Government of Canada invests $90,5 million in health and advanced technologies research and development

Ottawa 05 November 2004The Honourable David L. Emerson, Canadian Minister of Industry, has announced a $90,5 million, four-year investment in seven Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE). With this major investment, the Government of Canada will enable Networks of Centres of Excellence to mobilize and apply intellectual and financial resources from across the country and focus them on issues critical to citizens' health, industry and society, according to Minister Emerson.


Dr. Tom Brzustowski, Chair of the Networks of Centres of Excellence Steering Committee and President of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), emphasized that Canada has a long tradition of university-based research excellence. "Networks of Centres of Excellence, which create a critical mass of research capacity in complex areas, boost our capacity to solve important problems, attract and retain highly skilled people, and generate valuable intellectual property."

The announcement establishes one new network and supports the work of six existing networks. Following a national competition, the NCE Selection Committee, made up of international experts with expertise in the health, social and natural sciences, selected Allergy, Genes and Environment Network (AllerGen) as its newest Network of Centres of Excellence from a field of five full proposals culled from 31 Letters of Intent.

AllerGen, hosted by McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, will receive $20.865.000 from 2005 to 2009. Based on expert panel reports, detailed progress reports and strategic plans, the NCE Selection Committee also awarded funding for another seven years to four established NCEs. The first four years of funding will be disbursed. Funding for the remaining three years will be decided after mid-term reviews of the networks' progress in the fourth year of their NCE grant.

Through research on the genetic, psychosocial, environmental and economic aspects of allergic disease, AllerGen aims to improve the health, well-being and productivity of the more than one-third of Canadians who suffer from allergies. AllerGen brings together more than 120 researchers and collaborators located at 14 Canadian universities and more than 50 Canadian and international partners to develop new genetic and other medical diagnostic tests, better medications, and environmental, health and workplace safety policies and improved care for allergic disease sufferers.

The other networks due to receive a second cycle of funding are:

  • The Canadian Arthritis Network hosted by Mt. Sinai Hospital, Toronto: $16.292.000
  • MITACS, the Mathematics of Information Technology and Complex Systems hosted by Simon Fraser University, Burnaby: $21.603,000
  • CIPI, the Canadian Institute for Photonic Innovations hosted by Université Laval, Québec: $16.972.000
  • GEOIDE, the Geomatics for Informed Decisions hosted by Université Laval, Québec: $14.018.000

The Canadian Arthritis Network focuses on identifying the cause of arthritis, methods of early detection and treatments that cure the disease and repair damaged joints. The Network funds research and acts as a facilitator, bringing scientific dicoveries to market by providing access to cutting-edge techniques for product development and evaluation. CAN is the single point of contact linking 145 leading Canadian arthritis researchers and clinicians, 50 Canadian academic institutions, The Arthritis Society, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, and government.

MITACS leads Canada's effort in the generation, application and commercialization of new mathematical tools and methodologies that improve Canada's international competitiveness in five key sectors: biomedical and health, environment and natural resources, information processing, risk and finance and communication, networks and security. MITACS initiates and fosters linkages between 36 researchers at 36 universities, working in collaboration with 94 industries and 59 other partners that require mathematical technologies to deal with problems of strategic importance to Canada.

CIPI brings university researchers together with public sector and industrial partners in a network with state-of-the-art facilities to stimulate innovations in photonics and promote their exploitation to generate wealth and enhance the quality of life for Canadians. Potential applications cover information technology, telecommunications, environmental monitoring, biomedical science and industrial processes. CIPI supports 107 academic researchers at 29 universities, working in partnership with 41 industries and 18 other collaborators.

GEOIDE builds strategic alliances between the academic, governmental and industrial sectors to catalyse geomatic research and development in Canada. Its role is to ensure that Canada is actively engaged in building the geomatics infrastructure that will support a sustainable society in social, economic and environmental terms in the 21st century. GEOIDE supports 180 researchers at 61 universities, working in collaboration with 93 industries and 59 other partners to develop applications that support transportation, health care, natural resources, pollution monitoring and environmental assessment.

In addition, two other Networks of Centres of Excellence established since 1990 will receive research management funding to enable them to complete their knowledge, technology transfer and exploitation activities. The Canadian Genetic Diseases Network (CGDN), based at the University of British Columbia and the Institute for Robotics and Intelligent Systems (IRIS) managed by Precarn in Ottawa will receive $500.000 and $250.000 respectively.

CGDN is committed to advancing Canada's scientific and commercial competitiveness in genetic research, and the application of genetic discoveries to prevent, diagnose, and treat human disease. CGDN facilitates and funds collaborative research in human genetics across Canada; educates emerging scientists to excel in human genetic disease research; and facilitates partnerships between industry and academia to translate research discoveries into therapies or diagnostic tests. CGDN fosters linkages between 43 leading researchers, 10 Canadian universities, 34 industries and 75 other partners.

IRIS brings together top Canadian researchers who collaborate on projects that focus on the essential elements of an intelligent system-the ability to perceive, reason and act. IRIS is managed by Precarn Incorporated, a private consortium of over 100 companies, research institutes and government partners with a direct interest in the technologies being developed, including intelligent machines, vision systems and software tools. IRIS supports over 100 researchers at 22 universities across Canada, working collaboratively with approximately 60 companies, agencies and other organisations.

Canada has 21 NCE in health; biotechnology and human development; advanced technologies; environment and natural resources; and manufacturing and engineering. NCE are unique, nation-wide, multi-disciplinary partnerships among universities, industry, government and not-for-profit organisations aimed at turning Canadian research and entrepreneurial talent into economic and social benefits for all Canadians. They connect excellent research with industrial know-how and strategic investment. At present, 882 companies, 243 provincial and federal government departments and agencies, 49 hospitals, 184 universities, and more than 326 other organisations from Canada and abroad are involved in the NCE.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) is a key federal agency that invests in people, exploration and innovation. It supports university research through the specialized training of highly qualified individuals as well as through grants and projects carried out in partnership with universities, companies, government departments and agencies, hospitals and other Canadian and foreign organisations.

The Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) are the Government of Canada's agency for health research. Their objective is to excel, according to internationally accepted standards of scientific excellence, in the creation of new knowledge and its translation into improved health for Canadians, more effective health services and products and a strengthened Canadian health care system. Composed of 13 institutes, CIHR provide leadership and support to more than 8000 researchers and research teams in every province of Canada.

Leslie Versweyveld

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