Provincial government grants $6.3 million to boost ‘commercialization’ of U of A research

Of the $6.3 million, $4.5 million will be designated to AI research at the university

The provincial government is providing funding to encourage the commercialization of certain research areas at the Unversity of Alberta

Standing in the U of A’s Elko engineering garage, Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Jobs, Economy, and Innovation announced $6.3 million will be channelled into the research areas of artificial intelligence (AI), seniors care, health science, and laser technology at the university. Specifically, $4.5 million of this funding will be directed to AI research at the faculty of engineering’s Autonomous Systems Initiative, a research centre that partners with industry to develop AI technology. This funding comes from the provincial Major Innovation Fund for local industries and businesses.

The remaining $1.8 million will be assigned to research regarding laser treatment for skin disease and cancer, remote sensing solutions for the oil sands, the roles of carbohydrates in disease, and the creation of a data portal for research on seniors and their care.

Schweitzer specifically highlighted the applicability of the university’s current AI research, seeing the $4.5 million grant as way to increase commercialization efforts of the field.

“[The university’s research] is really cutting edge and it’s tangible and real now,” he said. “This technology has commercial application right now within the economy… The trajectory of these companies is enormous.”

Suppl Minister of Jobs, Economy, and Innovation Doug Schweitzer at the teleconference event announcing $6.3 million in provincial funding being provided to fund research at the U of A.

Citing what he sees as a fourth industrial revolution occurring around the world, Schweitzer believes the U of A is at the cutting edge of commercializing research. He used the example of the video conferencing platform Zoom to illustrate his point.

“How many people in the province of Alberta heard of Zoom six or eight months ago,” he asked. “Not many people knew of Zoom, and all the sudden this company is worth over $100 billion dollars.”

“This is the speed at which industry is changing and shaping our lives. We are proud of [the university’s] efforts and we want to make sure we continue to provide the funding they need to do that research and development.”

The Minister of Advanced Education, Demetrios Nicolaides, said this grant is representative of what’s to come with Alberta 2030, his ten-year plan to entirely transform Alberta’s post-secondary education system.

“One of the essential pillars of that plan is to support the commercialization of research on our post-secondary campuses and furthermore, to strengthen the research activity that occurs,” he said. “Alberta’s government recognizes that these important research contributions help to create a stronger economy for all Albertans.”

Bill Flanagan, the U of A president, said that the province looks to the university to “overcome the great challenges of our times,” through it’ss research.

“We must ensure that our discoveries and research improve the daily lives [of Albertans] and strengthen Alberta’s economy,” he said.

Mentioning how it was provincial government funding that brought U of A Nobel Prize winner Michael Houghton to the university, Flanagan emphasized that grants such as the one announced today will allow the university to retain and maintain this calibre of research talent.

“Investments such as these from the government of Alberta are crucial to ensuring we continue to deliver the results that Albertans have seen and come to expect from the University of Alberta.”

Khadra Ahmed

Khadra is the Gateway's 2020-2021 News Editor, dedicated to providing intersectional news coverage on campus. She's a fifth-year student studying biology and women's and gender studies. While working for The Gateway, she continues the tradition of turning coffee into copy.

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