Canadians are getting impatient and that’s turning out to be a good thing. In a world where discoveries of a
new gene, molecule or sub-atomic particle
are lauded almost daily in the media, it’s only
natural that people begin asking, “When will
these discoveries begin helping me, my com-
munity, my country, my planet?”
While basic research continues to serve
as the bedrock to provide the foundation for
Canada’s long-term success in science and
technology, the past decade has witnessed
a seismic shift in what we do with that
Rather than inventing a technology in
search of a solution, more and more research
is being directed by the needs of companies,
consumers, patients, communities and other
end users of technology.
In Canada’s automotive sector, for example, consumer demands and pending new
emission standards are upping the competitive pressure to make vehicles that are safer,
greener and better performing.
General Motors of Canada Limited
stepped up its game last year with a commitment to invest an unprecedented $150 million
annually on R&D between now and 2016. Its
main focus is on light-weighting materials,
mechatronics, software and communications.
“We’re doing a lot of work on light-
weighting and energy efficiency … We have
electrical engineers working with software
engineers and mechanical engineers to try
to optimize the vehicle across the different
systems,” says Brian La Touf, Director of GM
Canada’s Canadian Regional Engineering
Centre (CREC) in Oshawa.
GM Canada increasingly relies on
computer-aided design to test new ideas
instead of more expensive and time consuming trial and error approaches. Canadian
universities help GM Canada understand the
material and mechanical properties of a lightweight material like aluminium so that manufacturing processes can be optimized – well
before the first car is ever manufactured.
“That allows us to use computer-aided
engineering simulations to engineer our
future products without having to create a
physical vehicle,” says La Touf.
Environmental sustainability has become
a priority in many industry sectors. In Canada’s oil sands, companies are working on
several fronts to reduce their environmental
footprint, something Joy Romero, V.P. Technology Development at Canadian Natural
Resources Limited (CNRL), describes as
“good business sense”.
At its Horizons Oil Sands facility north of
Fort McMurray, Alberta, the company is adding CO2 to the tailings, a process that allows
the solids to settle more quickly so that the
water can be recycled and re-used in the
extraction process. The technology will help
reduce the size of tailings ponds and reduce
“If we built a dyke to contain tailings, that’s
$50 million a metre, so if we reduce that tail-
ings pond by half that’s good business,” says
Romero. “So every time we reduce our foot-
print, we improve on our bottom line.”
A growing share of CNRL’s research and
technology development is now being done
in partnership with its competitors as part
of Canada’s Oil Sands Innovation Alliance.
Launched in 2012, COSIA’s 14 members
account for 90% of the oil sands production.
“Some 450 technologies have already
been shared amongst the companies,” says
Romero, “and we’re working on 185 active
projects right now to accelerate our performance in tailings, water, land and greenhouse
gases. And that’s just within COSIA.”
FIRMS DO BETTER
In 1990, Rogers Communications Inc.
was the first company to bring wireless
data to the Canadian market. Today, Rog-
ers’ national networks, from its slower 2G
to its super-fast LTE, provide more than one
million machine-to-machine (M2M) con-
nections for a range of applications, includ-
ing traffic lights, parking meters, automatic
teller machines, glucometers, blood pressure
cuffs and, coming soon, even your car or
dishwasher. “If you look at Ted Rogers’ leg-
acy, it was really about bringing innovative
new things to Canadians and being the first
with things like high-speed Internet, GSM
network and digital video,” says Mansell
Nelson, V.P. of Advanced Business Solutions,
Rogers Communications Inc.
With the Canadian M2M market forecast
to reach $1 billion in revenue over the next
three years, the competitive stakes are high.
That’s why Rogers is investing millions of
dollars to develop the technology platforms,
software and systems integration that meet
each user’s specific needs. Much of this
innovation happens at its research centres
in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal, where
customers can see first-hand how these technologies can help boost their productivity and
better connect with customers.
“It’s not so much a technology issue now,”
says Nelson. “It’s back to translating how this
technology will help companies be better at
what they do.”
IMPROVING PATIENT CARE
If ever there was a problem in search of solution, no doubt health care would top the lists
of every province and territory in Canada.
Ontario and Quebec are already spending
half of their total revenues on health, and
another six provinces will hit the 50 per cent
mark by 2028.
It’s not a problem the research community
can solve on its own. That’s why several universities and research hospitals are working
hand-in-hand with provincial funders, policy
makers, health care professionals and even
patients to identify and implement solutions.
