Skip to main content

In the 2020 Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Innovation Fund competition, Simon Fraser University was allowed to submit applications for projects who ask from CFI totalled $24.7M. The Institutional Strategic Awards (ISA) team held an open competition for research teams at SFU to request the ability to apply for CFI funding in this competition. We received internal expressions of interest totalling $36.4M and ultimately selected the projects below for SFU’s $24.7M funding cap.

Further details on the internal selection process, deciding which projects were invited to apply under SFU’s funding envelope can be found here.

A national success rate of ~30% is expected in this competition. Results are expected to be announced in November 2020.


SFU-led CFI Projects

Project Title Project/Team Leaders SFU's CFI Envelope Total Project Cost
Personalized Systems for Human Safety, Performance, and Wellbeing Neil Branda; Bozena Kaminska $3,355,022 $14,187,508
Digital Cultures for Social Innovation Michelle Levy; Collette Colligan $2,955,612 $7,389,030
Canadian Natural Hazards Facility and Knowledge Portal Glyn Williams-Jones; Gwenn Flowers
$2,960,000 $7,400,000
Scalable electrochemical energy technologies Kjeang, Erik $5,336,472 $13,366,220
Behavioural Insights Lab for Complex Problems Mark Pickup, Mark; Pei-Shiuan Lily Lin $380,559 $1,888,896
ATLAS Tier-1 Data Centre Bernd Stelzer; Reda Tafirout $2,169,811 $5,424,718
Subtotal of SFU’s envelope contribution $17,157,476  



CFI projects led by other institutions

Project Title Project/Team Leaders SFU's CFI Envelope Total Project Cost
EXotic nuclei Active Target TPC (EXACT-TPC) Rituparna Kanungo, St. Mary’s University (Andreoiu, Corina) $177,000 $1,920,000
Establishing a Canadian Free Electron Laser Program of Research Scott Hopkins, University of Waterloo (J. Steven Dodge)  $900,000 $42,589,920
Pacific Ocean Neutrino Explorer Carsten Krauss, University of Alberta (Matthias Danninger) $100,000 $11,100,179
Solutions to Increase Ocean Health and Sustainability in Coastal Environments Sean Rogers, University of Calgary (Isabelle Côté; John Reynolds) $703,000 $9,102,204
Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging (CLSA): A Platform for Interdisciplinary Research Raina Parminder, McMaster University (Andrew Wister) $520,000 $24,550,211
Building a Future for Canadian Neutron Scattering Bruce Gaulin, McMaster University (Barbara Frisken) $200,000 $47,276,237
Integrated platform for rapid stem cell driven disease modelling Francis Lynn; Glen Tibbits, UBC (Tibbits) $3,983,154 $23,791,120
Rapid Access Into the Subglacial Environment Alison Criscitiello; Christian Schoof, UBC (Gwenn Flowers) $164,793 $4,564,066
HAICU: Hydrogen Antihydrogen Infrastructure at Canadian Universities for Quantum Innovations in Antimatter Science Markoto Fujiwara; Takamasa Momose, UBC (Michael Hayden) $500,000
CADnet: Canadian Design Network for Circuits and Systems Shahriar Mirabbasi; Sudip Shekhar, UBC; (Behraad Bahreyni) $250,000 $18,780,012
Subtotal of SFU’s envelope contribution $7,497,947  
TOTAL SFU envelope contribution ($24,700,000) $24,655,423  


Project Summaries


SFU-led projects

More than just current technology in a wearable format, wearable technology integrates sensors, control, and feedback to improve the well-being and quality of life for everyone, from athletes to the injured and aged. Our multidisciplinary team has the breadth of expertise in materials science, engineering, kinesiology, and human physiology needed to produce innovative wearables in collaboration with local industry. We will produce new materials, devices, and control systems which we will then integrate to produce apparel with a high potential for commercialization.

An important opportunity exists in the clothing and apparel industry. Electronic functionality is broadening its scope, connecting and improving every aspect of human life, and wearable electronics is the logical next step. Metro Vancouver is home to both electronics and fashion industries making it uniquely poised to take a global leadership role to the benefit of the Canadian economy.

