Built Expressions – IC-IMPACTS

India Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability

Research is a category where an experiment is conducted to determine a new innovative way to improve the methodologies, to discover solutions for major challenges in a specific field or sector and to increase the knowledge on the subject. India Canada Centre for Innovative Multidisciplinary Partnerships to Accelerate Community Transformation and Sustainability (IC-IMPACTS) was established by Canadian Networks of Centers and Excellence (NCE) in the year 2013. It is the first and sole Centre formed by the Canadian Center of Excellence in collaboration with three leading universities of Canada, namely The University of British Columbia, the University of Alberta and the University of Toronto. The Centre focuses on integrated water management, sustainable and safe infrastructure and public health. Dr. Nemkumar Banthia, CEO and Scientific Director, IC-IMPACTS, says, “It regulates on the quality of water by developing new sensor technologies and to treat portable and waste water, it ensures safe infrastructure by working on new technologies to ascertain on concrete structures and monitor the structural health of civil infrastructure, most importantly works on the health of the community in terms of disease resistance drugs and invent new drugs to fight diseases.” IC-IMPACTS brings together a group of International researchers, industry innovators, community leaders, government agencies and community organizations from India and Canada to work on the key challenges that affects the normal life of the people in India and Canada. The Center is working rigorously to come up with integrated solutions and development to improve the quality of water, ensure safety and sustainability of civil infrastructure and improve health among both the Nations.

Emergence of IC-IMPACTS

The Centre came into existence when a competition was launched by the Government of Canada in 2011 to establish India Canada Research Center of Excellence in order to strengthen the research ties between Canada and India in areas of mutual strategic importance. The overall goal of the initiative is to ‘generate social, economic, technological and health benefits in both countries’ and to enhance ‘international visibility and reputation of both countries as research leaders’. Three leading research universities of Canada’s joined together to form the Centre and they are – The University of British Columbia, University of Toronto and University of Alberta who decided to create an unprecedented opportunity to form a unique partnership that brought together the strengths of all three and which could provide a united platform of research excellence to engage with India. “The signature partnership of India and Canada wanted to bring about a change in the lives of the people of both Nations by performing a research on the challenges faced by these communities and this was the ultimate vision of the Center. The collaboration between two countries brought together Indian and Canadian researchers, community groups, industry organizations and various levels of government to determine how best to make a difference in communities and what the most critical challenges were facing the communities,” adds Dr. Banthia. The intense conversations among the people of two nations brought out the challenges of creating ‘healthy communities’ emerged: health and sustainability of infrastructures to keep people safe and enable the effective movement of trade and people, safer and greener construction practices and materials that reduced air, ground and water pollution; health of water to ensure that there was clean water for safe drinking and proper water treatment to minimize disease and health issues arising from human and industrial contamination of water, and overall health of the people who live and work in communities so they can effectively engage in economic activity and provide for themselves and their families. Al these conversations led to the emergence of IC-IMPACTS a critical mass of expert researchers spread across 18 academic institutions in Canada and India, leading industry innovators in companies and industrial associations, government departments at local, state and national levels and community organizations in Canada and India. With the support of partners, and the leadership of the three Canadian Universities, IC-IMPACTS vision was developed into a proposal for the Canada India Research Centre of Excellence competition, and in November 2012, was declared the winning proposal. IC-IMPACTS officially came into existence on January 18, 2013.

Vision of IC-IMPACTS

It mainly focuses on three important areas namely, Water Management, Sustainable and Safe Infrastructure and Public Health but ensuring safe and sustainable infrastructure is the most important vision of IC-IMPACTS. In order to provide a healthy community our infrastructure needs to be safe and sustainable, the ways in which movement of goods and peoples do and can occur, and the infrastructures that enable community members to obtain clean drinking water and have wastewater properly segregated and treated. The Indian government has committed over $1 trillion to infrastructure development as part of the 12th five-year plan. Canada has an infrastructure deficit of over 2 billion and it is growing steadily. Climate change has significantly affected the expected lifetime of many structures, roadways and bridges, and as a consequence we are evermore witness to catastrophic news stories of collapses and loss of life from deteriorating structures and highway infrastructures.  The IC-IMPACTS program of structural health monitoring and strengthening technologies will allow for early detection of structural deficiencies and will allow targeted, cost-effective strengthening and replacement reinforcements. Further, with thermal energy processes creating several million tons of fly-ash per year in India, the pollution from energy generation is staggering and represents a major source of air and ground pollution. However, ‘green concretes’ can use a significant portion of these fly-ash wastes into concrete materials thus both providing a very durable construction building process while simultaneously reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

India and Canada Infrastructure Scenario

India and Canada share a similar kind of scenario when it comes to infrastructure, both the countries are facing a devastation scenario of infrastructure and immediately need some remedial measure to health monitoring of buildings, bridges, roadways, and other types of strategic structures such as damns, power plants, etc. The catastrophe arises through different weather elements, construction practices and types of reinforcement applied. This led to the emergence of new technologies to strengthen the concrete structures and to come up with robust technologies to withstand in any kind of weather conditions. In terms of green constructions both the countries are using agro based products and indigenous fibers. These differences as created an opportunity to share the strengths among both the countries. For example, India has a vast knowledge in preservation of heritage monuments whereas Canada has little experience in this regard. Both Canada and India have outstanding researchers working in the area of Safe and Sustainable Infrastructure. Through IC-IMPACTS, known infrastructure research leaders such as llT Roorkee, llT Bombay, Building Fire Research Centre, and others are now collaborating with world experts from Canada at the Universities of British Columbia, University of Toronto and University of Alberta.


