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Trudeau's tree-planting plan could hurt more than it helps

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s pledge to plant two billion trees to help reduce Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions is more complex than it sounds. The effort will need to be carefully planned and executed to ensure the trees not only survive but don’t become a future wildfire hazard, forest experts say.

Latest Issue:

Number 12

Volume 33 December 18 2019

Editorial:
Mark Mann

Social media is incentivizing the breakdown of trust in science. We need institutional action to change course.

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Federal research funders endorse plan to improve research assessment

Five major Canadian research funders have signed the San Francisco Declaration on Research Assessment (DORA), a set of recommendations for improving the way the output of scientific research is evaluated. The signing comes at a time when the values of academia and society are increasingly at odds with academia’s traditional system of incentives and rewards.

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General business support programs don't work. Instead, focus on competitive tax policies, manufacturing institutes, and opportunity zones: Policy paper

The Ontario government spends approximately $5 billion a year on business support programs, many of which don’t stand up to cost-benefit analysis, according to Jamison Steeve and Sean Speer in a new paper published by Ontario 360, a public policy research group housed at the University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy.

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Opinion Leader:
Heidi Tworek

Canada needs a social media council to help solve complex problems with online content moderation

The rise of user-generated content on social media platforms presents a new and complex set of problems for contemporary society. A social media council won’t solve all of them, but it would provide an interim solution to start addressing the pressing problems in content moderation.

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NRC’s Chief Science Officer wants to ensure research excellence remains a defining characteristic of the organization

Dr. Danial Wayner returned to the National Research Council last year to assist in expanding its outward focus and reinforce its quest for continuous research excellence. Here, he talks about his original inspiration as a summer student at NRC in 1979, what it takes to instil a culture of collaboration, and why an atmosphere of excitement has taken hold at the organization.

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Short Report

The Short Report, December 4, 2019: The next wave in nuclear innovation; more (worse) jobs with tech; richer than the Canadian government

The premiers of Ontario, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick have signed a memorandum of understanding that will see their provinces collaborate on the research, development and building of small modular reactors (SMRs), in order to help them meet their emission-reduction targets and move away from coal. Ottawa has called SMRs the “next wave of innovation” in nuclear energy technology, but the technology isn’t actually ready for operation. About a dozen companies are currently in pre-licensing with the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. – CBC

A new paper has found that the growth of high-tech industries does in fact have a positive jobs multiplier, creating six low-skilled service jobs for every 10 new high-tech jobs. These low-skilled jobs are often poorly paid, however, especially relative to housing costs. Mid-skilled workers don’t see higher employment rates, but they benefit from higher wages. – ScienceDirect

In an interview with The Globe and Mail, Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei said that the company’s centre for research and development will be relocated to Canada from the U.S. Huawei has added 300 employees in Canada this year, for a total of 1,200. Ren opined that Canada could make AI development its national strategy and strive to become a global testing ground for autonomous agriculture and remote Arctic mining. Don’t worry about the cost of competing for talent, he said. ““If they need more money, I can give them money. I’m richer than the Canadian government.” – The Globe and Mail

CBRE released its latest Scoring Canadian Tech Talent Report, which ranks Canadian markets for tech talent. Toronto topped the list, for having added 80,100 tech jobs between 2013 and 2018. Smaller cities showed the most promise and improvement: Victoria (7th) and Oshawa (12th) saw the largest year-over-year improvements, Hamilton (9th) and Guelph (13th) recorded the fastest tech job growth among mid-sized and small tech talent markets, and Edmonton moved into the Top 10, thanks to 26% increase in tech jobs in the past five years. – CBRE

Lehigh Cement and the International CCS Knowledge Centre announced a feasibility study of a commercial-scale carbon capture and storage (CCS) project, targeting the carbon dioxide from the flue gas of Lehigh’s Edmonton, Alberta cement plant. This feasibility study represents a North American first in the cement industry for CCS as a definitive solution to cut GHG emissions. – Newswire

Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) received $30 million — the largest gift in its history — from Calgary philanthropist David Bissett, in order to establish a new school at SAIT that will provide digital education for students. The school will set a new course for the future positioning of SAIT as a leader in digital transformation and education. – SAIT

Inter Pipeline is investing $10 million over 10 years in The Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) to look at opportunities to reuse and recycle plastic in Canada. The partnership will draw on NAIT’s applied research expertise in the area of process engineering, process automation and environmental sustainability. “Today in Canada, nearly 80 per cent of all post-consumer plastics end up in landfills. Inter Pipeline believes that innovative thinking is critical to addressing this complex societal issue and is very pleased to do its part through this long-term funding commitment,” CEO Christian Bayle said in a statement. – JWN

