Big ideas, big impact

Five sketches of human brains hang like lightbulbs from the ceiling

Big ideas, big impact

For Canada’s top innovators, making breakthroughs means unleashing their ambition — and teaming up with collaborators around the corner and around the globe
October 12, 2017

Canadian researchers lead the world in many fields, from child health to quantum computing. CFI’s Innovation Fund gives our most outstanding researchers the infrastructure they need to keep pushing boundaries.

Our 2017 Innovation Fund competition supported projects from across the country, from institutions both large and small. Some focus on discovery science, others on applied research. What they share is a game-changing sense of possibility — and the expertise to turn that vision into reality.

They’re also leveraging the power of collaboration, partnering with industry, federal and provincial organizations and investigators from a wide range of disciplines.

The results could transform many aspects of our life in Canada and beyond — as these five examples illustrate.

  • Most of us focus on weather in the atmosphere — the rain, snow and cloudy skies we see outside our windows. The University of Calgary’s Eric Donovan focuses on the magnetosphere. “This is our cosmic shore. This is where space meets the Earth,” he says. Here, electrically charged solar winds colliding with our planet’s magnetic fields can wreak havoc on everything from radio communication to the directional drilling equipment used by oil companies. The interaction of the solar wind and earth’s magnetic field also creates the aurora borealis: a phenomenon Donovan believes can serve...
  • Whether you’re hitting the highway or the runway, performance counts. That’s why both aerospace and automotive manufacturers are turning to advanced composites — materials that maximize strength and durability while minimizing weight. A newly formed research program in Montreal is ensuring they get what they need. By pooling resources and expertise, three universities, three colleges, 30-plus major manufacturers and more than one hundred small- and medium-sized businesses are developing the next generation of composites. In addition to being stronger and less prone to fatigue than...
  • Ajay Heble remembers the time he saw more than half a dozen jazz musicians from six different countries get together and jam, despite having no common language. “They just started to play, and what they did was absolutely amazing,” he recalls. “There’s a lesson to be learned there.” Today, Heble is applying that lesson as the director of the International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI), centred at the University of Guelph. For 15 years, Heble and his team have explored how the principles of improvisation can contribute to collaboration, adaptation, trust and...
  • As a senior scientist at SickKids in Toronto, Martin Post knows that the earlier doctors can detect and treat diseases in children, the better the chance those children will enjoy long, healthy lives. The hospital’s new CFI-funded Centre for Advanced Pediatric Imaging and Therapy of Obesity and Lung (CAPITOL) will help make that possible with groundbreaking diagnostic and therapeutic approaches. On the imaging front, Post and his colleagues will pioneer non-invasive techniques to assess their young patients. For example, because infants can’t hold their breath for a normal lung function...
  • Around the world, the race is on to create a quantum computer that can blast past the limits of conventional computing. The idea is when you engineer things on a small enough scale, the laws of quantum physics take over from the laws of classical physics. Here, electrons can exist in two places at once. By taking advantage of that fact, you can create quantum bits or “qubits” that exist in many states at once — unlike conventional computer bits which are limited to either zero or one. But at Simon Fraser University, Stephanie Simmons and Michael Thewalt are taking a distinctly...