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Paprican serves the industry, but has STRONG LINKS TO ACADEMIA

Two years after its foundation in 1925, the cornerstone was laid for the building that was to be the original site of the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada (Paprican). At that time, it was c...

October 1, 2000  By Pulp & Paper Canada

A class on tour in a pulp mill.

Two years after its foundation in 1925, the cornerstone was laid for the building that was to be the original site of the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada (Paprican). At that time, it was called the Forest Products Laboratories and was a part of McGill University. The university, the Federal Government and the Canadian Pulp and Paper Association (CPPA) would work together to increase the scientific knowledge of the industry.

With its roots in the university environment, when Paprican chose to expand and create a western base in 1978 it naturally looked at another educational centre – the University of British Columbia (UBC).

Today, the Institute’s education and post graduate research programs are based at the Pulp and Paper Centre at UBC in Vancouver, the Pulp and Paper Research Centre at McGill University and on the campus of cole Polytechnique, both in Montreal, QC.


Over time the education mandate has changed, according to Jim Rogers, Paprican’s senior vice-president. Paprican has a dual mandate. On one hand there are the long-term research goals. On the other there is the responsibility to educate people wanting to be in the industry and the continuing education of those already in the industry. Today Paprican’s university presence is aimed at producing graduates trained in research, while the non-thesis Masters program “provides young engineers with a good background in the science and technology of the industry,” said Rogers.

“Education is a worthwhile focus of our industry … and one of the principal ingredients if Canada is to continue to have a prosperous pulp and paper industry.” Breakthroughs in technology will be important as the industry moves to specialized products, and education will provide the new skills, Rogers added.

“The education mandate will continue to be an important one for us.”

Science and engineering

Paprican’s collaborative programs with the three universities offer post-graduate teaching and research in pulp and paper science and engineering. Paprican contributes to the operation of the programs largely through staff located on campus. The university partners also contribute through faculty having pulp and paper interests, and through their contributions towards physical facilities. Some support also comes directly from the governments of British Columbia and Quebec. The federal government contributes largely through research funding by its granting agencies.

At UBC the programs focus on education and research for the pulp and paper industry. The research focus is on papermaking and process engineering. Master of Science, Master of Applied Science and Doctorate degrees are offered through seven departments. These include the departments of Chemical and Bio-Resource Engineering, Civil Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Metal and Materials Engineering, Chemistry and Microbiology and Immunology.

Presently McGill’s Pulp and Paper Research Centre has members associated with the departments of Chemistry, Chemical Engineering, Civil Engineering, Psychology and Microbiology. Its broad reach covers wet end and process chemistry.

Both McGill and UBC offer an intensive one-year non-thesis Masters program in Pulp and Paper Engineering. Graduates from the two programs find employment in the pulp and paper industry and in the allied industries.

Paprican supports two NSERC university chairs at cole Polytechnique — one on the surface treatment of paper and one on process integration. The intent is to cover coating technology and systems engineering. Planning is underway at cole Polytechnique to increase the number of courses in pulp and paper and to integrate them with the Masters program at McGill University. “There are presently several courses given at both,” said Theo van de Ven, director of McGill’s Centre, and in the case of the process control and process design courses, the lectures are presently given at McGill by cole Polytechnique professors. “We want to get cole Polytechnique more involved on an equal partner basis,” said van de Ven.

The continuing education courses provide new skills for people in the mill. Continuing education courses provided by Paprican, said Rogers, focus on taking advantage of emerging technologies. “We want to ensure that our Member Companies have people who can take advantage of the latest developments.”

To complement the teaching programs in the university centres, Paprican also looks at continuing education opportunities for industry using its Institute research staff. A survey done by Paprican in the summer of 1998, according to Richard Kerekes, director of the Pulp and Paper Centre at UBC, showed that there was growing demand for shorter courses with flexible schedules for a busy workforce wanting to upgrade its skills. To meet this need, Paprican offers a number of professional development short courses each year:

Papricourse deals with the fundamentals of pulping and papermaking;

Papriprint deals with paper characteristics, the printing process, and final print quality;

PulpTech, which is co-sponsored by the Market Pulp Producers Association, deals with the technology of pulping and papermaking and is designed especially for those engaged in pulp marketing;

Paprichem is a new short course on the fundamentals of wet-end papermaking chemistry.

While training of new students and upgrading of industry skills through the short courses has been the principal focus of Paprican’s education programs, there is a complementary driving force at play. Over the years there has been a realignment of effort, but Kerekes said that research has always been the focus of Paprican’s education program. “We look to the university for fundamental research,” he said.

Van de Ven concurs. “We (the universities) must supply the underlying science on which Paprican can build its applied research.”


Research excellence requires the highest calibre education as well as top-notch students. At the Control Systems conference earlier this year speakers at the plenary sessions spoke about the industry’s challenge to compete with other industries, in particular with information technology, to attract the best and brightest. Effort has to be made to draw in these candidates to study and work in the industry, and often the work itself is the best enticement. The Federal Network of Centres of Excellence program has provided an opportunity to present the pulp and paper industry to students who perhaps would not otherwise have been involved.

