$100,000 in grants for 4 research teams to commercialize their IP

The teams were chosen based on the patentability and/or IP Protection potential of their research project

Berytech, under The ACT Smart Innovation Hub initiative and in partnership with the Euro-Lebanese Centre For Industrial Modernisation (ELCIM), at the Industrial Research Institute (IRI), is mobilizing Academia and Research Institutions to work on commercializing Lebanese Intellectual Property for the benefit of the different sectors and to advance the Knowledge Economy. For this purpose, Berytech and ELCIM/IRI launched the IP Valorization Grants Program back in March 2020. The program is co-funded by the Kingdom of the Netherlands and Berytech.

Over 30 applications were received from different universities, and four research teams have been selected to join the program, each awarded a $25,000 innovation voucher. The four research teams are innovating in Agri-food and in Cleantech (waste, water and energy) in Lebanon. Each grant will be used to cover the costs of Consulting and Research, Development and related simulation or Prototyping, field testing and application potentials, all with the aim to bring the project closer to market.

Selection Criteria

The teams were chosen based on the patentability and/or IP Protection potential of their research project, whether the project led to an independent commercial entity, whether the team had at least an early-stage prototype, as well as whether there was potential for regional and/or international reach, and above all the positive impact on the economy.

Naji Abi Zeid, Director of ELCIM explains, “the applicants went through a two-stage selection process. The first stage evaluated the submitted written application on criteria like their innovation value, a minimum of a Technology Readiness Level of 4, among others. For the second stage, 15 projects were selected and each applicant was interviewed through video conference. It allowed the jurors to clarify some points, further evaluate the strength of the academic support, the project’s patentability, the impact on the community, among others. We are happy to see a well diversified profile of grantees, from different universities and different fields. It showcases, once again, the potential we have in the industry-academia relationship for which ELCIM has been working on for a long time.”

The Innovation Grantees

The grants have been given to projects innovating in Agri-food, Nexus between Agri-Food and Renewable Energy, Nexus between Waste and Agri-Food, and Energy Efficiency.

Dr. Marc Bou Zeidan – Holy Spirit University of Kaslik

The Production of Local Starter Cultures for Bakeries and Dairy Industries

Nowadays, consumers demand is shifting towards natural, authentic, organic, local and functional products. Consequently, fermented food industrials are increasingly seeking natural starter cultures contributing to the fulfillment of consumers‘ demand.

Dr. Bou Zeidan’s established research-line aims to isolate and identify microorganisms from local and traditional foods and study their potential use as starter cultures for industrial fermented foods producers. The research is inclusive of microbiological, molecular, food processing and analyses techniques. It aims to bring the authentic and local taste to the industrial products.

Dr. Malak Ibrahim El Moussaoui – Lebanese University

Forced Convection Solar Drying: Agro-Food Application

Most food crops in Lebanon (fruits and vegetables, Kishk) are sun dried in open air, a commonly adopted method for its zero cost, however it affects the quality of the final product and has limits for large scale production. In order to overcome the constraints, minimize hazards and contamination of product during the drying process, and to reduce the time of drying, Dr. El Moussaoui is proposing the use of a closed system composed of a drying chamber, blowers, heat pump, solar water collector, photovoltaic panels and accumulators. This system avoids the contamination agents and hazards getting into the product during drying, conditions the air used for drying in order to reduce drying time and improve the quality of final product by controlling drying parameters, and benefits from solar energy that helps in conditioning of drying air and almost reduces the operational cost of system to zero while respecting environment.

This project can improve food drying process and quality, thus expand dried food production and export by promoting large scale production. It contributes to improve the economic status of poor families and farmers in rural zones, especially woman who make up a considerable part of laborers in the agriculture sector.

Dr. Hiba Rajha – Saint Joseph University

Polyphenol recovery from agri-food byproducts (grape pomaces) for powder production to be used as a food additive for different food matrices (nuts, chips, biscuits).