THE GRAPEVINE

Bank of England governor Mark Carney  has been appointed United Nations Special Envoy for Climate Action and Finance, a pro bono position last held by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Carney, who headed the Bank of Canada from 2008 to 2013, will be tasked with mobilising private finance to take climate action and help transition to a net-zero carbon economy. He said that “the disclosures of climate risk must become comprehensive, climate risk management must be transformed, and investing for a net-zero world must go mainstream.” – BBC

Finalists were announced in the 16th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business. Refined Manufacturing Acceleration Process (ReMAP) received two awards: president & CEO Irene Sterian won silver in the Manufacturing category, and ReMAP’s all-women executive won bronze in the Government or Non-Profit (10 or less employee) category. – ReMAP Network

The Short Report, November 27, 2019: African researchers denied entry; open science gets easier; Big Oil moves into the cloud

Canada refused visas to dozens of African researchers seeking to attend the Neural Information Processing Systems conference (NeurIPS) in Vancouver next month. The visas were commonly denied on suspicions that the participants would not leave Canada once the conference was over. The issue is recurring: last year, more than 100 attendees were denied visas to the conference, held in Montreal. “It is imperative that all voices be heard at NeurIPS to enable future success in the field of AI,” said Katherine Heller, a professor at Duke University and the event’s diversity and inclusion co-chair. “We are opposed to any attempt to impede progress made by our international community.” – BBC

The Tanenbaum Open Science Institute at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (aka The Neuro) has created an Open Science Agreement Toolkit (OSAT), providing a series of legal templates that can be downloaded, adapted and used for a variety of situations, including open science material and data transfer, open science funding, open science projects and open science collaboration. – Twitter

Cenovus Energy struck deals with Amazon Web Services and IBM that will see its data moved from local data centres and into the cloud. The oil and gas producer will use Amazon’s cloud computing power to process and analyze the data produced by its steam-based oilsands plants. “I don’t want this to be our grandfather’s industry,” said Ian Enright, Cenovus vice-president and chief information officer. – Financial Post

Vancity Community Investment Bank (VCIB) will acquire CoPower Inc., a green financing platform that launched one of Canada’s first countrywide green-bond funds for retail investors and has focused on community-scale green projects. The fund recently sold out of its latest tranche of six-year bonds, which offer a five per cent annual return. “I think the new generation is going to look more actively at putting their money into the things that they care about, and you’re seeing that momentum increasing,” said Jay-Ann Gilfoy, chief executive of VCIB. – National Observer

On Women’s Entrepreneurship Day (Nov 19), the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) released a report titled The Changing Face of Canadian Entrepreneurship. The report found that the number of female entrepreneurs has grown more than 3 times faster than the number of male entrepreneurs since 1976; more than a third (39%) of all entrepreneurs that started businesses in 2018 were women; and women entrepreneurs now account for 28% of all entrepreneurs in Canada and are growing 3.1 times faster than men. – BDC

Colleges and Institutes Canada (CICan) released its latest survey, which found that colleges and institutes across Canada led over 6,000 applied research projects in 2017-2018, resulting in over 2,100 prototypes, 880 new products, 480 processes and 360 services. Over 57,000 people, including more than 4,000 faculty and staff, and 53,000 students contributed to applied research projects at college and institute laboratories and research centres in 2017-2018.  – CiCan

The Canadian Construction Association (CCA) and affiliate Canadian Construction Innovations (CCI) are teaming up with consulting group Invennt Business Inc. to help association members secure Scientific Research and Experimental Development credits. Invennt will provide credit writing services to assist contractors preparing and filing claims offered under the SR&ED program. The CCA says the partnership aims to help grow the industry share of SR&ED claims from the current 0.7 per cent to approximately seven per cent. – On-Site Mag

THE GRAPEVINE

The ACENET consortium of universities and community colleges in Atlantic Canada offering advanced research computing resources has appointed Greg Lukeman its new CEO. Lukeman has served as ACENET’S CTO since 2005. He represented Atlantic Canada on the Technology Leadership Council and helped prepare a report for the federal government that led to a five-year, $572.5-million investment from the federal government in last year’s budget for digital research infrastructure (DRI) in Canada. As part of the Compute Canada federation, ACENET provides nearly 200,000 CPU cores and dozens of petabytes of storage to its researchers. “I see organizations like ACENET as a critical space for innovation, agility, creating and piloting new services, and quickly responding to provincial and regional priorities,” he said in a statement. – Memorial University Gazette

