Partnerships and Innovation

Office of Partnerships and Innovation
Office of Partnerships and Innovation

Industry-academic collaboration as an important pathway to the successful market integration of next-generation products

Guojun Liu began his academic career in chemistry at a university in China. His focus was on developing novel methodologies for making polymers with nano-sized structures, with the goal of creating next generation materials with new properties. Now a recognized leader in this field, Dr. Liu and his team at Queen’s University, The Liu Group, have expanded their focus to the development of unique, nanostructured polymers for real world applications such as coatings with self-cleaning, anti-graffiti, and self-healing properties and functional filters with improved performance properties.

Dr. Liu is a Professor of Chemistry and a Tier 1 Canada Research Chair at Queen's University. His research focuses on application of polymer nanostructured materials including anti-smudge coatings and monolayer technologies.
Photo credit: Bernard Clark.

In order to advance these technologies towards the marketplace, Dr. Liu has worked with the Office of Partnerships and Innovation’s Technology Transfer Unit (OPI-TTU) (then PARTEQ) which introduced him to Lorama Group, a privately-owned specialty coatings additive company based in Mississauga, Ontario. Seeing an opportunity to expand their product offering and enter new markets, Lorama Group in-licensed a superhydrophobic coating technology of Dr. Liu’s in 2012. This initial technology transfer partnership led to the development of a longer-term research collaboration between the two groups which has involved multiple projects and the subsequent licensing of another of Dr. Liu’s technologies in 2015.

“Our technology can be applied to many different industrial applications and Lorama Group has been integral in not only seeing the potential benefits but they have developed a working relationship that has allowed us to develop the technology further for their own use and products,” says Dr. Liu.

The strong and mutually-beneficial relationship between Dr. Liu and Lorama Group is an example of how the transfer of university-generated technologies to industry can create long-term academic-industry partnerships that are beneficial to both parties. With an industry partner such as Lorama Group, Dr. Liu has been able to access four Ontario Centres for Excellence (OCE) grants and two from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) that allow him to continue working on nanostructure research while benefitting Lorama Group by exposing it to new, cutting edge technologies, accessing highly qualified personnel and expertise not readily available in-house.

In December 2015 until November 2017, Dr. Liu received an OCE grant for the project Water Based Anti-Smudge Coatings. The total project value was $328,400. In March 2018 until 2021, The Liu Group was awarded $549,994 from NSERC and OCE for his projects in Anti-Icing and Anti-Fouling Coatings.

”Developing these academic collaborations is so important because it helps us to stay innovative within the industry. Partnering with Queen’s University and Dr. Liu allows us to stay at the cutting edge of technology in bringing forth the best ideas and applications to our consumers,” says Brandon Konrad, Director of Technology at Lorama Group.

Lorama Group is a manufacturer and distributor of paints and coating solutions. They have over 30 years of experience specializing in proprietary LPRT™ Polysaccharide Resin and a variety of additives and paint flow modifiers for paint formulas.

Going forward, Lorama Group is developing Dr. Liu’s technology via in-house research and development with support from The Liu Group lab on Queen’s University campus. The potential product is an additive that will be sold to the suppliers of industrial coatings that will add new properties (such as anti-graffiti) to existing coating systems, such a polyurethane, for a variety of commercial applications, including automotive, electronic devices, etc.

This process has not been a short one – seven years in the making – from technology disclosure to patent filing to research and development and investment and now to gauging market-readiness. It certainly speaks to the dedication of Dr. Liu and his team working together with Lorama Group, not to mention the support from the Queen’s OPI Technology Transfer Unit, Research Partnerships Unit and Research Contracts Unit, as well as University Research Services, in fostering this partnership.

The OPI-TTU receives invention disclosures from university faculty, staff and students (and researchers/staff from partner institutions), and develops and provides intellectual property and commercialization strategies to put technologies on a pathway to the marketplace. If you would like to learn more about the OPI-TTU’s services for your invention or idea, please contact the Technology Transfer Unit.