The INTPART project Canopener has contributed to and further developed a very successful and strong trans-Atlantic partnership within the current hot topic of electrochemical energy technologies. Electrochemical processes play a key role in the development of highly efficient energy conversion systems to overcome the current global challenges of climate changes and energy security. The founding partners of the Canopener project were NTNU, SINTEF, University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University. Canopener was built on several existing research projects on electrochemical energy technologies with financial support from Norwegian and European funding sources, as well as a prestigious Canadian Discovery Frontiers research grant, NiElectroCan. Canopener and NiElectroCan objectives and activities turned out to be perfectly aligned enabling extended collaborative efforts with additional Canadian universities and research groups.
Canopener has arranged workshops, symposiums and educational programs, participated and contributed in conferences and associated project meetings, facilitated the efficient exchange of students and academic staff between project partners in Norway and Canada and been committed to joint supervision of students, co-authoring scientific papers, developing course material and applying for joint research grants.
The first Canopener event was held in Trondheim in June 2017 with 50 participants and over 20 scientific talks and lectures. The event also arranged a three-day educational graduate program on electrochemical impedance spectroscopy. The course material has been implemented at NTNU and partner universities in new and revised PhD and master's degree courses (TMT4166, MT8110). In 2018, a symposium were organized in Victoria with 34 participants. This event included student presentations and lecture presentations on fluid flow and spectroelectrochemistry. In 2019, an educational program was arranged 5-7 June in Trondheim with 14 students on theoretical and practical aspects of running a fuel cell and water electrolysis test station and analyzing data. Parts of the prepared course material have been used in master's courses at NTNU (TMT4285), and are planned to be reused in future summer schools and courses at the Norwegian Fuel Cell and Hydrogen Center. The educational program was held in connection with the second international conference on electrolysis (ICE2019) in Loen with more than 200 participants. The conference was led by Sintef with assistance from Canopener-personnel. Two sequential and successful events were then held in December 2019. First a combined conference and workshop in Trondheim (2-3 December), and then in Kingston, Canada, as part of the closing meeting of the large Canadian collaborative project NiElectroCan, headed by Queen’s University.
A planned international conference in June 2020 (ECAT2020 and later also the replacement ECAT2022) with several hundred participants were cancelled due to the spread of the coronavirus disease and implementation of strict travel restrictions. Research exchanges were therefore not possible until mid-2022. In 2020 and 2021, the collaboration in new projects, co-supervision and co-publications continued, but moved to digital platforms with frequent digital meetings. In June 2022, a final 2-days event with short talks and lectures was hosted at NTNU with 32 participants from Canadian and Norwegian partners.
Canopener has been very successful in connecting Norwegian partners to internationally established and recognized groups in Canada in the field of electrochemical energy technology. This has been achieved through several exchanges, annual seminars and meetings, conferences and courses aimed at students, fellows and permanent staff. These were very successful, giving involved participants the opportunity to present and discuss their work, as well as get in touch with international experts and students in their own field. 24 shorter and longer exchanges have been conducted within the project period outside of the organized events. Several students from Canada have been on an exchange to NTNU and SINTEF, which has previously been challenging to achieve due to funding difficulties and teaching commitments. The project has also led to joint supervision, joint publications and joint research applications (and grants), which point to fruitful and engaging collaboration at a high academic level. The project has also led to a stronger connection between the two groups at NTNU and the local SINTEF group, which is reflected in the increased number of joint students, publications and project participation.
Canopener has been very successful in reaching out to Canadian partners enabling the project participants to organize a great number of common meeting arenas for fruitful discussions on both scientific and educational matters and future joint activities – beyond the end date for the project.
Canopener has facilitated 24 reciprocal exchanges between Norwegian and Canadian partners, which has (so far) resulted in 17 joint scientifically per-reviewed journal articles and one granted research project. Scientific collaborations are on-going between the Norwegian groups, SFU and UQTR. Interests for future scientific collaborations with other partners are mutually agreed upon, but requires joint funding or separate funding on similar topics in particular for in-bound exchanges to Norway. The project identified that the tuition fee component of the student salary combined with lower NSERC allocations are the main hurdles for efficient student exchanges to Norway. This implies that future collaboration involving student exchange without joint dedicated project resources depends on students that are able to secure individual grants and scholarships that can pay off duty work.
Canopener was very succesful in providing faculty members and students with several important meeting arenas, not only for scientfic discussions and educational activities, but also allowing for elaborating on the differences in graduate studies between the two countries. This, in combination with very attractive and state-of-the-art laboratories and interaction with highly skilled and knowledgeable staff members at NTNU and SINTEF, enabled Canopener to be very successful in attracting students and faculty members to Norway. One graduate from SFU and one graduate from UOttawa have started in researcher positions at the associated Sintef group, while one graduate from NTNU has started a postdoctoral position at UToronto. A merited professor from NTNU has moved to Université du Québec À Trois-Rivières (UQTR) for a Canadian research chair position. These connections will help secure long-term relations between these Norwegian and Canadian partners also after the end date of the project.
The educational programs on electrochemical impedance spectroscopy, fluid flow and spectroelectrochemistry, as well as the theoretical and practical fuel cell and water electrolysis laboratory course, are central topics that will be and are already partly implemented in graduate courses at NTNU and Canadian partner universities. Although education is a common platform for all involved universities, the seemingly best way for long-lasting joint commitments is through joint research activities and student supervision. NTNU and SINTEF benefitted greatly in Canopener and affiliated researcher projects from the state-of-the-art hydrogen and fuel cell centre as well as the well-equipped NanoLab and electrochemistry laboratories. In particular, the fuel cells and water electrolyzer test stations were (and still are) very attractive reasons for international collaboration. This facility has in other words been pivotal in creating new collaborations and strengthening existing collaborations with Canadian partners, as well as between Sintef and NTNU.
Electrochemical processes are essential in successful development of highly efficient energy conversion systems. Electrochemistry is cross-disciplinary and naturally bridges the gap between nanotechnology, biotechnology, chemistry and materials science, rendering it highly desirable in any venture aiming for a zero-emission society. Cultivating the next generation of industrial leaders, political decision makers and scientists with future-oriented knowledge is the most important task of a modern university. Graduates with a deeper understanding of electrochemical energy technologies are essential to overcome the current global challenges of climate changes and green energy implementation.
Based on existing research projects and a newly awarded Canadian Discovery Frontiers research grant, the partners NTNU, University of Victoria, Simon Fraser University and SINTEF acknowledge the importance of continuing and further extending the research collaboration within the theme of electrochemical energy technologies. The main objectives in this partnership project are thus to sustain and expand the fruitful research collaboration, provide higher academic quality in both research and education through effective transfer of students, postdoctoral fellows and faculty members in the area of electrochemical energy technologies. Exchange of graduate students with joint supervision will ensure strong and long-lasting international collaboration.