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London company among 12 winners of sustainable, Canada-made supply challenge

A London, Ont., company is among the winners of the Next Generation Manufacturing Canada’s (NGen) Strategic Supply Challenge. via Carmina de Young/Facebook

Carmina De Young Fashion Design Inc. in London, Ont., is one of 12 winners of a total of $27 million in funding through Next Generation Manufacturing Canada’s (NGen) Strategic Supply Challenge.

The competition challenged companies to use advanced manufacturing technologies “to build a sustainable, made-in-Canada, cost competitive supply of critical products that can be used in Canada’s fight against COVID-19 and beyond.”

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Carmina De Young Fashion Design and partners Lifecycle Revive Inc. in Brantford and Lifecycle Health Inc. in London are developing a self-contained system for 100 per cent Canadian-made disposable personal protective equipment (PPE) like isolation gowns, coveralls, masks, caps and foot covers.

Its approach involves using polypropylene waste from hospitals and recycling it into a non-woven textile used to make the disposable PPE. NGen says the process involves treatments to remove contaminants from the reclaimed polypropylene to ensure that the resulting PPE is safe and meets Health Canada standards.

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Lina Bowden, partner and CFO of Carmina de Young, says the women’s fashion company decided to pivot to PPE once the pandemic hit and “within a matter of weeks,” landed a subcontract to make gowns for Health Canada.

From there, they started looking at how to manufacture PPE in a sustainable way.

“This model that we are introducing that is funded by NGen is a full circular value chain where we are going to see gowns and other PPE recycled from hospitals, sent to this plant in Brantford that’s going to convert or reprocess that recycled raw material into pellets, and then those pellets will be brought to London, Ontario, to be making this textile,” Bowden said, adding that the textile plant should be ready by the summer.

“It was just really starting with a blank sheet of paper and saying, ‘how can we get creative to first create a business that thinks about the environment and also thinks about people, not just profit?’ And that’s kind of been our mantra at Carmina de Young all along.”

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The winning projects involve companies and partnerships across Canada.

They include a collaboration between Providence Therapeutics Holdings Inc. in Toronto and Northern RNA Inc. in Calgary, involving the development of a made-in-Canada COVID-19 mRNA vaccine; a partnership between IPC Technologies dba Prescientx in Cambridge, Ont., and BIG-nano in Waterloo, Ont., to scale up production of a disposable, self-sanitizing, sterilizable, reusable N100 face mask; and Titan Clean Energy Project Corp. in Craik, Sask., with partners Panther Industries Inc. in Davidson, Sask., BIG-nano in Waterloo, K+S Potash Canada in Saskatoon and Canada Masq in Richmond Hill, Ont., for a process to produce biodegradable melt-blown fabric for use in PPE and HEPA filters, among other winners.

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“These projects are not simply investments in products to address the pandemic,” said NGen CEO Jayson Myers.

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“They are investments in advanced manufacturing processes and technologies that will help meet the immediate needs created by COVID-19, while also developing a sustainable, globally competitive and cost-effective domestic supply that can be applied to industry needs beyond the pandemic.”

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MP Ali Ehsassi, parliamentary secretary to the innovation, science and industry minister, says the products developed by these “innovative Canadian companies and supported through NGen, will allow businesses to improve the resiliency and reliability of their critical supply networks to meet their immediate needs, while creating world-leading manufacturing capabilities that will support Canadian competitiveness in the long term.”

NGen says the winning projects were chosen by a panel of independent experts and selected based on current critical needs as well as long-term viability and their ability to meet required product and production quality standards.

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