At an environmental level, problems related to grape pomace disposal could emerge when burying these byproducts since this could affect the soil and the groundwater quality, the flora and fauna. When used as fertilizers, they even might prevent germination properties. Consequently, the valorization of those byproducts reduces wastes and permits the purification of added-value products. The assimilation of grape pomaces into the food cycle, avoids thus, major environmental problems, especially those of the phenols increased chemical and biochemical oxygen demands.

At a technical level, the conventional industrial phenolic compounds extraction from grape pomace is a batch or continuous process, that uses organic solvents, namely, ethanol, methanol, etc. Moderate temperatures (50°C – 60°C) and rather long times (3 – 20 hr) are performed in the conventional extraction process. The conventional technique consumes a lot of energy and might use toxic and polluting solvents.

Dr. Rajha has conceived Ired-Irrad®, a newly-patented infrared (IR) extraction technique at Faculté des Sciences, Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth. IR technology is based on heating the plant material with IR radiation. Therefore, she will be testing IR radiations as an energy source in the processes of the extraction of bioactive compounds. Infrareds have many advantages compared to classical methods, including the low energy consumption and the high quality of the obtained extracts. Water (green and GRAS) can be used as a solvent. This technique is environment friendly.

Dr. Rajha’s  is planning on adding polyphenol powder to nuts, chips, biscuits, cereal bars and chocolate, therefore creating a new product with a high added-value and health beneficial effects.

Dr. Talal Salem – Notre Dame University

Concrete Masonry Units Thermally Enhanced with Phase Changing Materials

The project addresses the development of a thermal energy storage systems based on sensible and latent energy storage by designing and optimizing a Concrete Masonry Unit (CMUs) that is enhanced with Micro Encapsulated Phase Changing Materials (ME-PCMs).

With the prevailing need to develop new alternatives to reduce the thermal loads in the building sector and to increase the thermal comfort of its occupants and since there exist a great usage of CMUs in the building of exterior façade walls in the MENA construction industry, Dr. Salem’s solution is to develop an enhanced CMU that incorporates ME-PCMs that offers a better envelope thermal resilience.

Next 6 months

It is expected that within the 6-month coaching period, the four grantees would have completed their Customer Discovery (i.e. validating their customer segment(s), better estimate of their market size, refine their value proposition, develop a competitive map); have refined and/or developed their prototype (or Minimum Viable Product); started to test their research (technology or product) in the field; and finally be ready for the acceleration phase at Berytech.

Ramy Boujawdeh, Deputy GM at Berytech and Director of the ACT Smart Innovation Hub Initiative comments, “Berytech’s objective in targeting research institutions and academia is to improve the transfer of knowledge and technology between research institutes and businesses and make it easier for Industry to access and invest in the knowledge and research available. This will lead to the development and optimization of solutions associated with Agri-Food and Cleantech so that new products and services can be created and will hopefully constitute an incentive for more proactive support by the public sector to innovation and research.”

Upon the successful completion of the research cycle, the winners will be invited to participate in the Acceleration Phase of Berytech’s Agrytech and Cleanergy Programs.

Entrepreneurship Bootcamp

The four teams will be attending a 3-day entrepreneurship bootcamp with seasoned experts in May 2020. The Bootcamp’s program focuses on teamwork, networking, mentoring sessions with international and local experts, learning, applied knowledge and exchange of expertise.

It aims at helping the researchers explore market, funding, commercialization and business opportunities, as well as develop a valid business model for their innovation. The teams are joining six others enrolled in the Innovation Factory Program funded by the EU and managed by Berytech and Anima Investment Network under THE NEXT SOCIETY.

As the name implies, the ACT Smart (Agri-Food & CleanTech) Innovation Hub is a new out-of-the-box approach by Berytech aimed at strengthening business advancement, economic growth and job creation in the Agri-food and Cleantech sectors in Lebanon. Read more about it here.

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