Creating pathways to groundbreaking impact through multidisciplinary teams is fundamental to research and innovation at the University of Calgary, says William Ghali, the university’s vice-president (research).
“We define impact as making a difference in the communities we serve. By nurturing engaged scholarship from inception to real-world influence or change, we turn research into a force that empowers society, fuels the economy and uplifts our community,” he says.
“At the University of Calgary, we are committed to catalyzing research programs and investing in the creation of important and essential foundational pieces to enable research,” says Dr. Ghali.
This unwavering dedication was underscored when the Government of Canada injected a monumental $125-million into UCalgary’s trailblazing One Child Every Child initiative, ranking among the largest investments ever made in an Alberta university. The investment came via the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, which invests in the research strengths of post-secondary institutions to achieve global change.
Vice-President (Research) University of Calgary
The One Child Every Child program will dramatically improve the lives of children across Canada and beyond by uniting researchers, community partners, health-care providers, equity-deserving groups, educators and Indigenous communities.
More than 130 organizations across 25 countries are partnering with the University of Calgary including the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation, the Azrieli Foundation, UNICEF Canada, Children’s Healthcare Canada and Inspiring Healthy Futures. The partners’ contributions raised the total of all investments in the project to $268-million.
Pioneering a large-scale initiative similar to this isn’t without its challenges. To foster the formation of multidisciplinary teams, like the One Child Every Child team, the university has launched a transdisciplinary scholarship initiative. It centres on five areas of focus: health and life; digital futures; cities and societies; energy transition; and just societies, with a strong focus on environmental, social and economic justice.
And, though transdisciplinary research projects may not conform to rigid criteria, Dr. Ghali points out that UCalgary’s initiative includes catalyst and connector grants to ignite new and interesting projects, and forge connections that defy convention.
“That’s how we incentivize our researchers – they stand a greater chance of securing grants when they bridge disciplines and direct their research into one or more of the five areas of focus,” he says.
Despite the hurdles presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the escalating costs of research, such as maintaining facilities and infrastructure, UCalgary remains steadfast in its commitment to transdisciplinary scholarship and the mechanisms that empower it, says Dr. Ghali.
“Transdisciplinary scholarship enables us to tackle society’s most pressing challenges head-on,” says Dr. Ghali, “with our researchers motivated to collaborate with new colleagues in innovative ways that pave the way for meaningful impact.”
This pursuit of impact is fortified by UCalgary’s vibrant innovation ecosystem. At every stage of the innovation journey, researchers have access to entrepreneurial programs, mentorship and funding, propelling their research findings into tangible real-world solutions and pioneering enterprises.
“We’ve cultivated social innovation supports that are focused on partnerships within communities that help to create knowledge translation and uptake,” says Dr. Ghali.
UCalgary’s commitment to impact is evident through the UCeed Social Impact Fund, an exceptional social finance partnership that has invested in LyfeMD – an evidence-based online platform developed by medical experts to empower people with chronic digestive and inflammatory diseases to reclaim control of their health and well-being.
“Our purpose as a university is to enrich the global body of knowledge while inspiring our students through a journey of discovery, creativity and innovation. Our research promotes cultural understanding and social justice, improves quality of life, and ensures a prosperous and sustainable future,” says Dr. Ghali adding that the university is committed to sharing new knowledge and discoveries generously.
“Our scholars are proactively addressing society’s challenges and forging a positive impact in the world around us,” he says.
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