Founded by a pair of former Dalhousie University material engineers, Nova Scotia-based Graphite Innovation and Technologies (GIT) is providing opportunities for Dalhousie graduate students to put their research experience into practice through Mitacs internships.
Ryan Ingham, a Master of Applied Science in Mechanical Engineering student, is a current Mitacs Accelerate intern who has worked with GIT since June 2020 as he completes his degree. Master’s students like Ingham can do up to four four-month internships through the Accelerate program, while PhD students can complete up to eight.
As Ingham nears his one-year anniversary with GIT, it’s a busy time for the company. In November 2020, Canada’s Ocean Supercluster announced the Smart Protective Coatings Project, which is valued at $4.6 million. The funding brought together partners from across different sectors, including Mitacs and Horizon Maritime Services Ltd., to work with GIT to develop and commercialize new eco-friendly graphene-based protective coatings for vessels that reduce biofouling. Biofouling occurs when plants, algae and small aquatic species take up residence on a ship’s surfaces and negatively impact its fuel efficiency.
As well, in August 2020, GIT was awarded a Transport Canada contract to investigate a new technology to help reduce the underwater noise and greenhouse gas emissions produced by marine vessels.
Making a contribution
Ingham has contributed to both projects during his internship. “I am performing a life cycle assessment of GIT’s novel marine coating to evaluate and quantify its environmental impact on the marine industry,” says Ingham. “GIT is manufacturing the latest developments in marine coatings to protect underwater assets from biofouling and corrosion without the use of toxic materials. My goal is to understand the coating’s performance and its impact on a vessel’s fuel consumption and maintenance schedule.”
Aside from contributing to GIT’s long-term projects, Ingham has seen the advantage of getting out of research labs and into the field. “The biggest benefit of the internship thus far has been the integration with a real-world environment,” he says. “Prior to my master’s degree I had very little experience working with industry and different stakeholders. Since the start of my Mitacs internship, I’ve been able to achieve this while completing all of my academic requirements.”
Preparing people for the world
If a student is doing a master’s or PhD, there is a strong chance they will end up working outside of a university setting, says Marciel Gaier, GIT’s Chief Technology Officer and a Dalhousie PhD graduate.
“A Mitacs internship prepares you for industry. We plan to hire almost everyone who’s worked with us, to build a bridge between academia and industry,” says Dr. Gaier, noting that GIT is recruiting three PhD students for internships and hopes to have five Dalhousie grad students working for the company by the end of the year.
Dr. Gaier points out the variety of work Ingham has done so far during his internship. “Ryan is actively working in our Transport Canada and Ocean Supercluster projects,” says Dr. Gaier. “He’s learning a lot –time management, learning to write technical specs and briefings.”
Dr. Gaier co-founded the company in 2017 with Mo AlGermozi, GIT’s Chief Executive Officer. GIT got its start in a Dalhousie University Faculty of Engineering lab, but it is now based out of the Bays at Innovacorp in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, a state-of-the-art facility that is also home to some of the province’s best tech entrepreneurs.
Positioned for growth
“In order to build a successful company, you need to find SMART money, this means strategic investors with a successful track record in the industry and also in high growth start-ups,” says AlGermozi. “We have leveraged the expertise and prior successes of our investors, comprised of executives from shipping companies, coatings distributors, and prominent business leaders for advice and direction when making strategic decisions.”
The growing company plans to create 20 jobs by 2022 and continue to hire highly-skilled personnel from Dalhousie and beyond. Helping contribute to worldwide efforts to reduce the shipping industry’s carbon footprint is important to GIT, says AlGermozi, who notes the company is positioned to bring its products to commercial markets as it pursues manufacturing and licensing agreements with industry partners.
For more information about GIT, visit its website and watch this YouTube video from Nova Scotia Business Inc. (NSBI).
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