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McGill received over $13 million in the most recent round of Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) funding announced March 8 in Ottawa. The new funding brings McGill's total funding from CFI to over $153 million since 1997.
"McGill has done extremely well over the six years of CFI funding. In this particular competition, we had two large innovation funds approved, one Canada Research Chair infrastructure fund approved and 13 new opportunities grants (which provide infrastructure funding for new or recently hired professors)," said Associate Vice Principal (research) Ian Butler.
Most of the money awarded McGill in this round will go to two projects — a research group on gene expression led by biology chair Paul Lasko, and the McGill Aerospace Materials and Alloy Development Centre in the faculty of engineering, led by mining metalurgy and materials engineering professor Stephen Yue.
Yue's project received $2,728,000 to develop materials that can withstand the extreme conditions experienced in aerospace applications, while reducing the weight of aircraft.
"The new materials would be things like new super alloys, which are high temperature alloys," said Yue.
His group — which has seven researchers from engineering and the Industrial Materials Institute in Boucherville — hopes to purchase a cold spray, which can create components from these alloys without using high temperatures. This will have implications for manufacturing, but also for repairing aircraft parts without subjecting them to high heat, as well as the creation of nano-particle reinforced super-alloys.
The group hopes to purchase an electron beam physical vapour deposition, which applies a controlled coating on aerospace materials, as well as a 3D atom probe tomograph, which can analyze materials on the atomic level.
Yue is excited by the possibilities afforded by these purchases, and is in the happy position of having to retrain.
"For me, personally, it's a hell of a lot of work — these are completely new technologies. I've never used these before," he said.
Lasko said that the $7,910,000 his project received from CFI will go towards establishing a research centre that will form a pillar of the planned life sciences complex to be housed in the Stewart, McIntyre and Bellini buildings.
Lasko explained that the group — which currently includes about 15 biology professors — does basic research on model organisms like yeast, fruit flies and nematode worms.
"We get information about the functionality of genes in these systems — the idea is that these organisms share most of the same genetic information that people have. This knowledge might have relevance to cancer, or birth defects or human disease," he said.
The CFI funding will go towards renovating existing facilities in the Stewart Biology building, updating old equipment and purchasing new equipment such as robotic systems and computing equipment. It will also include a spinning disk confocal microscope.
"That will be the first in Quebec," said Lasko.
"We have world class researchers who expect to have this stuff, and we need it to remain as competitive as we are."
Butler explained that the CFI funds 40 percent of any given project. The province of Quebec, which pre-approves all proposals sent to Ottawa, provides another 40 percent. The last portion is provided by the university, often in the form of equipment discounts.
Barbara Ouimet, McGill's CFI program officer, said that this round of CFI funding was very tough. The 126 projects funded at 57 Canadian universities, colleges, research hospitals, and other non-profit research institutions represent only a 26 percent success rate for proposed projects. McGill had ten projects pre-approved by the provincial government.
"There was a huge amount of competition this time," she said.
McGill researchers will also be drawing on roughly $5 million received by projects at other institutions with which they are collaborating, such as pain research with Dalhousie University, or neurophotonics with Université Laval. In addition, McGill researchers will benefit from funding for national projects such as those for the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon.
The University of British Columbia remains the overall leader in total CFI funds received, but McGill has the highest amount of funds per professor — an average of $113,000 per faculty member, compared to UBC at $106,000 or Université de Montréal at $103,000.