Two SFU professors receive $300,000 grants from Innovate BC

Dr. Martin Ester and Dr. Edward Park received funding for their work on computers in agriculture and mobility technology, respectively

Photo courtesy of Innovate BC

Written by: Zach Siddiqui, Humour Editor

Two SFU professors have been awarded $300,000 each in grant money through Innovate BC’s Ignite Program, out of four total winners.

Dr. Martin Ester, a computing science professor, won the award for his collaboration with Terramera on a new computer platform to design greener, more efficient treatments for crop disease. In an email interview with The Peak, Ester stated that through his project, Canada could achieve better farming productivity while remaining environmentally friendly — an effect that could ripple globally. 

“We will develop machine learning methods that learn from data about the effectiveness of candidate pesticides observed in the lab,” Ester explained. He added that this data is normally expensive to obtain and therefore limited. 

The professor plans for the award money to fund the graduate students who are to spearhead the ongoing research, along with travel expenses and equipment.

Dr. Edward Park, a mechatronics professor, received the award for his work on Exomotion. With his industry partner, Human in Motion Robotics Inc., Park is developing a mechanical “exoskeleton” that wheelchair users could wear and use for “full legged mobility,” according to Innovate BC’s website.

Innovate BC is a Crown Agency whose mandate is to support technological development in British Columbia, particularly by connecting innovators with sources of funding. The Ignite Program in particular focuses on innovation in natural resources, applied science, and engineering.

“Despite the ongoing global uncertainty, it’s extremely encouraging to see our local tech companies and researchers continuing to change the world with homegrown innovation,” wrote Raghwa Gopal, Innovate BC President and CEO, in the company’s official statement on this year’s winners. “Since 2016, the Ignite Program has been a catalyst to help B.C.-based research projects access funding, accelerate commercialization, and transform industries.”

The Ignite Program awarded a total of $1.2 million this year. Other recipients included Dr. Dominik Roeser of UBC, for his work on a topography platform to plot wood harvesting trips, and Dr. Jeremy Wulff of UVIC, for his work on a universal polymer adhesive.