Paprican has been the lead organization for the Network of Centres of Excellence Mechanical Wood-Pulps program. Since it started in 1990, with university researchers carrying out studies on a range of topics related to mechanical pulping, it has now progressed into Phase III with a focus on implementation of early research results.

“Phase I provided opportunities to tie together a range of experience at the university. Collectively, additional opportunities are available for development of products based on mechanical pulping,” said Rogers. Over the course of the Network, the Institute has been able to bring together expertise from several universities. It has been, said Rogers, “a powerful way to attract in talent on behalf of our members.

“In the course of addressing the objectives of the Network, an increasing number of students got into fundamental science associated with mechanical pulp in the industry. This project has raised awareness in students across the country. These were people who saw a research opportunity. The project attracted students and exceptional talent from the university…. Quite a bit of university connections with the industry were developed which should be tremendously beneficial to the industry in the future.”

Phase II, from 1994 to 1998, produced practical results in six areas of research: mechanical pulping, bleaching, yellowing inhibition, recycling, pulp processing and process control.

New fundamental understanding has been gained from all of those areas according to Rogers. “We’re still seeing
the practical outcomes.” Rogers expects a wide-range of future technology based on that fundamental research. (See Sidebar on page 40)

The recent economic situation has hindered welcoming new minds to the industry. There has not been a lot of hiring and students are aware of that, said Kerekes, though the situation has improved more recently. The industry must also constantly battle ideas challenging the future of forestry and of pulp and paper that have been shaped by environmentalists, particularly in BC. “It’s not an easy sell sometimes.”

Rising to this challenge, UBC’s centre staff has been very active, preparing brochures, contacting alumni, as well as visiting other schools and talking to students and teachers, Kerekes said.

However, attracting students to the industry is only partly Paprican’s role, according to Rogers. Interest has to be driven by the industry. “We would like to see the industry do that…(though) we will participate in any way that we can.”

Paprican’s role is to focus more on the actual research and education. Rogers said that it is important to focus on working with the university partners to ensure that they provide the right courses. “We are also most anxious to provide courses for those already in the industry. Demands placed on people in technical positions are increasing. Their requirements to understand technology are increasing. We want to provide access to new skills, and education for people who have very demanding jobs.”

Comparisons to counterparts

Paprican is unique with its research and education mandate compared to similar institutions around the world. A fraction of the budget is devoted to education and university-based research (10%).

IPST in Atlanta has a greater focus on education and its own degree granting capability. STFI in Sweden is a research organization with close links to the Royal Institute of Technology. KCL in Finland is a research organization with links to the Helsinki University of Technology. ” KCL and STFI are comparable to Paprican. IPST has more of an education emphasis,” said Kerekes.

Student involvement in Paprican’s applied research is somewhat limited. The Institute must keep its research confidential, however there are fundamental scientific principles on which students may work.

Most applied research here is done by research in staff facilities, Rogers explained. “Students play a small part in that research undertaking.” By comparison, other educational and research institutes have different roles for their students and a different balance in the research and education.

There are very few pulp and paper courses on the curriculum at the undergraduate level in Canadian university education, said Rogers. “We pick up students at the graduate level. They have little training in pulp and paper at that stage, but have solid science or engineering training. Our programs build on this to teach the basics of the technology specific to the industry.”

Trying to mellow yellow

The industry now has a good understanding of the yellowing of mechanical pulps because of the extensive work done in the Mechanical Wood Pulps Network. The Network proposed a number of ways to inhibit yellowing and now suppliers, with Paprican, are working to commercialize the best approaches. Lab and pilot demonstration of one method have already been successful and an industry partner has been procured to demonstrate the technology.

“This project has been a great success in terms of being able to satisfy the objectives of the program,” said George Rosenberg, managing director of the Network.

The function of the Network is to work on relevant problems that end up in new products and processes, said Rosenberg. “The fact that students are working on these relevant projects is a benefit to them and the company that hires them.”

Studies in mechanical pulping, bleaching, papermaking, pulp processing, and process control are also ongoing.

Making the grade

It is often people already working in the industry who want to broaden their knowledge that will enrol in the non-thesis Masters, according to Richard Kerekes. “Some go into the mill and may have fallen into a narrow specialization,” he said. Bill Adams was looking to broaden his professional scope.

Adams, Engineering, Maintenance, and Technical Services manager of the Weyerhaeuser Kamloops mill, graduated from the one-year non-thesis Master’s program at UBC in 1991. He had spent two years at Western Pulp in Port Alice, BC, and a year at Weyerhaeuser’s Prince Albert, SK mill before enrolling in the program. Weyerhaeuser gave him a one-year leave of absence, with his benefits intact.

Though the program does not require a thesis, there is a project requirement, which must be defended. “Mine was specifically designed for Prince Albert,” said Adams. The mill had been having problems reclaiming broke from the paper machine. Adams’ project designed a broke reclaim system, and it was eventually installed at the mill.

Adams feels that the Master’s degree has fast-tracked his career. After completing his degree he was asked to be the project engineer at the company’s paper mill. “Normally it is a job that would have gone to a more senior engineer…. A big part (of getting the job) was having the pulp and paper Master’s degree,” he said.

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