$68 million bonanza sets research record

Leading edge innovation the key to university's funding success, says vice-president, Research

UBC and its affiliated teaching hospitals have gained more than $68 million in research infrastructure funding -- the largest amount awarded to any Canadian institution--from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) in a recent competition.

"This incredible level of investment by the federal government is an explicit recognition that innovative and interdisciplinary research is the cornerstone of the economic, social and cultural well-being of all Canadians," says UBC President Martha Piper.

UBC and its research partners received funding for 20 projects ranging from the restoration of global fisheries to the working relationship between humans and computers.

Six of the projects, including a new cancer research centre that received $27.8 million--the largest individual grant given in Canada-are centred at UBC's affiliated hospitals. The facility will be part of the Centre for Integrated Genomics, a joint project of UBC and the B.C. Cancer Agency.

McGill University, with 22 projects funded, was the only institution in Canada to receive a higher number of grants than UBC and its affiliated hospitals. The University of Toronto gained funding for 11 projects.

Attracting increased funding from all sources and enhancing research infrastructure is a key strategy in UBC's goal to be the leading research university in Canada, as outlined in Trek 2000, the university's vision statement.

"We worked with all our researchers to ensure that proposals were co-ordinated and met with CFI's top priority of supporting leading edge innovative projects," says Indira Samarasekera, vice-president, Research.

The Institute for Computing, Information and Cognitive Systems earned $8.85 million--the largest grant given to a project on the Point Grey campus.

Principal investigator Rabab Ward says the proposed institute will expand the Centre for Integrated Computer Systems Research, which she directs, to a more inclusive interdisciplinary research facility.

"We want to ensure that as technology evolves, it is human-centred," says Ward. "That means we need to better understand the human experience so that technology communicates knowledge in the context of how we live."

A three-dimensional computer model for speech synthesis and therapy is an example of research at the newly funded institute.

Researchers from areas such as psychology, education, medicine, pharmacology and forestry will be part of the proposed institute. There were 120 investigators named as co-applicants to the CFI grant.

The UBC Network Project which aims to provide research networking communications across campus gained more than $3 million in funding. Led by Ted Dodds, associate vice-president of Information Technology, the project will also provide high-speed links to research facilities on the hospital campuses.

Other funded UBC projects cover areas such as genetics and bioinformatics, engineering and environmental sciences, humanities and education, nutrition, fisheries and advanced materials. A total of 31 B.C. research projects at universities, hospitals, industry and the Vancouver Aquarium received CFI funding of more than $74 million--about 20 per cent of the total funds distributed across Canada. The Technical University of B.C. and the University of Victoria were given funding for four projects and Simon Fraser University earned three grants.

The CFI support represents 40 per cent of required funding. UBC researchers will apply to the provincial government for a matching 40 per cent. The remaining support will come from private sources and industry including the $50-million donation designated for UBC research in 1998 by alumnus Stewart Blusson.

CFI, an independent corporation established by the federal government in 1997, made a total investment of $363 million to support 214 infrastructure projects in 59 Canadian universities, colleges, hospitals and not-for-profit research institutions.

A complete listing of projects can be found at the CFI Web site at www.innovation.ca.