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World Class Research Facility to Open in Saskatchewan

Photo of Prime Minister Stephen Harper opening a world class research facility.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper opens world class research facility.

The International Vaccine Centre (InterVac), a state-of-the-art vaccine research centre and one of the largest of its kind in the world, will be up and running at the University of Saskatchewan in early 2012.

The research centre uses the most advanced technologies to develop vaccines against new and re-emerging infectious diseases, including SARS, HIV and West Nile Virus, safely and more quickly than ever before.

The Government of Canada, including Western Economic Diversification Canada, helped to fund the construction of this facility. The Canada Foundation for Innovation contributed additional funding.

On September 16, 2011, Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Minister Yelich participated in the opening of the InterVac facility, noting that Canada is providing scientists with facilities and equipment to conduct groundbreaking research and protect the health of Canadians.

"This new facility will be a centre of excellence creating jobs for highly skilled researchers, opportunities for training for students and building on our international profile as a leader in public health," the Prime Minister said.

InterVac will significantly enhance Canada’s capacity to develop vaccines for both humans and animals, helping to ensure that Canada remains a leader in global research.

Ensuring the Quality of Canadian Wheat

Photo of a Saskatchewan Research Council scientist analyzing DNA in the lab.

An SRC scientist analyzes DNA in the lab.

One grain of wheat looks much like the next to the untrained eye. Yet nothing could be further from the truth, given the variety of grains grown on Canadian farms. In fact, even the trained eye isn’t always able to tell them all apart.

But thanks to a quirk of the genetic code called single nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs, tests of wheat DNA are able to distinguish wheat grown for bread from varieties destined for pasta. And new developments in the technology used in these tests promise to overhaul Canada’s wheat inspection process, giving farmers a competitive edge in a global market that demands quality guarantees.

That’s the plan laid out by the Saskatchewan Research Council (SRC). Thanks to WD funding and an investment from Enterprise Saskatchewan, the SRC is developing DNA tests that promise to identify varieties of wheat passing through the supply chain. They hope such tests will assume the role once played by visual inspection, which was phased out in 2008.

The problem with visual inspection was that several varieties of grain exist within a particular class of wheat that can look virtually identical to others but are genetically diverse. In the past, said the SRC Project Leader Kimberly Bryce, "they had to look a particular way to be registered. Now they don’t have to."

"Our Government is delivering real results for Canadian farmers by investing in innovative research and new technologies that will help increase their profitability," said Brad Trost, Member of Parliament for Saskatoon-Humboldt, on behalf of Minister Yelich.

While DNA testing does exist today, it generally takes many days to conduct and obtain the information. "By the time the results are back, a shipment may be halfway across the ocean," Bryce said. Industry has indicated that a new technology is needed that can authenticate a load of grain in a short time frame.

For the time being, producers are simply signing declarations as to the purity and quality of the product they sell. Ideally, said Bryce, "grain companies and farmers want verification that the right kind of grain has been delivered to the elevator."

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Promoting New Technology in the Forestry Sector

As the owner of a small business in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, Regan Grimwood knew it wouldn’t be easy staying on top of technological trends. "There are always bigger and better machines that can do the job faster. If you don’t keep up, you’ll end up as just another backyard operation," said the cabinet-maker.

Grimwood’s company, RGG Woodcrafters, is one of dozens across the West that have managed to keep up with those trends, thanks to FPInnovations, a non-profit knowledge-transfer institute devoted to the forest products industry. More than $2 million in new funding for its outreach programs means a growing list of firms in Alberta and Saskatchewan are following suit. "They make you feel like you’re already part of the market with them at your back," Grimwood said of FPInnovations’s team.

FPInnovations’s mission is to provide "technical expertise, market intelligence, anything that advances competitiveness and reduces cost," said Roland Baumeister, manager of the institute’s secondary manufacturing department. For a nominal membership fee, small and medium-sized businesses get access to training and knowledge that is typically beyond their modest budgets.

Most firms are interested in the latest breakthroughs in technology, and FP supplies that kind of intelligence. But as Zavisha Sawmills (a family-owned operation in Hines Creek, Alberta) discovered, FP’s management-specific advice is applicable to primary industries as well. "Even without the aid of new technologies, we’ve proved that there can be improvements, and efficiencies can be achieved," said owner Ashley Zavisha.

FPInnovations has taken more than 100 calls from Alberta and Saskatchewan firms seeking assistance and held several workshops, according to Baumeister. The firms range from five-person shops to 500-person operations. The one thing they have in common, besides a business plan centered on adding value to wood products, is the need to keep up with a changing marketplace.

"It’s all about finding solutions to the needs of industry at a specific point in time," said Baumeister. "We’re not trying to build lasting business relationships. We provide short-term knowledge boosts so companies don’t need our help anymore."