Taking full advantage of this opportunity requires making improvements on current technologies, which tend to be cumbersome and uncomfortable. However, our team has the complementary skills to develop truly wearable technologies and impact not only the Canadian economy but the quality of life of all citizens. Impacts include systems for temperature regulation, controllable compression systems, and soft robotics. These breakthroughs must be integrated into a single garment, for example pants that improve mobility and strength.

Digital Cultures for Social Innovation brings together researchers, librarians, technologists, and community members to collaborate in a holistic and inclusive approach to the creation and study of digital culture by attending to the different stages of digital cultural life. To fully utilize our individual and collective expertise and to foster diversity and inclusion in the digital research process, we propose developing infrastructure that does not currently exist in the region, in the form of two new facilities: a Digital Scholarship Centre, which will house the existing SFU Digital Humanities Innovation Lab, a new Cultural Data Observatory, and four technical experts; and a Digital Studio, which will provide collaborative meeting space, a podcasting studio, and a digital storytelling developer. These facilities will support the activities of our thirty-member research group, drawn from a variety of disciplines at SFU, which will organize its research activities into four Working Groups: Diversifying Digital Collections; Analyzing Digital Culture; Innovating Scholarly Communication; and Advancing Digital Sustainability. Digital Cultures promises to bring important sociocultural benefits to Canadians by promoting community engagement in research, uncovering diverse cultural heritage, mobilizing new research methods for cultural data, increasing social resiliency, and advancing technological sustainability.

Canada is threatened by numerous and cascading natural hazards, such as landslides, snow avalanches, volcanic processes, earthquakes, tsunami, hurricanes, storm surges, wildfires, droughts and floods. Many of these hazards are being exacerbated by climate change. In addition to posing an immediate risk to life, they have the potential to devastate communities, important industries and critical lifelines for the Canadian economy (e.g., transportation corridors, transmission lines, communications, pipelines). From 2010-2018, fires, floods and hurricanes alone caused tens of billions of dollars in damages, $560M in direct response costs, and displaced hundreds of thousands of people. These disasters affect urban and rural communities alike, but remote and indigenous communities are particularly vulnerable as they lack the critical information about their local hazards that would enable effective mitigation and response planning. This proposal is premised on making a major advance in how we, in Canada, gather, analyze, visualize, curate, communicate and act on natural hazards information. The Canadian Natural Hazards Facility will acquire critical data to enable development of new predictive models and improve our understanding of natural hazards. When made accessible via the Knowledge Portal, this data will empower communities to become more resilient in the face of natural disasters. This proposal will nucleate a national asset for hazards research in Canada.

This CFI-IF project enables the creation of the Scalable Electrochemical Energy Technologies (SEE-Tech) Centre at Simon Fraser University's Surrey campus. SEE-Tech will provide essential open access research infrastructure to address technology challenges working alongside industry stakeholders through an efficient, fully-integrated scientific-technological approach. SEE-Tech will leapfrog our ability to innovate materials and system designs through the understanding of interactions between processing conditions, material structure, device performance, and durability to foster the development of scalable, durable, and cost-effective electrochemical energy technologies. These technologies will be used for energy storage, conversion, and transportation to support renewable energy penetration and increase energy availability, stability, and efficiency with multiple service delivery and benefits: zero emission transportation, modernization of electricity grids and natural gas networks, surplus electricity storage, and utilization at end-user residential and industrial sites including remote/off grid locations. Additionally, these technologies can help meet regional electricity and transportation fuel demands, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and improve urban air quality. SEE-Tech will greatly enhance the value proposition of Made-in-Canada hydrogen, fuel cell, and battery technologies, creating opportunities for commercialization, economic growth, and HQP training.

A complex or 'wicked' problem is a societal challenge that is difficult to solve due to: incomplete or contradictory knowledge; the social nature of the problem involving the decisions of a vast number of individuals; and the interconnected nature of the problem with other problems. Examples of wicked problems include sustainability, political intolerance, and unhealthy food choices. When studied from a single perspective wicked (e.g., economic, consumer, health), problems are often written off as too cumbersome to solve; yet, they are key problems for our society.

