Seven Ontario Universities have joined a major new $210-million public-private research initiative driven by high-power computing, funded by technology-services giant IBM as well as the governments of Canada and Ontario.
The partnership, announced Tuesday morning, will see IBM contribute up to $175-million by 2014, along with $20-million in federal funds and $15-million from the province, to form the IBM Canada Research and Development Centre, building supercomputing and cloud computing infrastructure at locations including the University of Toronto and the University of Western Ontario.
The initiative is designed to expand Canada's existing high-performance computing infrastructure, which helps researchers crunch massive amounts of data that can be used to solve major challenges from urban infrastructure to health care, water and energy use.
But with Canada still lagging behind in research and development measures, it also marks a step forward in the federal government's innovation agenda, which has focused considerable new funding on university and college collaborations with industry that are expected to yield commercializable results.
"No matter the industry, science and technology are driving the bottom line," said Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology. "They are, in fact, what will build our future. Canada has what it takes to be an innovation leader."
The partnership will give the academic consortium – U of T and Western, as well as McMaster University, Queen's University, the University of Ottawa, University of Waterloo and the University of Ontario Institute of Technology – access to a new data centre to be built in Barrie by this fall, as well as new supercomputer technology at U of T and a cloud computing hub housed at Western.
It will also be the first formal research lab in Canada affiliated with IBM Research, and is expected create 145 new local jobs, as IBM looks to tap new innovation pipelines that can help create new products, services and opportunities.
"The reality is that multi-jurisdictional collaboration – within Ontario, beyond Ontario, across the globe – is the pattern," said U of T president David Naylor. "To get better infrastructure and to have a chance at beginning to understand how to work better how to work with this era of cloud computing was a really important academic opportunity."