects - Are for instance, ceramics more important than composites? The Russians claim that because of the trying times the CIS faces, everything is important.

Use what you develop

The guest speaker at the luncheon was George B. Kenny, Materials Center & Industry Collegium, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Kenny spoke about the functions of a school - to educate, to conduct research which is the underpin of what you teach, and to move the results of the research into society.

He advised schools to use the technology they develop. MIT has over 70 licensing agreements, mostly with the pharmaceutical industry.

Lyle Schwartz, National Institute of Science and Technology (NIST), led off the afternoon sessions with a description of U.S. Industry Interaction in Advanced Industrial Materials and Processes.

NIST's Advanced Materials and Processing Program (AMPP) exists to exploit opportunities in materials research and development. NIST will work with a single company, professional society or association, or a consortium of companies. One prime example of the latter is the Automobile Composites Consortium (ACC) and NIST's Polymers Division.

The "Big Three" of American automakers - Ford, GM and Chrysler - are conducting precompetitive research to promote polymer composites use in structural applications. The specific example is the front end of a Ford Escort built using liquid molding.

Liquid prepolymers are injected into a mold filled with preplaced fibre mats called preforms. The material is cured, forming a light, high-strength polymer composite.

Another NIST initiative is the Advanced Technology Program. This directs funding from the federal government to industry. Its aim is to fill the gap between basic research and production. It will assist U.S. businesses to conduct basic research with a view to producing a product.

Joint ventures are preferred versus single company agreements. Canadian companies may participate (joint ventures), but permission is needed on a technical basis, i.e., Is the Canadian company needed for the project to proceed?

George Seiler, ICI Americas Inc., spoke about ICI's business strategies. ICI is the world's largest paint company, manufacturer of advanced composite prepreg and largest manufacturer of commercial explosives. Despite its size, ICI realizes it is in a competitive, rapidly changing global marketplace. Companies must focus on strengths. Seiler's message was simple: Collaborate, co-operate or capitulate.

Much of the latter part of the program dealt with the automotive industry.

Andrew Sherman is principal research scientist with the Ford Motor Co. He spoke about the Applications of Alternate Materials in Future Automobiles. Sherman noted that there has been a dramatic increase in the number and percentage of lightweight materials used in car construction - about threefold since 1975, although it has been generally static the last three years.

Material substitution in body structure will be the area where real weight loss will occur. The use of magnesium, now about five pounds per vehicle, should increase. It is 2/3 the weight of aluminum and can replace cast aluminum.

Aluminum use is now about 200 lb per car. For example, since 1980, radiators have gone from 100% copper brass construction to 100% aluminum. Cast aluminum has potential in engine blocks, chassis and suspension. As noted, magnesium and also polymer composite moldings may replace cast aluminum in some applications.

Plastic and polymer composites should have large potential - body structure and panels, powertrain. Other lightweight materials such as titanium, metal matrix composites, ceramics and intermetallics may also be used, replacing highly specialized steels. High-strength steel now accounts for about 25% of a car's weight so there is potential for large weight reductions.

There are still some questions to be answered concerning aluminum structures. These include its bonding/adhesive properties as well as concerns about spot welding, recycling and formability.

Sherman said that an aggressive estimate has lightweight materials making up more than 60% of a car's body weight, while even moderate estimates put the total at about 50%. Sherman said that all of the work cannot be done by one company alone, that partnerships will be needed.

Delegates received what they came for: a look at what's happening in the U.S. and abroad and realization that opportunities exist for Canadian concerns. There was a good mix of government, research institution, academic and private industry personnel. CAIMAF is essentially industry-driven, the only multi-disciplinary networking organization of its kind in Canada devoted to facilitating the commercialization of advanced industrial materials developments. CAIMAF's offices are located at 75 International Blvd., 4th Floor, Etobicoke, ON, M9W 6L9; Phone: 416-798-8055; Fax: 416-798-8050.
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Author:Rodden, Graeme
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Date:Nov 1, 1992
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