Because of the multifaceted and discipline-crossing nature of wicked problems, achieving breakthroughs through world-class research requires a multidisciplinary, multifaceted (MDMF) strategy that incorporates:

  1. interdisciplinary teams;
  2. experiments conducted in realistic settings and social contexts, with realistic (visual, textual, infographic and audiovisual) treatments;
  3. a diverse participant pool;
  4. experiments to examine individual decision-making in isolation and in groups; and 5) the concurrent recording of a wide- range of outcome data, namely emotional responses (e.g., happiness, anger), physiological responses (e.g., anxiety, disgust), attitudinal and cognitive responses, and behavioural decisions. The requested infrastructure will enable the team to develop interventions in different policy areas.

The ATLAS experiment at CERN in Geneva studies proton-proton collisions from the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at the highest energy ever achieved in the laboratory, allowing scientists to probe the fundamental constituents of matter and their interactions. The ATLAS detector records these collisions to search for new particles and phenomena. The best known of these is the Higgs boson. The search for the Higgs boson and other new phenomena is complicated by the presence of background events that are 10 billion times more frequent. Discoveries thus require an enormous amount of data collection and detailed analysis.

An international network of high-performance computing facilities linked by high-speed networks, the Worldwide Large Hadron Collider (LHC) Computing Grid (WLCG), stores and processes these data. Ten Tier-1 centres play a central role in the WLCG; one of these is in Canada. The computing Grid coordinates hundreds of computing centres to act in an organized way to store and process ATLAS data. The particular innovation of the WLCG is the distribution and organization of enormous datasets. Innovation is also present in the way the LHC collisions are reconstructed at the Tier-1 Data Centres.

The requested infrastructure includes expansion of SFU's Tier-1 Data Centre, in both storage capacity and processing capability, in response to the computing needs required during Run-3 of the LHC and extension of warranties and support contracts for existing equipment.

CFI Projects Lead by Other Institutions

Nuclear isotopes are at the heart of visible matter in our universe and the burning fuel of stars, creating elements in nature. Only a handful of them that are stable or very long-lived, are found naturally on earth. The short-lived rare isotopes are created in some of nature's most exotic environments such a merging neutron stars or exploding supernovae. These rare isotopes are the breeding grounds for majority of the heavy elements found on earth that play integral roles in our everyday life. Yet, our knowledge on the rare isotopes is extremely limited. Their properties are exhibiting unexpected deviations from our traditional knowledge. Harnessing the rare isotopes is a tremendous challenge due to their low production yield. This requires using a thick target with which these isotopes collide. Hydrogen and helium isotopes are commonly used targets for spectroscopy of these isotopes. The reactions often produce very low-energy reaction residues whose detection poses challenges with a conventional thick solid target. We propose building a specialized instrument, the Exotic Nuclei Active Target TPC, which is a gas filled volume surrounded by auxiliary detectors, with the gas acting both as the target and detector. It will provide high resolution image of reaction tracks in the gas. Furthermore, this high precision image detection technology and deciphering using machine language has societal applications for radiological imaging and diagnostic images in climate studies.

The Canadian science and engineering community proposes the establishment of a national free electron laser (FEL)-based research program. This program involves the construction of a developmental site for accelerator-based photonic technology in Vancouver, an applications site for FEL-based research in Waterloo, and augmentation of several existing laboratories across Canada. This program will support the national STEM community by creating world-leading infrastructure at national user facilities and through enabling discovery and applications development for local researchers prior to scheduling time at the national facilities. The requested infrastructure will enable the exploration of new scientific frontiers using high-intensity light in the terahertz (THz) region of the spectrum. The proposed program of FEL-based research will be the first of its kind in the world. Applications include far-infrared spectroscopy, THz imaging, and electron diffraction. These capabilities will accelerate discovery in areas ranging from fundamental science through to personalized medicine, energy, and advanced manufacturing. The applications site in Waterloo will be housed in a new national institute for photonics science, led by 2018 Nobel Laureate in Physics, Donna Strickland. This institute will have strong ties with the private sector and with local start-up incubators, thereby ensuring efficient knowledge transfer and commercialization of new technologies developed by FEL users.

