WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN ACCIDENTAL ACADEMIC AND A PROLIFIC INVENTOR JOIN FORCES: MEET DR. NAUMAN FAROOQI OF CHEMGREEN

Part of the "Under the Microscope" Series admin March 9, 2015

Taking in the view of the Charles River and Harvard University from the 15th floor window of the Cambridge Innovation centre, Naumann Farooqi, Professor of Business at Mount Alison University and President & CEO of ChemGreen Innovation Inc., described what it has been like participating in the Canadian Technology Accelerator (CTA).

The CTAs provide Canadian high-growth market-ready companies support to access global markets and entrepreneurship services within the Information and Communication Technologies, (ICT), Life Sciences, and Sustainable Technologies industries.

With 700 other startups housed in the same building, Farooqi describes the environment as one that fosters a “cross-pollination” of ideas. “You’re able to share your passion and pick up energy,” he says. He’s also appreciated the exposure to expert mentors that have provided advice and access to potential clients and collaborators. “Rather than spending a whole bunch of time trying to figure out how the whole system works over here,” he says, “they have been able to provide us with the lay of the land and allow us to hit the ground running which is a really significantly added value.”

ChemGreen has developed a unique polymer production process that is both environmentally friendly and cost-comparative. Their technology will allow their partners in the plastics industry to remove the dangerous by-products from their plastics production and recycle much of the waste back into the reaction. In addition, the polymer products that ChemGreen has developed include conductive, magnetic, and antibacterial polymers that function more effectively than those currently on the market. They have made connections with multinational companies in the pulp/paper, cosmetic, pharmaceutical, and biomedical device industries.

ChemGreen began as a collaboration between Farooqi, a self-described “accidental academic,” and his colleague, the innovative researcher and Professor of Chemistry Dr. Khashayar Ghandi. In his research lab at Mount Alison University, Ghandi developed a unique chemical process for producing polymers. In 2009, some of Farooqi’s business students pitched a business plan for ChemGreen at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation Breakthru Challenge and won the top prize. Farooqi then joined forces with Ghandi to provide him with the business expertise that he needed to launch the startup. In 2010 ChemGreen obtained their first patent for the chemical process and their work began in earnest. Today ChemGreen holds and is processing 10 patents for a variety of polymer products and processes. It is these patents and the creative problem solving of Dr. Ghandi that give ChemGreen their unique advantage in what is a very competitive, global materials industry. Currently Farooqi is seeking collaborative partners who share a strategic interest in developing new products and processes to expand their intellectual property assets.

Farooqi attributes much of ChemGreen’s early success to the support they have received from organizations such as BioNB, theNB Department of Economic Development, and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency. “Many companies would never even get to this stage if they had to rely on their own resources,” Farooqi said.

As his residency at the Canadian Technology Accelerator is winding down, Farooqi is pleased to be returning to New Brunswick. He and Dr. Ghandi enjoy their quality of life in New Brunswick and are eager to contribute to the local economy, providing employment opportunities to highly skilled professionals here at home. He sees employment opportunities with a startup company as being especially relevant for recent graduates. “I think they get a lot more experience,” he said. “They have a huge opportunity of really leveraging their investment of time, and the experience they get is a really valuable skillset that is transferable to a number of different places.”

For more information on ChemGreen, check out http://www.chemgreen.ca/.

The Canadian Trade Commissioners Service is seeking applications for their next CTA@Boston. Click here to learn more.

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