“Education is a complex process, and especially in science it can be a hard process—some community makes it endurable, but TWU’s incredible community makes it a joy.” —Benjamin Britton (’09)
Benjamin Britton (’09) has been involved in some incredible things in the decade since he graduated from Trinity Western. One of the most significant happened in 2017. As a result of his Ph.D. project at Simon Fraser University, Britton co-founded Ionomer Innovations Inc., a company that specializes in the development and commercialization of ion exchange membranes.
“Ion-exchange materials are foundational components for fuel cells and water electrolyzers, as well as advanced batteries, supercapacitors, chemical generators, and industrial water treatment systems,” says Britton. He believes that by advancing these solutions, they will be able to help create a truly renewable clean energy economy and a green, circular industrial economy.
Funded by a SFU’s scholarship and three venture prizes, the company has grown in substantial ways. With a lot of help from his long-time mentor and now board chair, Britton negotiated with Simon Fraser University for the IP rights and raised initial financing for the company. In less than two years, he grew the company to a team of 22 and won a significant grant from the pre-eminent Canadian agency for clean technologies, SDTC.
In acknowledgement of these and other incredible achievements, Britton was presented one of Business in Vancouver’s 2018 Top Forty under 40 awards.
These are exciting times for Britton, but through it all, he remains humble and grateful for every step that led him here. According to Britton, one of the biggest influences on his success today was his undergraduate studies at Trinity Western University.
The Benefit of Studying Science at Trinity Western
His choice to study at Trinity Western came in part because his mother, Pamela Linkewich, (’82) had such an incredible experience. When he arrived on a preview day, he became convinced of the merits of liberal arts education.
Britton believes that Trinity Western students have an advantage over other science programs in the country because of their smaller class sizes, increased one-on-one interaction with professors, and extended lab time.
“TWU gives you incredibly more lab-hours of experience than a typical science degree, even apart from thesis work,” says Britton, adding that he’s taken polymer chemistry at three institutions, and Trinity Western courses packed at least double the content, adding many key components that help prepare one for life as a research scientist.
A few years later, when starting his Ph.D., Britton says he found himself capable to keeping up with the requirements due to his extra familiarity with the equipment and experience in labs.
Britton adds that “Trinity Western classes challenge students to be motivated, self-directed, knowledge-synthesizing learners in a meaningful way, which is the only way prepare a student for life in grad studies and industry.”
A Call To Chemistry
After earning both a B.A. in English and a B.Sc in Chemistry, Britton went on to study theology at Regent College. The choice to study theology might seem out of place, but for Britton, his faith has always informed his motivation to study and care for creation.
“God has imbued every scale with incredible wonders,” says Britton. “Having a vision of Shalom—the true flourishing of humanity and creation together—is an incredible driver and makes sense of both the help and the flak along the journey.”
But despite his love for theology, Britton had an encounter with professor Loren Wilkinson that challenged him to leave the arts behind.
“Just do chemistry, Ben,” Wilkinson said, unbidden. This comment became one of the catalysts that led Britton to take his Ph.D. at Simon Fraser University, where he truly thrived.
Building a Better Tomorrow
“The sky’s the limit,” says Britton of the things he hopes to achieve in the coming years. “I really hope to build a notable company in Canada that drives adoption of the technologies we can see today and drives the technologies of the future.”
Britton says success for his company will be aiding in the reduction of the world’s energy use, in addition to bringing about a decarbonized, circular economy many years—if not decades—sooner than otherwise expected.
“With the amount we’ve been able to industrially develop and scale our initial product to date, we’re at early stages of engagement with more than 50 companies that will be at the forefront of the energy transition,” says Britton, “including many notable multinationals in engineering, electronics, water, and automotives. We’re coming in with the right materials at the right time when people really are looking to start to scale up efficient, clean tech to meet global challenges.”
All in all, Britton couldn’t be more excited to be using his gifts and talents to aid in making the world a better place, all to the glory of God.