CREATE awards $29 million in new funding as it widens scope of eligible disciplines

Veronica Silva
December 6, 2017

More than $29 million in grants were announced recently for 18 research projects under the Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).  This year’s fund recipients are working on a wider range of projects than in previous competitions including cutting-edge technologies such as robotics, quantum nanotechnology, agroecology and green energy, and storage technologies.

The projects – many of which are multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional - are intended to help train highly qualified students or postdoctoral fellows become job-ready for industry, government and academia.

The program also encourages collaborative and interdisciplinary research, including research areas under two other federal granting agencies -- the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). Collaboration with industry and government partners is also encouraged in the program with trainees expected to do their internships with these partners. NSERC said companies benefit from the program because they gain access to potential employees.

Each project is getting up to $1.65 million, good for six years. The funds this year are awarded to university-based or university-led projects.

Norman Marcotte, director of NSERC’s Science Promotion and Operations, says projects in information and communications technology (ICT) have for years been award recipients, ICT being a research priority of NSERC. But proposals in the cutting-edge technologies mentioned in the opening paragraph are quite new this year. He adds that these training areas are indicative of what skills prospective employers need as the program is intended to prepare the students to be job-ready.

Aside from ICT, proponents were encouraged to submit proposals around NSERC’s other priority areas, namely environmental science and technologies, natural resources and energy and manufacturing. However, submissions in non-priority areas are also encouraged. At least 60% of the funding goes to projects in the priority research areas with the balance going to non-priority areas.

Marcotte says the CREATE program supports up to 1,800 students per year – for old and new projects -- with an equal mix of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral students. Only 10% of students in the program are at the post-doctoral level.

The new funding was announced at Carleton Univ in Ottawa where a research group led by Dr Adrian Chan involves students working on accessibility and design issues. The project, called Research and Education in Accessibility, Design, and Innovation (READi) is touted as the “first interdisciplinary post-secondary accessibility-training program offered in Canada.”

Other fund recipients from Ottawa are from Univ of Ottawa. Dr Daniel Figeys’ project is about training in Technologies for Microbiome Science and Engineering (TECHNOMISE). The project led by Dr Karin Hinzer is focused on Training in Optoelectronics for Power: from Science and Engineering to Technology (TOP-SET).

The project of Dr Caroline Palmer of McGill Univ, titled Complex Dynamics: Accelerating discoveries in brain and behaviour,” also received funding to train over 180 students and postdoctoral fellows in auditory cognitive neuroscience.

Another project, titled NSERC CREATE for Network Softwarization and led by Univ of Toronto engineering professor Alberto Leon-Garcia, aims to improve training on developing software to make old Internet infrastructure efficient and flexible.

Three projects from Univ of Calgary also made the cut. The projects are led by Dr David Eaton of the Faculty of Science, and Dr Naser El-Sheimy and Dr Edward Roberts of the Schulich School of Engineering. The project of Dr Eaton is about Responsible Development of Low-Permeability Hydrocarbon Resources (ReDeveLoP) while Dr El-Sheimy’s CREATE project is around training, application and analytics in multi-sensor systems for navigation and mapping. Dr Roberts’ work will involve materials for electrochemical energy solutions.

Univ of Victoria and Univ Laval each got two projects approved for funding.

The Univ of Victoria projects are the NSERC CREATE in Polymer Nanoparticles for Drug Delivery (POND) led by Dr Matthew Moffitt and the NSERC CREATE in New Technologies for Canadian Observatories project led by Dr Kim Venn.

For Univ Laval, the two projects are the CREATE NSERC Innovative Program on NDT (NonDestructive Testing) led by Dr Xavier Maldague of Univ Laval, and the smart, adaptive and autonomous sensing project led by the team of Dr Daniel Côté.

Other projects approved are:

  • Univ of Manitoba’s training in visual and automated disease analytics (VADA) led by Prof Pourang Irani;
  • Univ of Saskatchewan’s Dr Steven Siciliano’s training in Sustainable Applied Fertilizer Environmental Remediation (SAFER);
  • Institut national de la recherche scientifique (INRS) CREATE Environmental Technologies for Decontamination and Integrated Management of Water and Waste Effluents (TEDGIEER) led by Dr Allali Patrick Drogui;
  • Univ of Alberta’s training in quantum nanotechnology led by Dr John Davis;
  • Univ de Sherbrooke’s project on enabling technologies for Collaborative Robotics in Manufacturing (CoRoM) led by Dr François Michaud; and,
  • Univ of British Columbia’s NSERC CREATE in Designing for People (DFP): Cross-disciplinary Program in Interactive Computational Technology led by Dr Karon MacLean.

Some of the projects involve collaborating with other universities. For example, the projects in Univ of Calgary are collaborating with Univ of Alberta, Univ of Toronto, Univ of Waterloo, Western Univ, Royal Military College of Canada, and UBC Okanagan.

Since the program’s inception in 2009, it has provided anywhere from $27 million to $29 million in funding every year, and the number of awards granted each year depends on the merits of the proposals.


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