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Innovation. Made in Canada. Best in the World. WINTER


THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA’S COMMITMENT TO INNOVATION The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) is an independent corporation created by the Government of Canada to fund research infrastructure. The CFI’s mandate is to strengthen the capacity of Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals and nonprofit research institutions to carry out world-class research and technology development that benefits Canadians. Thanks to the Government of Canada’s continued investments through the CFI, state-of-the-art infrastructure is helping to attract and retain the best and brightest research minds in the world. Since its creation in 1997, the CFI has committed $5.3 billion in support of 6,800 projects at 130 research institutions in 65 municipalities across Canada, leading to breakthroughs in areas such as health, natural resources, information and communications technology, energy and the environment.



BEST IN THE WORLD. What did Canada’s research landscape look like before the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) was created in 1997? There were aging labs and outdated equipment. Researchers rarely worked outside their discipline. Many bright minds were leaving the country for better opportunities. But today, enter any one of the CFI’s funded colleges, universities or research hospitals, and great things are happening. Researchers are working across disciplines and in collaboration with colleagues at home and abroad, equipped with cutting-edge infrastructure and involved in remarkable work that only a few years ago would have been considered science fiction. According to a recent independent study and a panel of internationally renowned experts, the CFI has been a driving force in this evolution. In fact, the experts see it as the most successful research funding organization of its kind in the world. In this issue of InnovationCanada, we tell stories that reflect how the CFI has helped usher in a new era of research in Canada by allowing researchers to think big, increasing research productivity, encouraging cross-discipline collaborations, emphasizing the commercialization of research and training the next generation of researchers. The success of the CFI is built on the ongoing dedication of Canadian institutions and the unlimited aspirations of their researchers. These remain two key ingredients in sustaining a foundation that is made in Canada. And best in the world.

2 RESEARCH PRODUCTIVITY: BETTER INFRASTRUCTURE, BETTER RESULTS 4 inspiring research: illuminating bones 6 training: bridge building 8 COMMERCIALIZATION: clean green electric machine 10 COLLABORATION: TALKING FISH





results In 2001, when the Canadian Rivers Institute (CRI) opened on the campus of the University of New Brunswick (UNB), CRI researchers knew where many of its students would have to go to conduct experiments and analyze their findings — elsewhere. While the CRI was theoretically a 21st-century effort to measure the effects of pollutants on fish and other marine life and to explore ways to mitigate those effects, absolutely none of its technology was state of the art. “Things were very ad hoc,” recalls Kelly Munkittrick, who has been associate director of the institute since its founding. To measure how pollutants move through a river system, for example, scientists would set up aquariums in classrooms during the summer, when students were not around. They had to change the water every day after taking samples, which didn’t permit a true simulation of the continuous flow of pollutants through a river system. And when results came in, the CRI generally wasn’t equipped to analyze them and often had to send samples to other laboratories. Fast-forward to 2010.

Eighty-eight percent of CRI technology is now state of the art. This is highlighted by the institute’s world-renowned SINLAB, which uses stable isotopes to measure the progression of pollutants through plants and animals in a river’s ecosystem. The technological leap forward has produced a tidal shift in the general flow of people and findings. Researchers are coming to UNB — not leaving. 2


Students dissect fish in preparation for analysis at the Canadian Rivers Institute Karen Gormley

at the University of New Brunswick. CFI funding has helped modernize the institute’s labs, attracting more graduate students and increasing overall research productivity.

Researchers and students from Chile, Brazil and Uruguay are now collaborating with the CRI. Companies in these countries are constructing pulp mills that generate up to six times as much pulp as the average mill in Canada. While these mills are often equipped with up-to-date waterpurification technologies, South American university researchers don’t have the expertise and equipment to test whether these systems are, in fact, preventing pollution. The CRI helped the researchers determine that their modern technologies don’t always eliminate the toxicity of mill emissions and that modern effluent can still contribute to a major pulp mill pollution concern — the feminization of male fish. “That’s a finding a makeshift aquarium with a summer shelf life could never have uncovered,” says Munkittrick. But with its technological muscle, today’s CRI can.



inspiring research


David Cooper wants to know more about your bones. Specifically, the assistant professor of anatomy and cell biology at the University of Saskatchewan is trying to answer a chicken-and-egg question about osteoporosis: do changes in the density of cells within bones cause the disease, or does the disease cause the changes in cell density? “Sorting that out will help us develop more effective strategies for either preventing osteoporosis or treating it,” says Cooper, an expert in the study of bone. Given Canada’s aging population, this research is an increasingly important priority for the health-care system, since osteoporosis, which causes a decline in bone mass, is associated with aging. But until Cooper and his colleagues had the access to what he jokingly refers to as “the big bright light bulb” known as Canadian Light Source (CLS), they couldn’t answer these complex questions.

