Competition: Sustainable Innovation through Green Chemistry

Each year, TISED, the Marcel Desautels Institute for Integrated Management (MDIIM), and the NSERC CREATE in Green Chemistry program, partner to offer a Sustainable Innovation through Green Chemistry Workshop and Case Competition

Green chemistry is a rapidly growing area for industry as companies grapple with increased regulatory requirements, supply constraints, and consumer demands for sustainable products. Business innovation is a powerful means to achieve sustainable development, but challenges associated with marketability of clean technologies must be considered for effective implementation. This event brings academic and thought leaders together to impart their knowledge to the students and the local community through a series of seminars in their respective fields of expertise. A real time case competition is also held where graduate students from Engineering, Chemistry and Management are invited to apply their learning towards a strong business case - introducing more sustainable products or create substitutions to phase out riskier alternatives.

This weekend workshop aims to teach the students about green chemistry and its role in sustainable development, business innovation and its role in sustainable development. Students learn how to assess the marketability of new innovations, challenges of bringing clean technologies to market and interdisciplinary communications and network-building.


The 2016 Case Competition

In 2016's competition, leading expert Dr. Amy Cannon (Executive Director, Beyond Benign Foundation and recipient of the world’s first PhD in Green Chemistry from the University of Massachusetts in 2004) gave a talk on "Green Chemistry and Biomimicry: Towards More Sustainable Products through Inspiration from Nature and Innovation in the Laboratory". The combination of green chemistry and biomimicry provides a platform for innovative problem solving by deriving inspiration from the natural world (biomimicry) and creating products in a sustainable manner (green chemistry). This talk highlighted several examples of how disciplines can complement each other to address global problems by incorporating green chemistry. To view Dr. Amy Cannon’s keynote lecture, click here.

Following the public lecture, graduate-level participants from the Faculties of Science, Management, and Engineering, attended interdisciplinary seminars led by academic and industry representatives. Dr. Audrey Moores of McGill University Chemistry presented on “How to Evaluate Green Chemistry” and Dr. Philip Jessop of Queen’s University Chemistry lectured on “Designing Molecules for the Performance and the Environment”. Dr. Steve Maguire from McGill’s Desautels Faculty of Management provided insight on the “Business Logics for Environmental Investments”. Two presenters from industry, Roger Zampini and Rubens Verni of Quadra Chemicals Ltd, spoke to students about the business implications and market opportunities associated with cleaner products.

The following day, graduate students from management, chemistry, and engineering, participated in a full-day case competition. The teams, composed of students from McGill and Queen’s, worked together in five interdisciplinary teams. This mixed team composition allowed students to practice working alongside teammates with different knowledge backgrounds and skillsets while building their network of potential future collaborators. 

This year's case featured sustainability opportunities and challenges related to polylactide (PLA). Background materials relating to PLA, life-cycle analysis, and case specific company information were distributed to students to review in advance. After researching, preparing materials, and conducting practice runs, each student team presented in front of a judging panel. Presentations were evaluated on the basis of integration of technical and business information, demonstrated mastery of concepts, strength of presentation, and overall quality of the teams’ responses and recommendations.

At the end of the competition, students assembled with others from their specific Faculty in order to discuss the challenges associated with interdisciplinary communications, network building, and other lessons learned. A key takeaway for students was the importance of building a strong business case when introducing more sustainable products or creating substitutions to phase out riskier alternatives. The importance of sound technical content and ideas was also underlined.

The event highlighted the continued interest and need for cross-Faculty collaboration and opportunities for students from different faculties to work together in supportive learning environments. This case competition encourages students to have sustainability as a key driver (while giving them tools to do so!) when they are innovating and developing new projects in the future.


The 2015 Case Competition

On January 16-17, 2015, the Marcel Desautels Institute for Integrated Management (MDIIM), CREATE in Green Chemistry, and the Trottier Institute for Sustainability in Engineering and Design (TISED), jointly hosted a workshop and case competition on Sustainable Innovation through Green Chemistry.

This event featured public lectures by McGill’s own Canada Excellence Research Chair in Green Chemistry and Green Chemicals, Dr. Robin Rogers, as well as Dr. Eric Beckman, Co-Director of the Mascaro Center for Sustainable Innovation at the University of Pittsburgh.

Following the public lecture, graduate-level participants from the faculties of Chemistry, Engineering, and Management attended closed-interdisciplinary seminars led by experts from McGill University, Queen’s University and the American Chemical Society’s Green Chemistry Institute. Student participants were then able to apply their learning through a real-time case competition with interdisciplinary teams and present in front of panel of subject matter experts.

The case addressed the complex challenges and opportunities associated with polyvinyl chloride (PVC). A key takeaway amongst student participants was the importance of building a strong business case when introducing more sustainable products or creating substitutions to phase out riskier alternatives. The event also highlighted the continued interest and need for cross-departmental collaboration and opportunities for students from different faculties to practice working together. Overall, participants were able to gain a better appreciation for bringing multiple perspectives together when addressing sustainability challenges.