York University has selected Professor Amir Asif to be its new Vice President of Research & Innovation. His five-year term will begin on May 1, 2020. Asif has served as the Dean of the Gina Cody School of Engineering and Computer Science (GCS) at Concordia University since 2014, where he recently led the development of the 2016-21 Strategic Plan and the creation of faculty research support and capital infrastructure funds focused on attracting the best researchers and achieving excellence in research. During his five-year term as Dean, the School of Engineering and Computer Science grew by 35 per cent in terms of student enrolment and 40 per cent in terms of faculty complement. The research funding within the school grew by over 50 per cent during his deanship. – YorkU

The Short Report, December 18, 2019: Atlantic "sea ice" computing; Quebec's digital wallet; post-Brexit Euro-futures for Canadian research

ACENET at Memorial University launched a regional advanced computing system. in Atlantic Canada called Siku, a word that means “sea ice” in Inuktitut. The centre is 50% more powerful than all of ACENET’s recently retired systems together and is interoperable with the national Compute Canada platform. Supported by the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), Siku aims to generate economic benefits for the region through industry engagement. – ACENET

The Quebec government is working to create a digital identity for every citizen by 2021, enabling them to access all services with a single online login and to access digital versions of identification cards with a smartphone app, such as a driver’s licence, medicare card or birth certificate. Éric Caire, the junior minister responsible for government digital transformation, also expects the project to cut down on fraud. – CBC

A SSHRC-funded Insight Grant study on “The Reconfiguration of Canada-Europe Relations After Brexit” found that Canadian researchers are more likely to pursue collaborations with EU-based researchers than U.K.-based researchers post-breakup, when “U.K. researchers will have much more limited opportunities to apply to the EU’s flagship research-funding schemes, Horizon 2020 and its successor, Horizon Europe.” – University Affairs

The Transformative Quantum Technologies (TQT) initiative led by the University of Waterloo launched a Quantum Alliance (QA) program that will connect quantum experts with industry and other stakeholders to advance impactful quantum technologies. QA engages organizations as partners in a consortium, pooling resources and knowledge to develop applications of quantum technology. – U Waterloo

The University of British Columbia will divest $380M from fossil fuels, transferring the funds from its $2-billion endowment to a “sustainable” fund. But a group of students, faculty, staff and alumni, called UBCC350, want the university to divest the rest. – CBC

Canada’s incoming Clean Fuel Standard (CFS) to replace volumetric-based requirements with a carbon intensity-based approach is driving innovation to develop new and better methods for increasing the amount of biofuels in the fuel supply. A new process makes use of existing infrastructure, like refineries, pipelines and storage facilities, to produce fuel that can be used in vehicles without modification.- JWN

The Marcelle and Jean Coutu Foundation donated $10 million to the partner institutions of the Transforming Autism Care Consortium (TACC) —CHU Sainte-Justine Foundation, the Douglas Mental Health University Institute Foundation, the Fondation les petits trésors and The Neuro (Montreal Neurological Institute-Hospital) — to establish a multidisciplinary initiative for leading-edge autism research called Quebec 1,000 (Q1K). The TACC’s flagship project, Q1K aims to accelerate the pace of discovery and integrate research outcomes into healthcare practices for autism. – The Neuro

The next Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) location will be in Atlanta at Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business. This is the eighth expansion of the seed-stage accelerator and the third this year. CDL-Atlanta will accept 25 companies into its inaugural cohort, with applications opening in April 2020. – U of T

THE GRAPEVINE

Blake Hutcheson will succeed Michael Latimer as CEO of OMERS. Hutcheson will start transitioning from his current role as president and chief pension officer in January. Latimer will retire after two decades with OMERS, the last six years as CEO, on May 31, 2020. Under his leadership, OMERS assets have grown more than 50%, from $65 billion to more than $100 billion, and the fund opened offices in Singapore, Sydney, Paris, Berlin, Boston and San Francisco. For most of his ten-year tenure at OMERS, Hutcheson led Oxford Properties (an OMERS company) to become a $50-billion global leader in the real estate industry. Recently, he and his team created a 2025 and 2030 Strategy for OMERS, to provide direction for the next five- and ten-year period. – Global Newswire

