by David Sorensen
Dr. Siu O'Young explains the RAVEN project to a reporter.
RAVEN is one of the projects to receive funding under
the Atlantic Innovation Fund.
Five projects from Memorial University have
been selected for funding under the Atlantic Innovation
Fund (AIF). In addition to the $13.1 million Inco Innovation
Centre, to be located at the university, Memorial will also
receive $8.5 million to undertake four projects.
A total of $21.6 million in AIF funding was awarded to these
innovative research and development projects that represent
a major step toward helping Newfoundland and Labrador compete
in the global, knowledge-based economy. AIF funds projects
up to a maximum of 80 per cent of the total project costs;
matching funds can be found from other funding sources such
as federal granting agencies and private sector partners.
The total funds generated from the four research projects
plus the Inco Innovation Centre will bring into the university
a total of almost $57 million.
The announcement was made at a press conference
Sept. 11 by Gerry Byrne, minister of state for the Atlantic
Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), and Newfoundland and
Labrador’s representative in the federal cabinet.
“These projects demonstrate that there is a remarkable
range of innovation and R&D taking place in our province’s
research institutions and in the private sector of our economy,”
said Mr. Byrne. “To transform this activity into a
greater number of commercialized products and services,
and ultimately, economic growth for our region, it is essential
that strong partnerships be forged among our business and
our research community. The AIF is proving to be a key catalyst
in encouraging such partnerships.”
The four awarded projects represent a mix of private sector,
university and community college initiatives located throughout
the province. They relate to a range of new and emerging
sectors such as information technology, biotechnology, medical
technology, ocean technology, environmental technology,
as well as traditional sectors such as manufacturing, oil
and gas, and mining.
Memorial’s successful projects are:
The Centre for Marine Simulation will undertake a Modeling/Simulation
of Harsh Environments project to provide workers in Newfoundland’s
offshore with the necessary skills to ensure safety and
efficiency in oil and gas operations in harsh maritime environments.
Led by Capt. Anthony Patterson of Memorial’s Marine
Institute, the centre will develop ice management tools
focused on reducing human error at sea. The project aims
to better understand human performance in ice-invested environments
and to develop training tools to improve worker performance.
It incorporates three independent activities: simulation
infrastructure, model development and human factors studies.
H Memorial University’s Botanical Garden will undertake
a project named Plant Atlantic to establish a home-based
production industry for Atlantic Canadian hardy ornamental
plants. The project will employ biotechnological methodologies
such as tissue culture and micro-propagation along with
classic hybridization, plant exploration and selection in
the discovery of new ornamental plants. Industry partners
will then commercially produce and market them to the local,
national and international markets. The project is led by
Dr. Wilf Nicholls, director of the Botanical Garden.
H RAVEN – Remote Aerial Vehicles for Environmental
monitoring, a project of Memorial’s Instrumentation,
Control & Automation Centre (INCA), proposes to develop
a maritime surveillance system utilizing unmanned aerial
vehicles (UAVs). The project would utilize commercially
available UAVs, and develop flight management and target
tracking systems. Specifically, INCA will develop a Mission
Management System required for control and communications;
modify a marine Automatic Identification System to perform
ship tracking and develop an Autonomous Guidance System
for identifying and tracking objects such as icebergs. Civilian
applications of UAVs are a new research area for Canada
and is just beginning to emerge worldwide, with a concentration
at universities. Dr. Siu O’Young, Faculty of Engineering
and Applied Science is the lead investigator.
H Memorial University’s Faculty of Medicine and School
of Pharmacy will develop an online, database-driven application
for pharmacogenetics and drug effectiveness research. Lead
investigator Dr. Proton Rahman said the PRD will be a complex
application of bio-informatics that will bring together
drug prescription, health, and genetic information for the
purpose of research. “The PRD will attract researchers
and industry clients seeking to take advantage of its capabilities
and resources,” said Dr. Rahman. It will also achieve
significant medical and prescription cost savings and build
the region's pharmacogenetics, genomics and IT industries,
and create additional capacity and expertise in these emerging
The purpose-built database, accessed through the Centre
for Applied Health Research, will provide research and analysis
capability in the areas of drug therapy effectiveness, drug/drug
interactions and pharmacogenetics (the study of the genetic
basis of drug response). Linking through the provincial
Newfoundland and Labrador Pharmacy Network, it will access
anonymous data on every prescription filled in the province
by all pharmacies, hospitals and clinics, as well as demographic
and health information essential to the research. In addition,
it will have the capacity to incorporate targeted data collection
components to meet specific requirements of pharmaceutical
or genomics industry clients, and for use by researchers
at Memorial .
The total value of these four Memorial University projects
is $23.8 million, which includes the $8.49 million in AIF
funding, plus $15.2 million anticipated to be leveraged
by the proponents through private sector and other government
“With the aid of this latest round of AIF announcements,
Memorial’s research funding levels have risen considerably.
This is what we are striving for so that we can better support
our students (especially our graduate students), the development
of our province and the creation of new knowledge for the
benefit of all humankind,” said Dr. Meisen
For more on the latest round of AIF funding, see www.acoa.ca/e/media/press/press.shtml?2595.
A detailed look at Memorial’s AIF-funded projects
will appear in an upcoming issue of the Gazette.