The black holes located at the centre of galaxies fascinate due to the enormous scale of their mass and sheer gravitational force. These objects also pose significant scientific puzzles as they are the most likely source of the highest energy cosmic rays that have been observed in observatories all over the planet in recent years. The conventional way of observing high energy cosmic rays by studying the properties of the charged particles in cosmic ray showers does not allow to determine where these cosmic rays originate from. Using neutrinos as messengers has been established as the only available method to further study the origin of these high energy phenomena. This proposal aims to establish the Pacific Ocean Neutrino Explorer, P-ONE that will join the worldwide efforts to build a network of large neutrino telescopes to shed light on the type of sources that produce very high energy cosmic particles. P-ONE will allow Canadian researchers to develop a deep under-sea observatory in the Pacific Ocean that while using existing Canadian expertise in ocean technology and combining it with proven detectors used in particle experiments to eventually look right into the inner workings of the largest particle accelerators Nature provides, the environment of supermassive black holes from the depth of the Pacific Ocean floor, where P-ONE will be installed. In addition P-ONE unlocks opportunities in biology and particle physics with our international partners.

Canada has the longest coastline in the world and strives to be a leader in initiatives that develop and implement policies and programs in support of economic, ecological and scientific interests in ocean health and sustainability. This project will address the primary research question: How will humans steward and sustain a healthy ocean environment? Solutions for healthy coasts and oceans require understanding ocean diversity, the consequences of cumulative effects of a changing climate on that diversity (e.g., temperature), and how species may be resilient or adapt to these stressors. By mapping biodiversity and environmental parameters in Barkley Sound, along with species specific responses to stressors, the project will predict ocean health and sustainability based on environmental changes, informing the course of action needed for effective resource management and protection of species. This project will leverage multi-institutional, internationally renowned experts to implement innovative and interdisciplinary approaches in ocean exploration and experimentation to address these challenges, including harnessing new technologies. The team will advance two critical research themes (1- Coastal Diversity and Environmental Change; 2 - Resilience and Adaptation in a Changing World) with cutting-edge, field-based ocean and coastal exploration platforms to be based at the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre.

World-wide there is motivation to better understand the biological, physiological, psychological and social foundations of aging. The Canadian Longitudinal Study of Aging (CLSA) Platform is a national infrastructure, operated by highly trained experts, for ongoing collection, storage and analyses of data and biological samples for population-based social and health research. Both national and international researchers with multi- sectoral partners, use the CLSA Platform to conduct research to understand why some people age in healthy fashion and other do not. In the next 5 to 10 years, the CLSA Platform will be positioned to build tools that will help the identification of early causes of conditions such as mobility impairment, disability, cognitive decline, and other health conditions to inform the development of interventions to increase disability-free healthy life span. The determinants of how impairments and diseases accumulate over time are central to understanding the trajectories of healthy aging and require a rigorous multi-system approach examining aging from "cell to society". To maintain the extraordinary productivity of the CLSA, a continued investment in infrastructure is required to support its ongoing operations to create a world class platform for research in Canada and globally. With this investment, the CLSA will continue its progress to support the development new interventions, programs and policies for today and tomorrow's aging population in Canada.

"Building a Future for Canadian Neutron Scattering" is a national project that will enable research and innovation in areas such as materials for clean energy technology, materials for structural integrity of reliability-critical components of vehicles or nuclear power plants, biomaterials for understanding and combating disease, and materials for information technology. Neutron beams are versatile and irreplaceable 21st century tools for studying materials and are needed by a Canadian research community that includes about 100 principal investigators from over 30 universities. Access to neutron beams is urgently needed following the recent closure of the Canadian Neutron Beam Centre and the expiry of Canada's only agreement for access to a foreign neutron beam facility. Now, the McMaster Nuclear Reactor is Canada's only major neutron source, and this project will complete its neutron beam lab by adding three neutron beamlines. To enable experiments that require high neutron brightness, the project will build partnerships with two world- leading neutron beam facilities in the US. Potential benefits of the research include technologies to reduced greenhouse gas emissions; enhanced reliability and competitiveness of Canadian nuclear power and auto parts manufacturing industries; knowledge to aid the fight against cancer, Alzheimer's, and antibiotic resistance; and knowledge of quantum materials that could enable breakthroughs in information technology devices.

The Integrated Platform for Rapid Stem Cell Driven Disease Modelling (INTREPID) is a collaborative effort between BC Children's Hospital Research Institute (BCCHR/UBC; co-PI Lynn) and Simon Fraser University (SFU; co-PI Tibbits). INTREPID will facilitate the use of patient-derived stem cells to seek novel treatments for disease. INTREPID is composed of the: 1) Automated Stem Cell and Genome Editing Facility, and 2) Cell and Tissue Differentiation and Characterization Facilities based at BCCHR; and 3) the Stem Cell Factory, and 4) High Throughput Stem Cell Screening Centre based at SFU.