False-colour imagery (BELOW) shows researchers how bone forms at the cellular level. The orange halos indicate the formation of new bone, while the purple areas show where the bone has broken down. A 3-D rendering of human bone (BACKGROUND) helps researchers better understand the interconnectivity of blood-

vessel canals and the cellular spaces surrounding them.



Image data (collected at the Advanced Photon Source) courtesy of David Thomas and John Clement, University of Melbourne


The CLS is Canada’s first synchrotron — a powerful source of brilliant light produced by giant magnets and radio-frequency waves that accelerates electrons to almost the speed of light. Scientists like Cooper use it to view the microstructure of matter — in this case, the cellular pores within bone. “The synchrotron allows us much higher-magnification imaging than we could achieve without it,’’ explains Cooper. “Prior to the CLS, anyone who was in synchrotron science in Canada had to leave the country to collect the data.” Using the synchrotron, Cooper can scan bones down to 1/1,000 millimetre compared with the 1/4 millimetre allowed by an ordinary hospital CT scan. As a result, his team is charting the changes bones experience over time, measuring whether the total number of bone cells is increasing or decreasing or whether the shape and size of those cells change with the disease. If researchers can determine when osteoporosis induces such changes, doctors may be able to treat the disease earlier, preventing the bone fractures that can often immobilize people and rob them of their independence. Cooper is also working with colleagues to improve medical research using a new technology called diffraction-enhanced imaging, which reduces the dose of radiation while providing more information than a conventional X-ray. It has promise to one day move from experimentation on the synchrotron to application in hospitals.

“These types of techniques began in the synchrotron,” says Cooper. “We’re at the cutting edge of imaging technology.”



Bridge B training

You’ve seen them, driven over them, walked through them, but you’ve probably never given them a second thought. Yet culverts — those corrugated steel arches buried under roads that allow rivers and streams, vehicles, people and animals to pass through — are a critical piece of infrastructure that were born out of Canadian ingenuity. Invented in Canada in the 1950s, long-span steel culverts are undergoing a renaissance. With thousands of small bridges across North America aging, long-span steel culverts are the natural replacement because they are easier to build than conventional concrete bridges and cost half as much. And thanks to master’s research by former Queen’s University engineering student Andrea Mak, the new generation of culverts is better and safer than ever. Working out of a CFI-funded testing facility at the Queen’s GeoEngineering Centre under the supervision of engineering professors Richard Brachman and Ian Moore, Mak oversaw the construction of a 10-metre-long steel culvert inside a three-metredeep test pit. After the culvert was buried, Mak tested its load-bearing capacity using a piston-like device (called an actuator) to press down on specially built frames that simulated the axles of a large truck. Mak measured how the pressure affected the behaviour of the culvert structure and the soil around it and then tested the span to failure — something that had never been done in either a laboratory or a field setting.

Mak is just one of many talented graduates from the GeoEngineering Centre whose expertise is in huge demand. “In geotechnology, Canada punches way above its weight in terms of what we do internationally,” says Moore. “And how do you get good students to train? You have the best facilities in the world and professors who are the leading experts — and you get this kind of momentum.” Mak’s project was a success on several levels. The Ontario firm that manufactures the culverts has used her test results to further improve



e Building

Former engineering student Andrea Mak ran a series of tests on a steel culvert built in the Queen’s University GeoEngineering Centre to help improve the strength and safety of the vital infrastructure.

Ian Moore

its product and increase its market potential. Her data also enabled the creation of a 3-D computer model that allows culvert designers to accurately predict the strength of their structures under various soil and load conditions. Similarly, a set of design equations based on Mak’s numbers will eventually become part of highway- and bridgebuilding codes in Canada, the United States and around the world. Today, Mak is a working geotechnical engineer in Vancouver and says her experiences in the Queen’s lab were invaluable for her professional life. “I use the skills I developed in the laboratory to better understand soil behaviour,” she says. “Knowing how loads transfer through the soil from that test has been a huge help to me in my modelling and design work.”





“The idea for the truck came from one of our clients, who realized, after speaking with mine operators, that some of the major costs of running a mine are linked to the ventilation system,” says François Adam, a project manager and an electrical engineer at ITAQ. A lot of energy is wasted exchanging air polluted by diesel emissions from vehicles used in the mines, so ITAQ aimed to design an electric vehicle that could reduce pollutants. PEDNO, a Saguenay, Quebec-based company that manufactures and repairs equipment for the forestry and construction industries, approached the engineers at ITAQ in September 2009 to develop the truck’s electric traction system and provide other technical assistance. The vehicle prototype, made of lightweight aluminum, was tested at ITAQ’s advanced propulsion laboratory before undergoing trials in mountainous terrain, and this fall, it will be tested in a mine. “ITAQ has incredible expertise in electric powertrains,” says Sabin Tremblay, a senior designer and project manager at PEDNO. “Its staff helped us find the best technologies to suit our needs, and they continue



