Industrial research hub: chemical engineering for treatment and reuse of agro-industrial waste
The management of agro-industrial waste is a major problem for the Global South. Industrialization and a fast-growing population, combined with insufficient infrastructure and methodologies, have led to large amounts of solid and liquid waste being dumped, untreated. This constitutes a major problem for industries in West Africa, which seek new knowledge, new technologies, and highly-skilled personnel to address it. The proposed project is a university-industry partnership that would develop new ways for making use of waste through accelerated and optimized biodegradation processes. For instance, biofuels that do not compete with food production, can be generated through this approach. It would also lead to new curricula and training modules in chemical engineering for graduate and undergraduate students; the aim is for gender parity of trainees. Both the training and research would take place in four different countries: Côte d’Ivoire (the location of the “hub”), Bénin, Togo and Canada. Sania, a relatively large palm oil producer in the region, will act as the main industrial partner, providing technical expertise, in-kind support, mentorship to students and guidance to the project. Other public and private sector partners will also be involved in steering the project and ensuring that the trainees find their way to the labour market, and that the new knowledge and technology developed is put into practice.
This project originated from a 2017 call developed through a series of consultations and scoping activities to characterize the significant gaps that exist in advanced training and research in the applied sciences especially in West Africa. Applied science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills are often either lacking or not being effectively used to support socioeconomic development, and students not well equipped for the national or regional job market. Industrial research hubs are a key mechanism for bridging the gap between the supply of research and training in applied STEM fields, and the demand in terms of direct applications to socioeconomic development at the regional and national scales.