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Two examples of successful collaborations at Polytechnique Montréal are the TransMedTech Institute (above) and IVADO (below).CAROLINE PERRON

The complexity of today’s most pressing issues – including health, sustainability and digital transformation – calls for an approach informed by different perspectives. That’s why Polytechnique Montréal makes collaboration a priority – and has built partnerships across disciplines and with government, academia, industry and the non-profit sector.

Among the many examples of impact-generating collaborations are the TransMedTech Institute and IVADO, two major projects in which the university is involved and that are funded, in part, by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

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TransMedTech Institute

Led by Polytechnique Montréal, TransMedTech is an institute that brings together a number of partners and associates and that was developed in 2016 “to catalyze the development of medical technologies in areas that are important for Canadians,” says Carl-Éric Aubin, CEO and scientific officer at TransMedTech, and full professor at the Department of Mechanical Engineering at Polytechnique Montréal. “The idea was to provide researchers and clinicians with services that are normally not found in any university.” This complex journey involves engineering, medicine, funding and a ton of regulatory work, says Dr. Aubin. Often, commercializing the product, getting it into the market and implementing it into the health-care system, is where Canadian innovation fails, so this collaboration – which includes three Montreal teaching hospitals – is designed to improve the chances of success.

“We have a long-term established partnership on the campus with engineering and medicine, but other faculties as well,” says Dr. Aubin, whose own current research is in finding engineering solutions to spinal deformities in children. “Over time, we found that it was more valuable to work together on solutions, and by doing this, we were able to build a community that is working together.”

TransMedTech also brings together medical technology companies, patients and health-care stakeholders. The goal of such collaborations, for which Montreal and the province of Quebec are recognized, is to “make a difference” and come up with innovations that will improve society, notes Dr. Aubin.

“Health is an important issue for our country and for every other nation,” he says, naming such ideas as connected health, remote care, precision health and minimally invasive interventions. “There’s an important need for innovation in terms of technology that could facilitate prevention, diagnosis and treatment.”

Dr. Aubin, who is an engineer in the world of medical doctors, also works with colleagues who are kinesiologists and molecular biologists.

Such partnerships are essential “because it’s impossible to find solutions if there’s no interdisciplinarity,” he says. “It’s timely to work collaboratively and develop innovations that transcend disciplines.”

IVADO (The Institute for Data Valorization)

IVADO is a collaboration of Université de Montréal, HEC Montréal and Polytechnique Montréal with a mission to generate, encourage and support artificial intelligence initiatives. IVADO brings together researchers, business, government and institutions.

The institute, which is now led by Luc Vinet, a physicist and mathematician at the Université de Montréal, was launched in 2016 with a $95-million grant from the Canada First Research Excellence Fund and with Professor Gilles Savard from Polytechnique Montréal as its founding CEO.

“This is how IVADO was created, and through this collaboration with universities and also with many industrial partners, government and NGOs and so on, it did extremely well,” says Dr. Vinet. “There was a mid-term review that was glowing with all but only a few of its key performance indicators already attained. This has been a tremendous success, and we’re building on it now.

“IVADO has been the catalyst of the booming development of AI across Canada, but in particular, the Montreal area,” he adds. “We’re now proposing a truly new paradigm shift in the way AI is developed and adopted.”

Dr. Vinet, whose own research is in mathematical quantum physics, notes that Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has given $500-million to Harvard to create an institute with the same goal as IVADO: to bring artificial intelligence closer to human intelligence. Already, IVADO has made it possible to hire 36 new faculty members, and the plan is to hire 48 more over the next six to seven years.

Part of the goal is to “speed up scientific discoveries and generate more value for society,” Dr. Vinet says. “[IVADO] brings together 14 institutes that study everything from cancer research and AI to ethics – this is a broad and multisectoral collaborative effort, and it’s a privilege to be asked to orchestrate it.”

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