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MSSI launches 2022 Ideas Fund competition

Seed funding available to develop bold sustainability research projects to a stage where they can attract further funding.

The McGill Sustainability Systems Initiative is now accepting applications for its 2022 Ideas Fund — five awards of up to $40,000 in seed funding for research that explores bold and novel ideas with the potential to significantly impact a sustainability-related challenge.

Solutions for a more sustainable future require outside-the-box thinking and novel approaches that may be seen as too bold for traditional funding sources. This is where the Ideas Fund comes in, providing recipients with the resources needed to explore the feasibility of ideas geared toward building a more sustainable future. The goal is to give McGill faculty researchers from all disciplines the means to develop high-risk/high-reward projects to a stage where they can attract other funding.

Here is a look at some of the projects previously supported by the Ideas Fund. For more information about the 2022 competition, visit

Scaling up the production of a plastic film alternative

Prof. Theo van de Ven (Chemistry)

Researchers set out to design, build, and optimize a conveyor belt to be used for the production of cellulose-based transparent film as a biodegradable alternative to plastic film. This project built on previous work that had developed a green process for making ultra-thin cellulose film with roughly twice the strength of plastic film. With a custom conveyor belt, cellulose film can now be produced through a continuous process, generating large enough quantities to satisfy investors of its market viability. Researchers have since filed a report of invention and created a start-up company called TreeMaTech Inc.

Recycling wood waste into a high-performance cellular composite

Prof. Hamid Akbarzadeh (Bioresource Engineering)

Researchers designed and manufactured a fully recyclable cellular composite reinforced with wood fibres made from woodchips and sawdust, giving it unprecedented multifunctional properties. In addition to offering a new sustainable strategy for wood waste management, these 3D-printed polymeric composites can be used as lightweight engineered structural components in the automotive, aerospace, and transportation industries to reduce structural weight. Relying on these components would increase energy efficiency and decrease fossil fuel consumption, as well as provide a green alternative to metallic components or petroleum-based plastics.

Assessing the ability of soil microorganisms to mitigate climate change

Prof. Cynthia Kallenbach (Natural Resource Sciences)

Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) form symbiotic relationships with the roots of most plants, providing them with nutrients in exchange for carbon. Using MSSI funds, researchers explored how AMF species with different functional traits influence soil carbon sequestration and plant nutrition. Their findings showed that ruderal species contributed to the slower cycling of soil carbon, and fungal communities with trait diversity led to the highest increase in plant phosphorus. This provides insight on which types of fungal communities may be most effective as tools for climate change mitigation and improving plant health.

Applications for the 2022 Ideas Fund are due no later than 11:59 p.m. EST on November 6, 2022. Learn more and apply at

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