For example, on August 1 the Ontar-
io government cut funding for test strips
that diabetics use to monitor their blood
sugar levels – saving the province up to $25
million annually. That decision was
based on a 2009 study co-authored by
Dr. Muhammad Mamdani at St. Michael’s
Hospital in Toronto that found the tests
unnecessary for people with type 2 diabetes
who are not insulin-dependent.
“These are real out-of-pocket savings
for the government that do not adversely
affect health care or inconvenience patients,”
says Dr. Arthur Slutsky, V.P. of Research at
St. Michael’s Hospital.
One of the hospital’s strengths is its 182
research scientists, 110 of whom also hold
medical degrees. With one foot firmly in the
lab and the other in the clinic, these clinician
scientists are trained to translate basic science
into better policies and patient care.
Among them is Dr. Kamran Khan, an
infectious disease clinician and scientist who
developed a web technology – and a spin-off
company, Bio.Diaspora – that uses global air
traffic patterns to predict the international
spread of infectious disease. His research has
helped anticipate the risk of epidemics during mass gatherings at the London Olympic
Games, FIFA World Cup and annual hajj
pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.
Dr. Slutsky says St. Michael’s will be able
to accomplish even more, and faster, with
the work being done at the Keenan Research
Centre and Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute
– new buildings that are connected to each
other and to the hospital via a pedestrian
“That tunnel is a metaphor for what we
want to do, which is to speed up the adoption
of discoveries by bridging the knowledge gap
between research, education and patient care.”
It’s a familiar story at Vancouver Coastal
Health Research Institute (VCHRI), where
the opening of the Blusson Spinal Cord
Centre in 2008 made it possible to connect
patients with the Rick Hansen Institute along
with researchers from more than 20 differ-
ent locations in Vancouver and Vancouver
Island. Similarly, the soon-to-be-opened
Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health
will bring together, for the first time under one
roof, all the multidisciplinary areas of brain
health, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s,
mood disorders and clinical trials.
“It allows the patient to move seamlessly
when they transition from surgery to treatment, and then integrating research with
that,” says Dr. Robert McMaster, Executive
Director at VCHRI.
That multidisciplinary lens is already producing results in ovarian cancer treatment,
where VCHRI’s research is closely linked
with the BC Cancer Agency next door.
“They’ve shown, for example, that
a lot of cancer originates in the fallopian
tubes so now they remove them if it’s an
appropriate time during surgery,” says Dr.
McMaster. “That change in practice reduces the
incidence of subsequent ovarian cancer by
MAKING OUR MARK GLOBALLY
Similar transformations are taking place
at research hospitals across Canada. At
Hamilton Health Sciences (HHS), research
priorities are driven by what will make a
difference in people’s health over the next
five, 10 or 20 years, both domestically and
“Since health transcends borders and
races, we deliberately take an approach that
our research here is applicable globally,” says
Dr. Salim Yusuf, V.P. Research at HHS. “As
such, we work with 85 countries on every
continent looking at things like chronic diseases and health systems. We need these
international comparisons if we want to
improve how we do things in Canada.”
“ We’re doing a lot of
work on light-weighting and
energy efficiency … to try to
optimize the vehicle across
the different systems. ”
Brian La Touf
Director of Canadian Regional Engineering
Centre, General Motors of Canada Limited
“ Since health transcends borders and races,
we deliberately take an approach that
our research here is applicable globally. ”
Dr. Salim Yusuf, V.P. Research, Hamilton Health Sciences
Continued on page 12
Canadian Innovators Share their
Secrets to Success
Canada’s Top 50 Research Universities Page 3
Focus on Mental Health Research Page 8
Canada’s Top 40 Research Hospitals Page 10
Canada’s Top 50 Research Colleges Page 13
Canada’s Top 100 Corporate R&D Spenders Page 17 INSIDE
THIS CHANGES INDUSTRY.
Our commitment to research, innovation and
technology set in motion 10 years ago has made SAIT
Canada’s number one research college today.
SAIT is setting new standards in applied research and
innovation. Take, for example, the laser induced breakdown
spectrometer, LIBS. One of the first in Canada, this
technology precisely blasts a tiny piece of solid material
to provide instant composition analysis.
For our industry partners LIBS means access to new
approaches that boost productivity and profit. For our
students this means leading-edge learning opportunities.
SAIT is proud to be named Canada’s Top Research College for 2013.
THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.