media release

B.C. Government awards $12.6 million for research at SFU

October 31, 2014

Scott McLean, SFU Vancouver, 778.782.5151,
Stacey McGahey Jones, Ministry of Advanced Education, 250.952.6400,


The provincial government, through one of its research-funding agencies, the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund, has awarded Simon Fraser University approximately $12.6 million to support 15 research projects as part of a $42.6-million announcement in funding allocated to British Columbia universities.

The funding represents the provincial match to federal funding announced earlier through the Canada Foundation for Innovation. The announcement, made by Minister of Advanced Education Amrik Virk, was held at SFU’s Burnaby campus.

Full ministry release available at:

Backgrounder #1 The Prometheus Project:
One large infrastructure project receiving funding is the Prometheus Project: B.C.'s Multi-Institution Advanced Materials Science and Engineering Initiative, receiving $7.7 million.

Led by Neil Branda, a Canada Research Chair in Materials Science and SFU chemistry professor, The Prometheus Project is destined to become a research hub for materials science and engineering innovation, and commercialization globally.

It brings together 10 principal researchers, including Branda, co-founder of SFU’s 4D LABS, and 20 other scientists at SFU, University of British Columbia, the University of Victoria and the British Columbia Institute of Technology. The project creates new materials science and engineering (MS&E) technology innovations, which will trigger and support sustained economic growth by creating, transforming and making obsolete entire industries.

Working with internationally recognized industrial, government, hospital and academic collaborators, scientists at the Prometheus partners’ labs, including 4D LABS, a $65 million materials science research institute, will deliver innovations in three areas. The labs:

  • Develop new solar-industry related materials and devices, including novel organic polymers, nanoparticles, and quantum dots, which will be integrated in low cost, high efficiency solar cell devices. The goal is to create a new generation of efficient solar cells that can compete in terms of cost with non-renewable technologies, surpassing older ones in terms of miniaturization and flexibility.
  • Develop miniaturized biosensors that can be used by individuals in clinical settings or at home to allow early detection of disease and treatment monitoring. They will be integrated into flexible electronic skins, allowing health conditions to be monitored in real-time.
  • Develop spintronics (magnetic devices) and quantum computing and information devices that will enable new approaches to significantly improve encrypted communication and security in financial transactions.

“This funding significantly enhances the capability for companies to partner with us to create the next generation of materials and devices, and also for us to take our innovations further down the technology deployment pathway so we can get them closer to the ‘here is a real, practical device that can be marketed,’ stage,” said Neil Branda, leader of the Prometheus Project. “British Columbia's materials scientists and engineers already have a rich history of collaboration. This project allows us to move from, and add to, our culture of collaborating to provide a culture of credibility by showing we’re not just a bunch of people developing technology looking for a problem to solve.”

The Prometheus team already has a strong network of potential end users of resulting technologies. It is based on its members’ relationships with many of more than 30 companies in B.C. commercializing solar, biomedical and quantum computing devices.

Researchers and industries worldwide will be able to access Prometheus’s new capabilities on an open-access basis.

Backgrounder #2 Upgrade to the ATLAS Tier-1 Data Analysis Centre:
A second large infrastructure project receiving a major portion of the funding from today’s announcement is the ATLAS Tier-1 Data Analysis Centre at TRIUMF, receiving $1 million.

Led by Mike Vetterli, a physics professor at SFU and TRIUMF, this project involves collaborating with scientists internationally to upgrade a component of a global network of always-on computing centres. Collectively, they form the Worldwide Large Hadron Collider Computing Grid (WLCG).

The Canadian scientists collaborating with Vetterli on this project are at several research-intensive universities. They include Carleton University, McGill University, University of British Columbia, University of Alberta, University of Toronto, University of Victoria, Université de Montréal, and York University, as well as TRIUMF. It’s Canada’s national lab for particle and nuclear physics research.

The grid, which has 10 Tier-1 centres internationally, is essentially a gigantic storage and processing facility for data collected from the ATLAS experiment.

ATLAS is a multi-purpose particle detector inside a massive atom-smashing collider housed at CERN, the world’s leading laboratory for particle physics in Geneva, Switzerland.

More than 3,000 scientists internationally, including Vetterli and many others at SFU, use ATLAS to conduct experiments aimed at furthering global understanding of how the universe was physically formed and operates.

The detector’s fame for being a window into nature’s true inner workings was redoubled last year. It helped scientists, including Vetterli and others at SFU, discover a particle that has properties consistent with the Higgs boson.

Peter Higgs, a Scottish physicist, and other scientists theorized in 1964 about the existence of the long-sought-after particle that is central to the mechanism that gives subatomic particles their mass. 

Scientists now need to upgrade the WLCG to accommodate the massive volume of data they’re reviewing to confirm that the newly discovered particle is the Higgs boson. If it is, it will revolutionize the way we see mass in physics.

“This project will enable scientists to continue to play a leading role in ATLAS physics analysis projects such as the Higgs boson discovery,” says Vetterli. “Much more work and data are required to learn more about the Higgs-like particle and show that it is indeed the missing link to our understanding of the fundamental structure of matter.”

Backgrounder #3 Small research infrastructure projects receiving funding:

  • Advanced Non-linear Control Laboratory for Clean Energy Technology, which will be used to help develop new technologies for smart grid and clean energy systems – $60,526
  • Chronic Pain Studies Laboratory will be used to evaluate non-pharmacological tools for managing chronic pain – $40,000
  • The construction of Institute for the Reduction of Youth Violence to reduce youth conduct problems - $250,000
  • NXCT Fuel Cell Project will develop a state of the art fuel cell testing facility – $1,830,132
  • Infrastructure for the Development of Critical Care and Point of Care Neurotechnologies is research that will lead to better tools for diagnosing and treating changes in brain function – $380,000
  • Public Safety and Security High Performance Computing Laboratory that will manipulate and analyze complex crime data to better understand crime patterns – $200,000
  • Fuel Cell and Battery Research Facility – $120,000
  • Critical Ethnography and Digital Heritage Initiative to safeguard cultural heritage resources using digital technologies – $100,000
  • Epifluorescence Microscopy and Myography System will be dedicated to the study of high blood pressure – $105,000
  • Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry will help to improve and develop tools for the study of embryonic stem cells – $300,000
  • Human Physiology and Function in Extreme Environmental Climactic Chamber Conditions will be used to better understand human physiological responses to extreme
environmental conditions – $157,000
  • Screening Equipment for Probe Identification will help to better understand the role of sugar structures in human health and disease – $200,000
  • Alternative Energy Conversion Systems (AECS) Lab will be breaking new ground in the
area of sustainable energy conversion – $130,000

As Canada's engaged university, SFU is defined by its dynamic integration of innovative education, cutting-edge research and far-reaching community engagement.  SFU was founded almost 50 years ago with a mission to be a different kind of university—to bring an interdisciplinary approach to learning, embrace bold initiatives, and engage with communities near and far. Today, SFU is a leader amongst Canada's comprehensive research universities and is ranked one of the top universities in the world under 50 years of age. With campuses in British Columbia's three largest cities—Vancouver, Surrey and Burnaby—SFU has eight faculties, delivers almost 150 programs to over 30,000 students, and boasts more than 130,000 alumni in 130 countries around the world.


Simon Fraser University: Engaging Students. Engaging Research. Engaging Communities.

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