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$1.5B research fund announces first successful funding recipients


Ottawa, ON – The federal government has announced the results of the first round of funding from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, which was launched late last year. A total of $350 million over seven years has been awarded to five major projects across the country.

The fund itself will provide a total of $1.5 billion over 10 years with the goal of enabling Canadian post-secondary institutions to excel globally in research areas that create long-term economic advantages for Canada.

The initial competition had a deadline of March this year. The successful projects are as follows:

Université LavalSentinel North project:

Université Laval is receiving $98 million for its Sentinel North initiative. The project brings together top Arctic researchers, sustainable development institutions, businesses and organizations, and includes partners such as Ericsson Canada Inc., TeraXion, Québec Photonic Network and the Nunavut Research Institute.

The project will be led by Marcel Babin, Canada excellence research chair in remote sensing of Canada’s new arctic frontier, and director of the Takuvik Joint International Laboratory (Université Laval/CNRS); and Dr. Yves De Koninck, scientific director at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec and director of research at the Centre intégré universitaire de santé et de services sociaux de la Capitale-Nationale.

“This cutting-edge research will strengthen our capacity to create a sustainable development approach for the North, taking into account the various factors affecting the Arctic and sub-Arctic ecosystems,” says Dr. Babin. “By integrating several innovative observation technologies in optics/photonics, Sentinel North will monitor both accurately and thoroughly the accelerated transformation of the northern environment.”

Université de SherbrookeQuantum Science to Quantum Technology project

The Université de Sherbrooke is receiving $33.5 million funding for its From Quantum Science to Quantum Technology project which brings together top computer technology and advanced manufacturing research institutions, businesses and organizations, including partners such as the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), IBM, the Microsoft Corporation, the Lockheed Martin Corporation and Google. The project aims to use quantum materials to develop MRI scanners the size of a small laptop and electricity grids that are vastly more efficient.

“This major initiative sits at the interface between quantum materials and the science of quantum computing,” says Alexandre Blais, principal investigator, Université de Sherbrooke. “The research at the junction of these two themes has enormous potential for discovery and innovation as a result of cross-fertilization: new materials offering a much greater information processing potential will help in the discovery of new methods for studying and testing quantum materials. Our research program aims to create a synergy between these themes while benefitting from the engineering know-how (particularly in micro- and nano-fabrication) of the researchers at the Université de Sherbrooke. “

University of British Columbia – Quantum Materials and Future Technologies

The University of British Columbia’s Quantum Matter Institute is receiving $66.5 million funding for its Quantum Materials and Future Technologies project which brings together top physics institutes and computer technology organizations, including TRIUMF Lab, the Canadian Light Source, and the Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy. The initiative will also expand new and existing international partnerships, including the Max Planck—UBC Centre for Quantum Materials. More efficient and powerful computing and electronic devices are set to stem from the institute, including high-performance batteries and supercapacitors, ultra-low-power but high-speed transistors, and ultrasensitive biosensors.

“UBC’s quantum matter community is extremely excited about today’s funding announcement,” Andrea Damascelli, director, Quantum Matter Institute, University of British Columbia. “Support from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund will propel our Quantum Matter Institute to the very forefront of the field internationally. By enabling us to fully exploit QMI’s state-of-the-art infrastructure and further strengthening our international partnerships, especially with the Max Planck Society of Germany, this fund will advance Canada’s position as a global leader in quantum materials and future technologies.”

University of Saskatchewan – Designing Crops for Global Food Security

The University of Saskatchewan’s Global Institute for Food Security is receiving $37.2-million for its Designing Crops for Global Food Security project, which brings together top plant breeding research, agriculture institutions, businesses and organizations, including partners such as MDA Systems Ltd., PotashCorp, the Saskatchewan Canola Development Commission and Agrisoma Biosciences Inc. The project will focus on the field of transformative techniques for crop development and aims to use specific genes to “design” plants that can withstand weather and growing seasons to improve global food security.

“We will become a leading global centre for “by design” crop breeding, enabling plant breeders anywhere in the world with internet access to get all the information they need to design a plant suited to their geographic region and with significantly improved crop performance,” says Maurice Moloney, executive director, Global Institute for Food Security, University of Saskatchewan.

University of Toronto – Medicine by Design

The University of Toronto is receiving $114 million funding for the “Medicine by Design” project which brings together top health research, medical institutions, businesses and organizations, including partners such as the Ted Rogers Centre for Heart Research, the Ontario Institute for Cancer Research, and the Centre for Commercialization of Regenerative Medicine. This is the largest single research investment in history at the University of Toronto.

Medicine by Design will focus on the field of regenerative medicine. Already a recognized global force in areas such as stem cell biology, biomedical engineering, nanotechnology, imaging, and cell and organ transplantation, the University of Toronto will further cement its leadership role as this project aims to use stem cells to treat and cure a range of injuries and chronic degenerative diseases.

“Stem cells offer avenues to treat–and perhaps cure–devastating and costly illnesses such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, blindness, lung disease, neurodegenerative disorders, and diseases of the blood and musculoskeletal system, says Dr. Peter Zandstra, Canada research chair in stem cell bio-engineering, professor in U of T’s Institute for Biomaterials and Biomedical Engineering. “Medicine by Design provides a framework to design the cells, the materials and, ultimately, the clinical strategy needed to reach this goal.”

The second funding competition will see up to $950 million awarded to successful projects, and letters of intent are due on October 26, 2015. A third round is expected to be launched in 2021-22.