More than $18-million industry and government investment strengthens Memorial's computational infrastructure

May 27th, 2022

Melissa Ennis & Jeff Green

Significant investments for leading-edge high-performance research computing infrastructure and opportunities will allow Memorial researchers to make bold discoveries and support this province’s thriving technology industry.

On Friday, May 27, Memorial welcomed more than $18 million for two new initiatives – the Centre for Analytics, Informatics and Research (CAIR) and the Accelerated Analytics and Machine Learning (AAML) project.

The initiatives will focus on innovation and research in such diverse fields as data science and astrophysics, genetic analysis, artificial intelligence, machine learning, image analysis and scientific computing.

“This investment is a testament to our continued commitment to support and collaborate with Memorial University and both levels of government.”— Frank Attaie

CAIR will be equipped with powerful high-performance computers able to process huge amounts of complex data, leading to faster insights for projects such as AAML.

Funding partners

The support comes from the Government of Canada, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, as jurisdictional partners, and private-sector partner IBM.

This includes a $16-million, in-kind investment of hardware, software and staffing from IBM during a period of four years. IBM will also provide free development and cloud credits to early stage entrepreneurs and startup companies via the Startup with IBM program.

“We are supporting innovative learning, advanced research and opportunities to grow the technology industry.”— Joanne Thompson

ACOA is providing $1.4 million towards the two initiatives and the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador will contribute $1.35 million.

Enhancing capacity

“Ongoing collaborations with our government and industry partners allow Memorial to meet the challenges and opportunities of our province and beyond,” said President Vianne Timmons.

“These significant investments will further enhance Memorial’s capacity in strategic areas, provide world-class scientific training opportunities for faculty and graduate students and allow Memorial to continue supporting the tremendous growth of the local technology industry.”

‘Continued commitment’

Working with Memorial, IBM will also help drive further economic development in the province by supporting skills growth via the IBM SkillsBuild program.

The free digital training program helps learners develop valuable new skills and find jobs, regardless of their background or education.

SkillsBuild provides learners with professional workplace readiness and technical skills and enables them to earn digital badges recognized by the market.

Globally, IBM is committed to providing 30 million people with new skills needed for the jobs of tomorrow by 2030.

“This collaboration will provide access to high performance computing within our province.”— Andrew Parsons

This undertaking builds on the tremendous success of the partnership first formed in 2014 between IBM, Memorial and both governments.

“Our goal is to deliver more diverse computing services to teaching and research communities, to speed up their processes of scientific and technical innovations, and to further increase our contributions in Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Frank Attaie, general manager, technology, IBM Canada.

“This investment is a testament to our continued commitment to support and collaborate with Memorial University and both levels of government to help further advance Canada’s ability to innovate, address a critical skills gap, and drive research and innovation.”

Critical support

As the local technology industry continues to grow rapidly, the demand for highly qualified professionals in technology-related fields such as data science will increase.

CAIR’s hardware infrastructure and supportive staffing complement will be instrumental in meeting training and research needs, ensuring professional training that meets regional and national competitiveness.

“The Government of Canada, through ACOA, is committed to working with key partners to help build the digital economy and support long-term economic growth in this region,” said Joanne Thompson, member of Parliament for St. John’s East, on behalf of Ginette Petitpas Taylor, minister, Official Languages, and minister responsible for ACOA.

“By investing in high-tech equipment and skills development at Memorial University, we are supporting innovative learning, advanced research and opportunities to grow the technology industry.”

“Industry has made it clear that as our innovation economy grows, there is a greater need for more highly qualified people or talent,” said Andrew Parsons, minister, Industry, Energy and Technology, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“This collaboration will provide access to high performance computing within our province, allowing for even more opportunities for researchers, industry partnerships and the startup community to meet the growing needs of our tech sector.” 

‘Homegrown experts’

Wearing a yellow shirt and glasses, Dr. Terrence Tricco stands with arms folded. Behind him is a view of the St. John's Campus.
Dr. Terrence Tricco

Dr. Terrence Tricco (B.Sc.’05, M.Sc.’10), assistant professor, Department of Computer Science, Faculty of Science, is principal investigator of the AAML project.

He says the new initiatives will dramatically increase Memorial’s high-performance computational infrastructure for the entire research community.

“The AAML project will support the training of master’s and PhD students in high demand fields, such as data science, artificial intelligence and software development, allowing us to attract the best talent to Memorial University,” Dr. Tricco told the Gazette.

“CAIR resources will be a foundational component of training these homegrown experts, which will contribute to the growth of Newfoundland and Labrador’s flourishing technology industry.”

You can hear more from Dr. Tricco about the project in the video below.

Powerful technology

Dr. Brendan Barrett, professor of medicine (nephrology), Faculty of Medicine, is principal investigator for CAIR.

As a high-performance computing centre, CAIR has the capacity to rapidly process and analyze vast amounts of data, providing secure storage with off-site backups.

Wearing a white shirt, blue tie and glasses, Dr. Brendan Barrett stands next to computer servers which contain green lights.
Dr. Brendan Barrett

It is a local dedicated resource with qualified personnel who can assist research teams in planning their data management approach and provide flexible and timely access to necessary computer resources.

“CAIR is a powerful tool helping to put researchers at Memorial at the leading edge of their respective fields,” said Dr. Barrett.

“We are excited to continue our partnership with IBM Canada, which has supported the team since 2014 and continues to bring so much to the table in terms of technology and innovation.”

You can hear more from Dr. Barrett in the video below.

The funding was announced during a news conference on the St. John’s campus, hosted by Dr. Neil Bose, vice-president (research).

More information about IBM Canada is available here and about IBM SkillsBuild here.