BC Solar Tech Firm Receives $250K IRAP Research Grant

North Vancouver company Aurora Solar Technologies (Aurora) has secured an R&D grant from the National Research Council (NRC). NRC funding will allow Aurora to improve its production process and secure new patents.

Aurora develops and delivers inline process measurement, analysis, and control systems for solar cell manufacturers, and is a major contributor to the growing field of renewable energy. Aurora’s products are used by some of the world’s most advanced and respected cell companies, and it has partners in all major solar manufacturing markets.

The federal grant will provide $250K towards advancement of data science technology for solar cell manufacturing.  

Funding comes through the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP). Administered by the NRC, IRAP research grants are available to organizations across the country who are facing key technical challenges, to help offset labour and contractor costs associated with R&D projects.

IRAP Funding Will Help Aurora Achieve Industry 4.0 Standards

Aurora’s products measure solar cell manufacturing processes; they reveal material properties, assess the performance of fabrication tools, and enable process engineers and production-line operators to quickly detect and correct problems.

Aurora’s R&D project will leverage the $250K in government funding to support advancement of the data science technology that underpins Aurora’s Insight production-line analysis product and bring it up to Industry 4.0 standards.

Aurora’s new product will answer a key technical need in the market. Cell manufacturers face growing challenges in characterizing and controlling production variation, which limits production volumes and profits. The new iteration of Insight will make it faster, easier, and less expensive for Aurora’s manufacturing customers to find and act on yield-increasing opportunities in their facilities.

In addition to the IRAP funding, the company recently received two patent grants, one in Europe and one in the US, related to its infrared-based inline measurement technology.

Aurora’s Growth through Canadian Government Funding

This isn’t the first time that Aurora has leveraged research and development grants.

In 2017, Aurora received $380K in IRAP funding for research related to its Decima Infrared Reflectometry technology.

At the time, Decima had the capability to measure limited properties of solar cell emitters, but Canadian government funding allowed Aurora to accelerate the extension of this capability to other solar cell properties that are critical to quality. The new technology broadened Aurora’s market offering substantially.

About the Industrial Research Assistance Program

IRAP is a Canadian government funding program that provides research and development grants to companies facing significant technical challenges. Successful applicants to the program can receive up to 60-80% of eligible project costs related to labour and contractors. Last year, IRAP received an additional $700M in funding from the federal budget, to be distributed over five years.

IRAP subsequently increased its funding maximum, so that awarded companies can now receive up to $10M. 

Another company in the battery industry, Hibar Systems, also recently received IRAP funding and was able to take advantage of this higher maximum. Hibar received approval for $2M in April of this year to support the development of a high-speed Lithium-ion battery manufacturing system to meet growing market demand for mass electric energy storage solutions. Hibar was purchased by Tesla a few months after receiving funding approval from IRAP.

If your company is interested in learning more about IRAP and whether this program is the right fit for your research and innovation projects, please download Mentor Works’ IRAP vs. SR&ED slide deck.

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Sunnie holds a PhD in English from Dalhousie University, and has published her writing in several academic journals, as well as in magazines, newspapers, and blogs. She combines years of experience as a professor in English with practical experience in the private sector as a trainer in writing and analytical thinking.

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