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Massive $900M in awards to transform university research


Waterloo, ON – Kirsty Duncan, the federal minister of science, was at the University of Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing today to announce funding of $900 million to 13 post-secondary institutions through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund. The fund strategically invests in areas where Canada’s postsecondary institutions can become global leaders in their respective research areas.

The initiatives being funded each focus on developing areas of competitive advantage. They include sustainably developing oceans; developing next-generation medical technologies; increasing the capacity, sustainability and safety of our food production systems; and improving human brain health.

“The Canada First Research Excellence Fund will equip Canada to respond to some of the most pressing issues it will face in the future: brain health, sustainable food and water supplies, environmental concerns, future energy supplies,” said Duncan. “The research supported through this fund will make the country stronger.”

Each of the initiatives was selected for funding following an open competitive process among Canadian post-secondary institutions. The competition was judged by a panel of Canadian and international scientific experts.

The funded projects are as follows:

Dalhousie University – award amount: $93,732,000. Project title: Safe and Sustainable Development of the Ocean Frontier. Canada’s reliance on ocean resources is escalating during a period when the ocean is changing rapidly. World-leading experts from Dalhousie University, the Memorial University of Newfoundland and the University of Prince Edward Island have developed a research program to address this challenge with an integrated set of research modules focused on: atmosphere-ocean interactions, shifting ecosystems, sustainable fisheries, sustainable aquaculture, marine safety, and ocean data capture and integrated information technology tools. Abstract

Laurentian University – award amount: $49,269,000. Project title: Metal Earth. Metal Earth will transform our understanding of metal endowment during Earth’s evolution; make Canada a world leader and innovator, through the open-source delivery of new knowledge, new quantitative exploration guidelines and new technology; and contribute to the expansion of Canada’s mineral wealth through new discoveries. Abstract

McGill University – award amount: $84,000,000. Project title: Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives. The central vision of the Healthy Brains for Healthy Lives initiative is to create a global centre for excellence, establish a hub for neuroinformatics and big data analysis, and accelerate translational discoveries that will improve brain health in Canada and around the world. The core of this effort will be the creation of a novel, advanced analytic platform for brain research—NeuroHub—which will lead to the development of new models to elucidate normal brain development, enhance classification of neurological and mental disorders, and better understand clinical outcomes for individuals. Abstract

Polytechnique Montréal – award amount: $35,625,000. Project title: The Montreal TransMedTech (MT2) Institute: An open-innovation ecosystem for the development of next generation medical technologies. The Montreal TransMedTech Institute initiative seeks to shape the future of diagnosis/prognosis, intervention, and medical technologies for complex diseases across all age groups. The objective is to accelerate the availability of new medical technologies or interventions, and their potential adoption by end-users. Abstract

Queen’s University – award amount: $63,744,000. Project title: Canadian Particle Astrophysics Research Centre. Particle astrophysics is the study of the fundamental properties of the building blocks of nature, and their influence on the evolution of structure in the universe. The questions being addressed are considered, worldwide, to be among the most important in physics today. The Canada First Research Excellence Fund offers an opportunity to enable Canadian scientists to continue their pre-eminence in this field. Abstract

Université de Montréal – award amount: $93,562,000. Project title: Data Serving Canadians: Deep Learning and Optimization for the Knowledge Revolution. Campus Montréal is proposing a transformative and far-reaching strategy that capitalizes on the unique and synergistic combination of machine learning / deep learning and operations research—the science of optimization. The strategy, which lies at the core of data-driven innovation, will pave the way to major scientific breakthroughs, allowing useful information to be efficiently extracted from massive data sets (machine learning) and turned into actionable decisions (operations). Abstract

University of Alberta – award amount: $75,000,000. Project title: Future Energy Systems Research Institute. The University of Alberta proposes to establish the Future Energy Systems Research Institute (FESRI) to develop a path to the responsible development and use of Canada’s multi-trillion-dollar energy resources, while facilitating a smooth transition to a lower-carbon energy economy. FESRI will build a new energy future for Canada, propelling our country to world leadership in energy technology development and use. Abstract

University of Calgary – award amount: $75,000,000. Project title: Global Research Initiative in Sustainable Low Carbon Unconventional Resources. The University of Calgary’s scientific strategy could significantly reduce the carbon footprint of unconventional resource development. The University of Calgary’s strategy tackles the core features that make extraction of these resources so carbon-intensive—namely, the high viscosity of heavy oil and bitumen, and the extremely low permeability of tight oil and gas reservoirs. Abstract

University of Guelph – award amount: $76,613,000. Project title: Food from Thought: Agricultural Systems for a Healthy Planet. The grand challenge is to develop systems that are capable of meeting the rising human demand for food while being resilient to climate change, and able to sustain healthy ecosystems, economies, and populations. Food from Thought would allow the University of Guelph to become the global leader in this field. Abstract

University of Saskatchewan – award amount: $77,840,000. Project title: Global Water Futures: Solutions to Water Threats in an Era of Global Change. By developing new, transdisciplinary science; new environmental monitoring systems and predictive modeling tools; and novel, user-focused approaches to putting new knowledge into action, Global Water Futures could become an international provider of urgently needed risk management technologies, decision-making tools, and other evidence-based solutions to complex water challenges. Abstract

University of Waterloo – award amount: $76,277,000. Project title:Transformative Quantum Technologies. Transformative Quantum Technologies will tackle three grand challenges in quantum device development: demonstrate a quantum computer that is beyond the ability for a classical processor to simulate; develop quantum sensors with applications in navigation, materials, biochemistry, medicine and other fields; and deploy useful, long-distance quantum communication / key distribution. Abstract

Western University – award amount: $66,000,000. Project title: BrainsCAN: Brain Health for Life. Researchers at Western University, along with their national and international academic and commercial partners, will deliver evidence-based assessments and interventions for the diagnosis and treatment of disorders of the brain. In partnership with the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, the BrainsCAN initiative will accelerate the university’s ability to deliver effective solutions to the grand challenge of maintaining brain function across the lifespan. Abstract

York University – award amount: $33,338,000. Project title: Vision: Science to Applications (VISTA). Blending psychophysical, physiological and computational approaches, VISTA will create a novel, interdisciplinary paradigm in visual neuroscience and computer vision. VISTA will propel Canada’s global leadership in vision research, which would translate into long-term economic benefits for Canada in four top-priority industry sectors: health and aging, robotics, 3D film and digital media, and surveillance and transportation. Abstract

This is the second Canada First Research Excellence Fund competition. In July 2015, five initiatives received funding worth $350 million in total.