IC-IMPACTS as only were in existence since January 18, 2013. However, there are already some important achievements to report which typify the types of outcomes we aspire to in the Centre. IC-IMPACTS have brought its partnership base to the City of Nagpur which has resulted in the creation of a jointly defined, collaborative research program that is now underway.  IC-IMPACTS has also brought several new partnerships to Indian industry and created new research partnerships. Indian expertise has also been brought to bear on a port project in Canada. Thus the strengths of Canada are being brought to bear on India and the strengths of India are helping Canada. It is a win-win model for the future of both countries.

Sustainability in Indian Context

Indian Construction industry is taking every measure to provide a safe and sustainable infrastructure.

But they are a lot of things that are been ignored by the industry, one such is the carbon footprint, which is increasing tremendously over here even though we produce eco friendly materials and produce high performance structures. The various structural failures that have occurred recently point to the fact that a number of these structures have deteriorated to the point of being unsafe. Therefore IC-IMPACTS is working on three important areas to ensure safety and sustainability.

  1. Developing low carbon foot-print durable construction materials for both new construction and repair. This involves using bagasse ash, natural fibers, recycled aggregate and fly ash and a whole host of agricultural and industrial wastes. In the case of fly ash, the group is working on improving the reactivity of fly ash by treating coal before its use in the thermal power plants and by improving the processes in the plant such that the resulting fly ash is cleaner and free from contaminants such as heavy metals.
  2. Developing health monitoring techniques to assess the condition and performance of structures in service using both periodic and continuous monitoring. The latter involves monitoring structural health using fiber-optic and piezo-resistive sensors embedded in structures over the Internet.
  3. Developing cost effective strengthening techniques for fortification of structures against loss of capacity due to deterioration in materials, increases in design loads, and earthquakes.

Funds and Tie-ups

The Federal Government of Canada as initially awarded $13.8million; it was the contribution for the centre for its first five years of operations. Through the contributions of partners, IC-IMPACTS has received commitments of both cash and in-kind for another nearly $18 million so far. These commitments are targeted to three main functions: research, training and application of technology solutions in partner communities.

We have collaborated with the IITs in order to create a strong network with the researchers of both the nations who’ll be able to tackle problems very steadily and find solutions for it. “Through the creation of networks of researchers we will also create roadways for graduate training thus creating future researchers who graduate with their own international collaboration networks. Further, this network will also help us in starting a joint entrepreneurial venture among the two countries and provide a smooth pathway for trade among us,” he adds.

Experimental Endeavor

Performing a research on a specific agenda provides an answer or solution to an issue very effectively. New technologies selected for development will improve the quality of drinking water, prevent intermixing of drinking and waste water systems, and strengthen water infrastructure against damage from seismic activity and corrosion due to more frequent climate change-induced severe weather events. Projects under this theme will also substantially improve the health of populations by reducing air pollution from cement manufacturing and addressing water contamination. The cross-cutting research foci of the Safe and Sustainable Infrastructure theme are (i) condition assessment sensing and structural health monitoring, (ii) service life extension of structures and strengthening for earthquakes, (iii) new sustainable materials development, and,(iv) conservation of heritage water infrastructure. Recently IC-IMPACTS has launched several specific infrastructure research projects around the following topics: conservation of heritage masonry structures within  Cauvery basin waterworks, modeling and assessment of deficient and repaired structures, and using smart fiber reinforced polymers for retrofitting deteriorating infrastructure. Other specific research projects will be launched within the coming months.

Future Plans

IC-IMPACTS was established very recently, but in a short span of time it as achieved great heights too. In the short term, IC-IMPACTS is hosting a ‘Water for Health’ workshop in Faridkot, Punjab and then in Delhi in November 2013. In February 2014, IC-IMPACTS are collaborating with partners for a major Infrastructure workshop in Delhi and a follow up transportation infrastructure workshop in Canada.  In the medium term, IC-IMPACTS is working to fully unleash its research program and have new technology applications beginning to emerge for testing within partner communities within two years. Significant training and capacity building programs are also under development and these are expected to be unveiled within the next year.  Ultimately, IC-IMPACTS is striving to train more than 700 graduate students, researchers, professional practitioners and operations managers. Beyond its research and training specific initiatives, IC-IMPACTS is hoping to become a facilitator of partnership development between India and Canada and to have partner communities realize a significant overall improvement in their health and prosperity.

In short span the vision and initiative of this body will bring about a change in the lives of India and Canada communities. The enormous effort put in by the researchers to provide good quality of water, ensure safe infrastructure and sustainability and the most importantly assure a well improved healthy community among the two nations are the ultimate mission of the Center, which also maintains a good partnership in sharing the thoughts and technologies for a good purpose. Presently the Center is working on their mission very intensely.


Dr. Nemkumar Banthia is Professor, Distinguished University Scholar and Senior Canada Research Chair in Infrastructure Rehabilitation at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada. Dr. Banthia’s primary research interest is in fiber reinforced concrete, repair and strengthening, structural health monitoring, smart materials, non-destructive condition assessment and low carbon footprint construction materials.

Recently, Dr. Banthia was invited by the Canadian Prime Minister to lead a Canada-India Research of Excellence (CIRCE) in the areas of sustainable infrastructure, integrated water management and infectious diseases as its Scientific Director.

Dr. Banthia has received numerous awards including the WGHislop Award of the American Concrete Institute BC Chapter, four Best Paper Awards, the Wason Medal from the American Concrete Institute International,  Solutions Through Research Award of the British Columbia Innovation Council, Wolfson Merit Award of the Royal Society of the United Kingdom,  Distinguished Researcher Award of the Korea Concrete Institute, Killam Research Prize from the Killam Foundation and the Horst Leipholz Medal of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering. He is a fellow of the American Concrete Institute, Canadian Society for Civil Engineering, Indian Concrete Institute, Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Royal Society of Canada.