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Making Canada an Innovation Leader

In an effort to target promising students from abroad, Mitacs Inc., a national, non-profit organization headquartered at the University of British Columbia which offers unique research and training programs, has expanded its successful ‘Globalink’ student internship program.

WD, which supported the program’s initial pilot project, has made an additional investment to expand the program, strengthen Canada’s international linkages, promote its educational institutions, and help maintain BC’s leadership in leading edge scientific research.

More than 1100 potential students have applied for 2011, and the program has expanded to China and Brazil. In addition, Globalink has expanded beyond the physical sciences and engineering, adding scholarships in the social sciences and humanities.

Globalink is intended to help make Canada a leader in innovation, which requires its universities to make aggressive commitments to research and higher education.

In conceiving the original pilot project, Arvind Gupta, Scientific Director and Chief Executive Officer of Mitacs, said that post-secondary institutions needed to attract the highest possible talent. "We had transformed ourselves as a place to learn, but we weren’t producing the number of innovation leaders that we should. Those that we were producing were leaving the country."

For Gupta and his colleagues at Mitacs, one possible solution was to target promising students in countries like India, where both the economy and student population are growing rapidly, and where other recruiters are aggressively courting graduates. The new tactic involved contacting students while they were still junior undergrads.

That first year, Globalink found 17 students in India interested in studying in BC. It wasn’t easy. "If you only knew the stops we pulled out to let these students come over to us instead of Microsoft in the US," said Gupta.

Last year, the program drew 600 applications and placed 49 students in BC schools. "The buzz in India is this is the program you want to get into," said Gupta.

As the program expands, it will aim to bring the world’s top student talent to Canada, hopefully for the long term – a recent survey suggests that 85 percent of participants are interested in remaining in the country for graduate work because they enjoyed the program and liked the lifestyle that Canada has to offer.

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Taking 3D to New Dimensions in British Columbia

Photo of Minister Yelich becoming one of the first Canadian federal politicians filmed in 3D.

Minister Yelich becomes one of the first Canadian federal politicians filmed in 3D.

Canadian-based film and television production is one of the country’s key economic sectors. In 2009/2010 alone, the total volume of production in Canada totaled $4.9 billion 1. The industry employs an estimated 117,200 individuals on a fulltime basis, including 46,100 jobs directly in film and television production, and a further 71,100 spin-off jobs in other industries in the Canadian economy.

British Columbia, often called "Hollywood North", has long been a favorite location for shooting both Canadian and American television series and movies. Companies in the province have previously been involved in the production of some 3D films, but the technology was invariably imported and handled by teams from the United States and overseas. To keep the industry strong and growing, WD has made investments to ensure that Canadians have the opportunity to train with the latest technology and compete in this growing field.

At Capilano University’s Nat and Flora Bosa Centre for Film and Animation, WD funding has helped to purchase stereoscopic three dimensional (S3D) equipment, including cameras, monitors, two S3D camera rigs, and other supporting technology for the centre. The University will teach students to use S3D technology and offer opportunities for those currently employed in the BC film industry to upgrade their skills.

Stereoscopic 3D Technology

Stereoscopic 3D, or S3D, technology goes beyond the simple animated images that can be rotated on a conventional flat screen. Instead, it generates genuinely three-dimensional films viewable with special glasses.

"Digital S3D is the leading-edge technology in cinematography and it is important that the western Canadian entertainment industry and institutions are equipped to take advantage of the arising opportunities," said Minister Yelich. "Digital technology, including 3D for animation and gaming, is the future of the entertainment industry. As a result of this initiative, BC will strengthen its position as a premier destination for film production."

"We're absolutely delighted that Western Economic Diversification Canada has recognized the value of investing in our spectacular new Bosa Centre, which will ensure that students and industry workers are provided with the necessary tools for creating excellence in their productions," said Capilano University’s President and Vice-Chancellor, Dr. Kris Bulcroft.

At the Emily Carr University of Art and Design (ECU), filmmakers, faculty, graduate students and undergraduates now have access to some of the most advanced technology the film industry has to offer, including digital, live-action motion capture equipment. WD’s investment helped the university to purchase equipment and develop the first western Stereoscopic 3D (S3D) Centre of Excellence in digital media and film technologies.

The Stereoscopic 3D Centre of Excellence opened its doors early in 2010 as part of the university’s Intersections Digital Studios. WD’s investment helped put the BC film industry at the leading edge of training and applied research in production and post-production for S3D technology. "The fact that our equipment is now available for filmmakers has been a boon to the local industry," said Maria Lantin, Director of Intersections Digital Studios.

"British Columbia has a vibrant filmmaking environment and this investment provided the necessary resources for this industry to remain competitive in the West," explained Minister Yelich.

