uOttawa granted eight new Canada Research Chairs

The announcement of eight new Canada Research Chairs for the University of Ottawa is a huge “brain gain” for Canada, the university’s vice-president of research said Friday.

by Stephen Karmazyn

Mona Nemer said the funding associated with the appointments, and the renewal of seven other CRCs is worth $25 million, adding it gives Canada an edge in an ever more competitive global market.

“The CRCs are great recruitment and retention tools. The program was developed precisely for that,” Ms. Nemer said. “The competition for talent is a global competition, in Asia, the US, in Europe. Everywhere people want the best brains.

“We were able to hire outstanding scientists in areas that are critical for Canada.”

The CRCs include areas like clean-tech, IT, and photonics.

Benoît Lessard, the new Canada Research Chair in Advanced Polymer Materials and Organic Electronics, gave Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, Catherine McKenna, a tour of his lab, showing his research into organic semiconductors which could replace silicon.

“We could use [organic semiconductors] for various different sensors for increased environmental monitoring as well as things like better healthcare,” Mr. Lessard said. “Also, the material themselves are produced with less cost to manufacture than conventional material . . . and less energy intensive [to produce].”

Solar panels are another area that could stand to benefit from his research, Mr. Lessard said. Polymers would be a more flexible material than the current silicon in many solar panels.

Samsung displays are made from organic materials that allow them to be thinner and brighter, and Mr. Lessard is using the same technology to make sensors for advanced manufacturing and environmental monitoring, among other implementations.

Ms. Nemer said the CRC is crucial to research like this, and called for more investment into research and innovation.

“We need to appreciate that innovation begins with intelligent ideas and people who will see them through,” she said. “Without talent and without great researchers I don’t think the country as a whole can aspire to a knowledge economy. And certainly the institutions and the universities – including the University of Ottawa – would lose any competitive edge they had on the global scene.”