Byron Holland, the president and CEO of the Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) — the federally created agency that sells Canada’s “.ca” internet domain — was the subject of an investigation by the Toronto Star after employees found pornographic material on his computer and were subsequently fired. – The Hamilton Spectator

The Short Report, December 11, 2019: Wexit spooks Wattpad; Montreal's swelling video-game sector; North promises better next time

The Toronto-based e-publisher Wattpad has chosen to open its second headquarters in Halifax rather than Calgary, due to concerns about Western separatism and the elimination of Alberta tax credits supporting companies in the innovation economy. Five business tax credit programs were cut, including the Investor Tax Credit introduced by the previous NDP government, which provided a 30% tax credit to investors who put money into targeted growth industries such as clean technology and digital animation. – Financial Post

U.S. video-game firm 2K announced it will open a new development studio in Montreal, joining a crowded field in one of the world’s largest video game production hubs. “Tons of jobs” will be created says studio head Ken Schachter. The studio will create the next iteration of BioShock, a game that sold more than 34 million units. – Montreal Gazette

Waterloo-based smart glasses maker North — previously Thalmic Labs — will stop making the first generation of its Focals glasses and instead focus on Focals 2.0, a slimmer version of the product set to ship in 2020. The next iteration will be “at a completely different level” and “the most advanced smart glasses ever made,” according to founder Stephen Lake. – TechCrunch

CIFAR announced 34 new Canada CIFAR AI Chairs, bringing the total number of world-class AI researchers recruited and retained through this program to 80. Each of the chairs will receive five years of dedicated funding to support research excellence in machine learning. The program is one of the goals of the CIFAR Pan-Canadian AI Strategy, a $125-million investment by the Government of Canada. – CIFAR

Four Québec-based institutions are investing US$29 million in the new US$156.5 million Spring Lane Capital Fund I to support the development of cleantech companies: BDC Capital (US$15 million), Fonds de solidarité FTQ (US$7.5 million), Fondaction (US$3.5 million) and Palomino Capital (US$3 million). The fund will finance the startup and post-startup phases of cleantech companies. – Business Insider

The American news organization ProPublica has launched a “Dollars for Profs” project that examines how “professors’ outside income can influence their research topics and findings, policy views and legislative testimony.” The effort includes a search function that allows users to search for conflicts by person, institution or company. Some Canadian individuals and organizations are implicated in the reporting, including the British Columbia Cancer Agency, the Clinical Research Institute of Montreal, and the University of Calgary. – ProPublica

The University of Ottawa will open a hub for research in cybersecurity and cyber safety in partnership with IBM Canada, with other industry partners expected to follow. The university will gain two main benefits from the hub, dean of research Guy Levesque said: “One is making sure we’re producing cyber-literate students coming out of engineering, law and management [courses]… The other is helping to bring partners together so we can tackle the daunting challenges around technology issues around cyber [including] security, privacy and ethics.” – IT World Canada

THE GRAPEVINE

Dr. Mona Nemer‘s network of departmental science advisors is growing. On October 1, Dr. Cara Tannenbaum began her appointment as Departmental Science Advisor (DSA) for Health Canada, where she will provide independent advice to senior management on complex science issues, facilitate more prominent science conversations in the department, and support scientific advisory functions and science communication. Tannenbaum is a professor in the faculties of medicine and pharmacy at the Université de Montréal, where she holds the Michel Saucier Pharmacy Chair, as well as the Scientific Director of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) Institute on Gender and Health. In August, Vik Pant was appointed as Chief Science Advisor for NRCan. He was previously the Senior Advisor for Artificial Intelligence (AI) at MaRS Discovery District, and prior to that he was the Global Lead of AI Competitive Intelligence for Oracle.

CMC Microsystems, a Canadian technology organization that provides services for developing micro-nano products to more than 10,000 academic and industry researchers, appointed five new members to its Board of Directors: Dr. Vincent Aimez, Vice President Partnerships and Knowledge Transfer, Université de Sherbrooke; Dr. Alain Chandonnet, President and CEO, INO, the largest centre of expertise in optics and photonics in Canada; Dr. Charles Despins, Professor of Electrical Engineering and Vice-president, Research and Partnerships, École de technologie supérieure, Université de Québec; Ian Roane, experienced electronics industry executive, most recently as President and CEO of Micralyne Inc.; Xerxes Wania, CEO, Wania Startup Advisors; and Simon Wingar, Director Research and Development, National Research Council Canada – Canadian Photonics Fabrication Centre (NRC-CPFC).

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