Infinite Possibilities

École de technologie supérieure

In the fields of academia, any university needs time in order to develop a reputation for excellence. Harvard was founded in 1636; the history of MIT can be traced back to 1861; and Cambridge University is over eight hundred years old. Yet, École de Technologie Supérieure (ÉTS) in Montreal has been around for only about forty years and it has already earned a reputation for excellence…

ÉTS provides university level instruction and conducts research in the fields of applied engineering and technology. The school specifically orients its activities towards cooperative education, applied research and technology transfer. Louis Marquis, the interim Director General, speaks about this outstanding school of higher learning and gives an insight as to how it has been able to gain such accolades so early in its history.

Look at the school’s statistics and its success is obvious. Almost one out of every four engineers in Quebec is a graduate of ÉTS. The placement rate of graduates is one hundred percent and each graduate receives an average of eight job offers. Nearly two thirds of graduates go on to find careers in small and medium enterprises and industry.

ÉTS is ranked as number one in Quebec for the total number of engineering diplomas awarded annually and number four in Canada. For such a young university, this is an impressive feat and indicative of things to come.

ÉTS ranks among the 20 most research intensive universities in Canada. Seventy-five percent of the school’s research activities are conducted in collaboration with industry, working with an average of over two hundred companies. Seventy-five percent of the school’s total funding is generated directly by the aforementioned research activities.

With thirty research chairs (seven of whom are institutional research chairs), ÉTS ranks amongst the top twenty research universities in Canada; among non-medical research universities, it is in the top five. “We also have something very interesting called CENTECH which is an incubator whose mission is to encourage students to create technology businesses inside the school. The research we do here is very high profile. There is also a lot going on with the field of electrical engineering and transportation engineering.”

CENTECH (Centre de l’entrepreneurship technologique) at ÉTS is presently working on over fifty developing businesses or projects involving over one hundred entrepreneurs and nearly five hundred employees. Thirty of these projects are in the incubation stage. “It is very promising and has become a catalyst for the development of all technological start ups and their management teams. We believe that it will contribute to the overall prosperity of Quebec and Canada.”

As an example of the type of research that ÉTS is tackling, Professor Frédéric Monette, an expert in the field of waste water treatment, is currently working on a way to improve upon the process and has found an original solution to water contaminated with phosphorous and nitrogen nutrients. The answer is to isolate the nitrogen and treat it separately. He believes that water management should be viewed from a much broader perspective that encompasses our urban way of life. He hopes that his work will lead to concrete applications soon for an issue that affect us all.

In other cutting edge technological developments, Patrice Seers, a professor of Mechanical Engineering at ÉTS and the holder of the ÉTS Institutional Research Chair in Biofuel Combustion for Transport, wants to reinvent the engine in the era of biofuels. “It’s all about getting optimal performance using the smallest quantity of fuel and generating the least amount of polluting emissions.” To do this, he is analyzing fuel sprays emitted by the injector. He assesses their trajectory, gauges their speed, evaluates their viscosity, and examines their size in order to enhance performance. This is all taking place within the government’s AUTO21 program and is carried out in partnership with the University of Toronto and the University of Windsor. So far, $300,000 in funding has been raised. Professor Seers’ results may help biofuel producers by defining the properties biofuels must have to ensure optimum use.

ÉTS has more than thirty student clubs that participate in yearly engineering competitions around the world. They win many of these competitions because the school’s programs are very hands-on (a philosophy that comes from the top, as half of the school’s board members have a background in industry), providing real-world experience. As can be seen through the efforts of its student clubs, ÉTS stands for excellence in design and engineering. The school’s SONIA team (Système d’Opération Nautique Intelligent et Autonome) was the champion at the fourteenth annual Robosub competition in San Diego, California. The undergraduate student association built an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) to navigate an obstacle course of real life tasks for the competition. Another club gained a first place finish at the Upstate New York Concrete Canoe Competition held by the American Society of Civil Engineers. At the Formula SAE (for SAE student members to conceive, design, fabricate and compete with single-seat formula-style racing cars), they were champions at the FSAE West competition in California.

ÉTS is also involved in projects and partnerships with organizations such as Engineers Without Borders. It is active in Africa and some parts of South America. Its desire is to expand engineering activities around the world. “At the international level we are currently elaborating on a policy initiative that will allow us to have a very strong presence in all five continents.”

Over the next decade, there is the potential for up to $6 billion in investments in the neighbourhood around the School. The Quartier de l’innovation de Montréal (QI) would take up approximately half of that number. The QI, an “innovative ecosystem innovation in the heart of Montreal”, is located in an area that was renowned as a dynamic industrial hub in the nineteenth century. “It represents an ambition and a vision for ÉTS to be really integrated in its immediate environment, which is Montreal. QI is a vector around academic institutions which incorporates industrial, social and cultural factors. As an ecosystem we want to encourage social, cultural and technological innovations.” It is the most comprehensive model of integration for any university in Canada.

QI is located in an area of Montreal known as Griffintown, which was an early centre of industry in Canada. Over time, it became completely devastated as people left and businesses failed. “That part of Montreal became a dead city, and was very rundown, but it is well situated with a huge potential for development or revitalization. QI is the catalyst of everything we want to do in that part of Montreal. We want the revitalization, but with a vision that is unique to permit the integration of very different and plural components.” ÉTS hopes that QI will become a model for sustainable development.

Mr. Marquis invites people to come and see the university as by doing so, they would instantly get the sense of what ÉTS is all about. “It’s a very flexible but complex organization which, day after day, is directed towards finding solutions and elaborating on projects with the conviction that anything is possible. The last ten years have been tremendous and nothing indicates that it will stop – quite the contrary. We are engaged in a very bright future which is not an abstract vision but is very concrete.”

At the beginning of the year, the latest surveys conducted with 400 opinion leaders came out showing that ÉTS is considered at the top of the field in Quebec in engineering education. When they were asked as to what the most impressive engineering school is in Quebec, the typical refrain was, “ÉTS!”

ÉTS may have only been around for forty years, but it has positioned itself firmly in the engineering market. More than 2900 new students enrol every year in its twenty-two undergraduate study programs. The school has about 7,000 students in total with more than 1,600 in its fifty-three graduate programs and nearly 350 in its doctorate level programs. Its scientific student clubs excel at international competitions; its professors are doing research that could change the way we view the world; and, proving its abilities, it is working in collaboration with a multitude of corporations.

So, what is next for ÉTS? “We are known as an engineering school but now, our target is to become the engineering school which has the strongest influence on the development of small and medium size IT enterprises in Quebec. We will include other university courses to become more well-rounded. That is our ambition.” From what we have seen thus far from ÉTS, that seems like a logical and readily attainable goal and outcome.

May 25, 2020, 4:57 PM EDT