Speaker:  Harry Ing 
President, Bubble Technology 
Industries Inc.
Topic:  Founding and Evolution of BTI 
Location:  J.L. Gray Centre 
Deep River, Ont.
Date:  April 24, 1997 

Summary published in North Renfrew Times, April 30, 1997:

Founding and Evolution of BTI

by Al Rose

Dr. Harry Ing, founder and president of AECL's one successful spin-off business spoke to a capacity audience last thursday evening on the subject of his company, a fixture in the Upper Ottawa Valley that everyone knows about but few have any clear concept of, either from a scientific or a business perspective.
Ing went into technical detail far enough for his listeners to realise that any preconceived ideas they might have were at best inadequate.  The term "bubbles" is deceptively simple.

The common perception is that neutrons passing through a vial of some simple gel leave bubbles and one can count these later to see how many there were.

Ing explained that neutrons, possessing no electrical charge are very hard to detect but at the same time must be avoided because of their destructive biological effect.  Since the nuclear and space industries encounter neutrons in the workplace there has always been a keen interest in finding some way to detect them in time to permit workers to avoid exposure, and to measure accurately exposures that do occur.
The discovery made at CRL by Ing and his colleagues was that a superheated polymer could be produced that was stable until hit by a neutron, which event caused an immediate conversion to vapour with a resultant explosion.  By dispersing this superheated polymer in finely divided form, like a mist, in another elastic polymer each neutron passing through would contact only one particle and cause one tiny explosion, thereby creating a tiny bubble which would remain suspended in the elastic polymer.  Ing said that if a detector is worn next to the skin one can actually feel the ticks created by the bubble formation.  When this discovery was announced Ing said that it created immediate and widespread scientific excitement.  It was evident therefor that a large market existed for the product if it could be developed to a commercial stage.
The major part of Ing's talk ranged over the whole spectrum of problems inherent in trying to convert pure scientists into businessmen, and demonstrated clearly why BTI is the only success story to come out of government efforts to spin off AECL technology into profit making businesses.
According to Ing AECL started by forming a Business Unit, with Ing doing market research because of his familiarity with international research in this field.  Detectors were manufactured at CRL and sold in small lots but AECL's administrative structure was incompatible with a business operation, overhead swamping any possible income from sales.  In addition the technology was not sufficiently developed to allow privatisation so the idea of creating a spin off business from scratch was proposed and the government liked it, imagining this as the flagship of further spin offs to create "Silicon Valley North" out of technology waiting at CRL to be exploited.
Attempts to find investors interested in buying in to an industry located at Chalk River failed and AECL was against the idea of local investors taking the risk associated with an untried venture.
Two Canadian entities finally agreed to back a Chalk River based facility and BTI was privatised in April 1988, with Harry Ing as President.  Ing noted that the transition was personally very difficult, including alienation of colleagues and power struggles in which he was a pawn.  He said that the AECL\BTI relationship deteriorated rapidly and there was no further nurturing from AECL and no further spin offs of technology.  Combined with global upheavals such as the break up of the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe plus the general economic downturn in the early nineties, Ing felt that BTI would not have survived except for strong support from the Canadian Space Agency and DND.
Ing said that it took six years to develop a satisfactory product.  Lack of experience in production, marketing and distribution techniques was very difficult to overcome.
The company has come through all of that and is now a well established firm with a Board of Directors, a President and a staff of twenty one.  BTI combines business, applied research and pure research in a high tech company dedicated to expanding its product line, its profitability and the frontiers of science in the field of radiation protection.
In closing, Ing noted that BTI markets products other than the personal dosimeters usually associated with the company.  They will supply space satellite detectors for the next Mars mission.  BTI also markets a neutron spectrometer called ROSPEC which is the reference neutron spectrometer for NATO.
Dr. Ing retains his interest in scientific research but one is left with the impression that he has evolved primarily into a hard nosed businessman, the process having been somewhat painful.