INTREPID will facilitate the generation of induced pluripotent or adult stem cells and their subsequent genetic engineering to either introduce or correct disease causing genetic variants. Stem cells can then be: 1) Expanded, differentiated and screened using INTREPID components located at SFU in order to uncover new therapeutic agents; 2) Differentiated and characterized at the BCCHR in order to determine the biological basis for disease and how it might be reversed; and 3) Stored in the Biobank for later use by INTREPID researchers and their collaborators.

Each of the four components will be state-of-the-art centres unique in Canada; however, the seamless integration of these into INTREPID makes this a world-class facility that will lead to new advances in clinical care that will benefit all Canadians.

If there is life beyond Earth in the Solar System, it is most likely to be found in cold, dark and salty water pockets on ice-covered moons that orbit Jupiter and Saturn. Future space craft will likely land on these moons and try to look for life. That will however require some knowledge of what signs of life to look for, informed by what life forms in similar settings on Earth look like. Such settings are however rare on Earth, and exploring a very salty lake under an ice cap on Devon Island provides our best bet for guiding the development these future space probes. We plan to use a custom-made hot water drill that is able to penetrate through the ice and into the lake without contaminating it in order to determine what life forms exist in it, what chemical signals they leave behind, and what their DNA can tell us about their history. The same drill will subsequently be used to study key processes that will determine how much sea levels rise under climate change. Our prime target is the flow of relatively warm water under the floating ice shelves of Antarctica, Greenland and the Canadian Arctic, whose melting can cause land ice to flow into the ocean and cause sea levels to go up. Our efforts will provide much-needed data to produce improved predictions of ice melting and sea level rise by allowing computer simulations to capture heat exchange between ocean and ice much more accurately.

"What happened to the antimatter in the Universe?" In a quest to answer this question, one of the most profound in modern science, the award-winning ALPHA-Canada team has been studying antihydrogen (the antimatter form of hydrogen) at the international CERN laboratory, comparing its properties with hydrogen. Great stride has been made measuring the spectrum, weight and charge of the antiatoms. The natural next step is to further advance these measurements with newly emerging quantum techniques. This may well catch up with and eventually exceed measurements of hydrogen, which were mostly performed many decades ago with historic techniques. The team thus proposes a new Canada-based infrastructure, known as HAICU (Hydrogen Antihydrogen Infrastructure at Canadian Universities), which develops techniques to bring both hydrogen and antihydrogen studies to a new age. Quantum techniques such as (anti)atomic fountains, (anti)matter- wave interferometers and coherent quantum manipulations are the focus. Through these developments, the team will address the mysteries of antimatter, which may force a complete change in the way we understand our Universe. For this project, innovative technologies in the fields of cryogenics, lasers, microwaves, magnets, photon detection and particle manipulation will be developed, and highly-qualified scientific and technical trainees with high level of "quantum literacy" will be cultivated.

Imagine virtual presence and interactive telepresence allowing residents in Canada's North access to complex surgical care in their own community; retinal implants equipped with electronic sensors restoring full sight to elderly Canadians afflicted by macular degeneration; sensors mitigating the threat of environmental devastation from broken oil pipelines crossing the expanse of First Nations territories; and the power of Artificial Intelligence accelerating search and rescue efforts following natural or man-made disasters in densely populated urban areas. This is a sampling of the multitude of benefits that will result from CADnet, a Canada-wide research project equipping 1,200 professors and their collaborators in 1,000 companies to develop and deploy Made in Canada solutions. Leading breakthrough research across three themes ̶ Pervasive and Contextual Sensing, Next-Generation Communications, and Advanced Computing, CADnet researchers will be equipped with the computer-aided design tools and the technology platforms that are both foundational to the digital economy (microelectronics, nanotechnology, photonics, system-on- chip, architecture, embedded systems, and packaging) and essential to overcome current technological challenges. CADnet researchers will realize technology innovations that deliver advantages over conventional technologies, demonstrate commercial potential, and improve the quality of life of Canadians.