Driving innovation is about working across disciplines

December 6, 2019

APA 2019 APM

OTTAWA, ONTARIO — Collaboration is an imperative if we want to tackle global problems and produce impactful and meaningful research, according to the keynote panelists at the 2019 annual public meeting of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) on December 3.

Marie-Josée Hébert, Vice-Rector of Research, Discovery, Creation and Innovation at the Université de Montréal and Ed McCauley, President and Vice-Chancellor at the University of Calgary, discussed the innovative ways their respective insitutions are working to embrace collaboration across disciplines.

McCauley spoke about the imperative of working together to be competitive in research, both as an institution and as a country. Universities, he said, can pull together colleagues from across faculties to work on big problems with the federal granting councils, the provinces and the CFI. “We’ve been able to put a stake in the ground where we think Canada can lead on the global stage.”

This, he says, has been instrumental to attracting a new generation of researchers. “The scholars we’re recruiting today from around the world look at research differently. They’re much more open, they share much more information, and they also share facilities in a unique way. We’re trying to set up those scholars for success in that new collaborative environment.”

Hébert emphasized researchers’ abilities to work together creatively to come up with innovative solutions. “There is empowerment in creativity,” she said. One example she cited was a recently recruited microbiome expert. “We know they will work in chemistry and physics, but also in arts technology, and with our CFI-funded cinema-media laboratory to mobilize their knowledge and transform it into something the greater public can identify with.”

Watch: Two academic leaders discuss how their universities are driving innovation

The meeting also included the presentation of the CFI’s 2018-19 annual report by Ingrid Pickering, Chair of the CFI’s Board of Directors. She highlighted the planning activities of the CFI following the commitment of ongoing funding in Budget 2018. “This is a significant — and lasting — step forward for research in this country,” said Pickering, since answering the toughest research questions “takes time, persistence and commitment from researchers and from the organizations that fund them.”