This article was originally published in the London Free Press by Norman DeBono.

A tour of an $8-million water research centre at London’s Greenway pollution control plant Friday was rife with bad puns.

The fragrance in the air was called “the smell of opportunity.”

It may be no joke.

The centre has drawn attention from “dozens” of industries wanting to do research here. London’s Trojan Technologies has already set up shop.

“I am confident we will see international companies – when they see the capability of this plant – coming to London to do research work here,” said Marvin DeVries, president of Trojan.

Globally, water research is hindered by the lack of ability to test on a large scale. London’s research centre is the first globally to solve that problem.

“This gives us complete flexibility in an environmentally controlled space to do research at a full scale. That is unprecedented,” DeVries said.

The city hopes it will be a small step from businesses doing research here to locating in London.

“We have had dozens of inquiries already, many from outside the province and outside Canada, interested in coming to London,” said Kapil Lakhotia, chief executive of the London Economic Development Corp.

Mayor Matt Brown said the centre has “technology that could alter the way water is treated. It is one of a kind around the world and will be a magnet for research,” he said.

Western University will work with the centre to aid business in their research, said David Tweddell, senior consultant for strategic initiatives at Western.

“We will participate when and where it makes sense, and if the business wants to work on their own, they can,” he said.

“It is all about what is value for the company if they have technology… and don’t know what they can do with it, that is where we may get involved.”

The centre will fall under the umbrella of the Southern Ontario Water Consortium, an agency funded by FedDev Ontario and nine university and community partners, from Guelph to the Windsor region.

Before the research centre opened, Trojan would put equipment in a trailer, park it on site at the plant and pump water into it, DeVries said. But that doesn’t offer up the water quality the centre does.

“We are taking equipment and testing it on real effluent – it is very exciting.”

Trojan, in business for nearly 40 years, offers municipal water purification in several countries and recently has been cleaning ballast water on ships as part of an initiative to end invasive species in water systems.

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The research centre at London’s Greenway pollution control plant was developed with $4 million from FedDev Ontario and $4 million from the city.

Began operating earlier this year but opened its doors Friday for the first time to show off what it can do.

Research centre allows businesses to test their technology – such as water purification systems – on real municipal effluent on a large scale.

Centre can process about 5.4 million litres of effluent a day, equal to a town of 15,000 people.

All of Greenway handles more than 225 million litres daily.