Monday August 16, 2021 | NATIONAL
by Mary P Brooke, Editor | Island Social Trends
Leading-edge research projects at universities across the country are benefiting with more than $77 million in Government of Canada funding.
The funding for labs and equipment is intended to help Canada attract and retain top researchers by giving them the tools to succeed in their field.
Innovation by university researchers contributes to a range of improvements, including aspects of the global climate crisis and health-care.
“The Government of Canada is committed to keeping our researchers at the cutting edge of science and innovation,” said the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, in a pre-election announcement on August 11.
Minister Champagne announced more the funding to support 332 research infrastructure projects at 50 universities across the country. This contribution, through the Canada Foundation for Innovation’s (CFI) John R. Evans Leaders Fund (JELF), will help universities attract and retain top researchers.
Range of projects:
One of the infrastructure projects receiving CFI funding is based at the University of British Columbia’s School of Biomedical Engineering. Here, bioengineer Anna Blakney will focus on the prevention and treatment of infections, such as COVID-19, as well as inherited disorders and diseases, including cancer. Her work aims to revolutionize treatments with new biotechnologies involving the engineering of vaccine formulations.
Among the many other projects being funded through these JELF investments are:
• Indigenous research. Nokom’s House is a new lab at the University of Guelph where researchers will apply Indigenous research methods to build a model for land-based research. Led by Kim Anderson, Sheri Longboat and Brittany Luby, the lab will incorporate Indigenous principles and involve community engagement.
• Advanced home and building energy management. The growing use of renewable energy resources, such as solar panels and battery storage, has created significant challenges for electric utilities. Tony Chung of the University of Saskatchewan is developing real-time testbeds to create advanced home and building energy management systems. The research coming out of testbeds will help keep up with and promote the use of green energy technologies.
• Understanding “shadow pandemics.” Cindy Poremba of the Ontario College of Art and Design University in Toronto will use next-generation imaging to get a more accurate picture of the “shadow pandemics” that have been eclipsed by the health toll taken by COVID-19. These secondary impacts, such as the negative effects of social isolation and economic crisis, are easy to miss and are borne mainly by marginalized people. Better understanding of this subject will contribute to effective interventions that offer benefits beyond the pandemic.
• Eco-friendly concrete. Concrete is the most widely used building material on Earth, with more than 10 billion tonnes produced annually. Concrete production can have a negative impact on the environment, and aging concrete infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, requires billions of dollars in repairs. Rahi Khoshnazar of the University of Calgary will use his new research infrastructure to develop new, eco-friendly and long-lasting concrete materials to help protect the planet and reduce costs.
Turning visions into reality:
“Our researchers have always thought big,” says Champagne. “Now, more than ever, they need state-of-the-art labs and equipment to turn their visions into reality. Investing in our university research infrastructure is key to our continuing role as an innovation leader in wide-ranging fields, from Indigenous research to quantum computing, from neurobiology to advanced robotics. These investments will not only support our ground-breaking contributions to science and research but also improve our economy, environment and quality of life.”
Canada Foundation for Innovation President and CEO Roseann O’Reilly Runte said in the release: “From developing sustainable building materials to creating new laboratories based on Indigenous principles and community engagement, these awards support essential and urgent research. With the necessary spaces and tools, Canada’s researchers will play a meaningful role on the global stage and contribute significantly the quality of life today and for generations to come.”
As part of the total JELF funding of $59,463,888, an additional $17,839,166 was awarded under the Infrastructure Operating Fund, a mechanism that assists institutions with the incremental operating and maintenance costs associated with the new infrastructure.