What really puts the university at the leading edge, however, is the potential of linking full body movement with stereoscopic line drawing. Through a partnership with Janro Imaging Laboratory, the S3D Centre is enhancing Janro's flagship freehand stereoscopic drawing tool to take input from a motion capture system. "We are excited about the new aesthetic exploration that can happen with a fully embodied drawing experience," Lantin added.

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Profile 2010: An Economic Report on the Screen-based Production Industry in Canada. Produced by the Canadian Media Production Association, in collaboration with the Association des producteurs de films et de télévision du Québec and the Department of Canadian Heritage. Retrieved from: http://www.cftpa.ca/newsroom/pdf/profile/Profile2010Eng.pdf

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New Tools Addressing Key Medical Research Questions

Mapping the molecular mechanisms and chemical pathways involved in transmitting signals from one nerve cell to another poses one of the most daunting technical challenges in medical research. But new tools are helping bring scientists at the University of Calgary’s Hotchkiss Brain Institute (HBI) closer to answering some of these challenges.

The arrival of new microscopes that offer ultra-fine resolution of living tissue promises to shed light, figurative and literally, on what goes wrong when nerves are damaged by disease or trauma and how they might be restored. "You can actually see nerves regrowing and reconnecting to muscles," said Dr. Doug Zuchodne, Principal Investigator for the Peripheral Nerve Research Laboratory at the HBI Regenerative Unit in Neurobiology (RUN).

The new tools are only now beginning to produce results. For Zuchodne, however, they are proving invaluable as his team works on uncovering clues about how to treat such diseases as multiple sclerosis and diabetes, spinal cord injuries, and other conditions in which neurons no longer communicate properly with each other.

In addition to the microscopes, a major renovation of the RUN labs is underway. Researchers will soon have sound- and light-proof labs, along with the latest in tissue culture facilities.

The HBI was set up seven years ago with a Canada Foundation for Innovation grant and a donation from Calgary’s Hotchkiss family. Prior to becoming the HBI in 2004, the organization had been known as the Calgary Brain Institute for 30 years. It has since assembled a world-class team of researchers, often collaborating with researchers in labs around the world doing work on similar lines of inquiry.

Industry-College Collaboration Lifts off

Photo of an instructor at Red River College’s Stevenson Aviation and Aerospace Training Centre demonstrating ultrasonic non-destructive testing on a composite part for Minister Yelich as an Aircraft Maintenance student looks on.

An instructor at Red River College’s Stevenson Aviation and Aerospace Training Centre demonstrates ultrasonic non-destructive testing on a composite part for Minister Yelich as an Aircraft Maintenance student looks on.

A groundbreaking partnership between Winnipeg’s Red River College and one of the world’s leading aerospace manufacturers has taken the concept of work-study programs to a new level.

The college’s Centre for Aerospace Technology and Training (CATT) doesn’t just work closely with Standard Aerospace’s Winnipeg operations, it’s located right on the international company’s campus. That makes the partnership, created and equipped with support from WD and the Province of Manitoba, unique in Canada, and one of only a handful of similar arrangements in North America.

"Our Government wants Manitoba to maintain and expand its position in aerospace markets," said Minister Yelich. "We are providing the necessary equipment needed so students and industry can begin training, researching and developing key technologies at the centre."

"It gives us an opportunity to put students in an environment where they can see new and emerging technologies, and work there as industrial interns," said Fred Doern, Chair of the college’s Mechanical, Manufacturing and Communications program. "Plus, it’s been a showcase for the latest in welding technologies."

Among those emerging technologies that students and Standard Aerospace are sharing are new lasers for cutting, joining and cladding aircraft parts. There’s also a 3D X-ray camera that can analyze the strength of welded joints using the same technology at work in CAT scanners used by hospitals.

Maintaining that kind of gear can be challenging for a conventional college program; but not for Standard Aerospace. "When you’re located in an industrial environment, you get much better use of the equipment. In our classrooms, they wouldn’t get the same kind of care and attention and support, or get optimal performance," said Doern. Then there’s the advantages students get from learning under practising professionals. "Our instructors sometimes serve as coaches. The subject material experts at Standard Aerospace supply the instruction."

Standard Aerospace is more than pleased with how the partnership is working out, according to Melanie Mulder, a Process Engineering Manager who works closely with CATT. "We consider it an incubator of technology that gives us a chance to learn and understand the potential for future applications," she said. "And we get to know the students before they graduate."

Standard isn’t the only destination for CATT. graduates looking for work, however, as Manitoba’s aerospace sector is one of the strongest in the country and students have gone on to work with small and medium-sized businesses across the province. Doern explains that more than 80 welding and mechanical technology students have already been through CATT, helping to meet the high demand for a skilled workforce in this industry.