Sabin Tremblay

A small Jeep-like truck that runs entirely on an electric battery may soon offer a cleaner alternative to the diesel vehicles currently used to transport people and tools deep into Canada’s mines. The four-passenger vehicle, which can hold up to 225 kilograms of cargo, was recently developed with the help of Institut du transport avancé du Québec (ITAQ), a research centre affiliated with Cégep de Saint-Jérôme, north of Montréal, which specializes in sustainable transportation technologies.




machine ITAQ’s advanced

propulsion laboratory (LEFT) allows researchers

to develop and test more efficient vehicles, such as a custom-made 4 x 4 for the mining industry (RIGHT).

PEDNO’s electric vehicle is the latest in a number of sustainable transportation projects to have been completed at ITAQ, the only advanced propulsion laboratory in Canada. Inaugurated in April 2009, the facility contains cutting-edge equipment, including a 3-D scanner for modelling, dynamometers (to measure energy expended in various driving conditions, among other functions) and a high-power programmable DC supply (for battery testing or electric-drive powering). It is also home to a generic test vehicle, the only one in the country, which allows clients to “test parts without having to take apart a vehicle,” says Adam. “It’s like Lego in three pieces: the front, the middle and the back are removable.”

Sabin Tremblay


to provide technical support as we make adjustments to the vehicle.”

ITAQ continues to attract new clients — from small upstarts to large subsidiaries — thanks to its advanced propulsion lab. It also partners with other institutions, such as École Polytechnique de Montréal and Université du Québec’s École de technologie supérieure. “Before the lab, we had expertise, but few resources,” says Adam. “Now we have the expertise and the tools.” Not to mention the drive to turn transportation technologies a shade greener.




Talking Fish When the Atlantic cod fishery was closed in 1992, politicians and fishermen assumed the stock would recover and the bounty of fish would return to Newfoundland within a decade. But almost 20 years later, cod stocks remain low, and scientists are still trying to determine exactly why.

Sherman Lai

The cod saga is one of many examples that show how the science of ecosystem modelling continues to improve while the actual management of species continues to fall short. Villy Christensen, a fisheries biologist at the Fisheries Centre of the University of British Columbia (UBC), wanted to find out why there has been such a disconnect, so he looked outside his faculty for a solution. He partnered with Kellogg Booth, a computer-interaction specialist at UBC’s Institute for Computing, Information and Cognitive Systems. They realized that scientists are well versed in reading graphs and figures but that politicians, fisheries managers and the public typically are not.

The Immersion Lab at the University of British Columbia’s Fisheries Centre combines computer science and fisheries science to help policy-makers “see” the virtual impacts of their decisions. Using 3-D visualization, visitors to the lab can navigate various underwater environments and witness how their decisions will affect relevant fish species and populations.



“Scientists all speak the same language,” says Booth. “When they talk to someone who’s not a researcher, they have to present things in a different way so that person can understand.” The team saw the need to develop a new communication tool — a translator of sorts for scientists and stakeholders. “In the end, all management decisions are social and political,” says Christensen. “All stakeholders have to understand the issues and trade-offs that all the other stakeholders are offering. To really understand the compromise, they must be able to visualize it.” So Christensen’s team used 50 years of ecosystem-modelling data to create interactive and animated software that could develop “what if” scenarios and allow decision-makers to see the results of their virtual choices in real time.

Sherman Lai

They didn’t stop there. Christensen and his colleagues also designed and built a scenario lab at the Aquatic Ecosystems Research Laboratory at UBC specifically to run the software at management meetings. Everything from the layout of the meeting room to the size of the embedded screens and the colour of the paint was tested to make the lab an optimal environment for decision making. The lab, opened in March 2006, has resulted in the development of a new approach to fisheries management, focused on active involvement of policy makers and other stakeholders in developing and testing future — and more promising — scenarios.



“The Panel has been very impressed with the CFI’s commitment to due diligence, accountability and transparency in its stewardship of public funds.” “The CFI has actively encouraged researchers to place much more emphasis than in the past on knowledge transfer and the potential end uses or practical applications of their research.” “The CFI’s approach to the selection and funding of projects has had a transformational impact on the culture and aspirations of the Canadian university research enterprise.” (Quotes from the International Review Panel Report as part of an independent review of the CFI.)

The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology), and CFI President and CEO Dr. Gilles G. Patry, announce ongoing funding for the CFI’s Leaders Opportunity Fund. The government’s ongoing commitment to investing in Canadian innovation through the CFI is helping build Canada’s competitive knowledge advantage based on excellence in science and technology. For more about the transformative impacts of the CFI, visit our online magazine —



InnovationCanada Winter 2010  

Showcasing Research Excellence in Canada

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