CANARIE – Advancing Innovation in Canada

CANARIE connects Canada to the world with programs that equip researchers, students, and start-ups in Canada to excel on the global stage. Established in 1993 by the Government of Canada as a non-profit corporation to advance Canada’s knowledge and innovation infrastructure, the organization’s priorities, as established by Innovation, Science and Development Canada, are to:

  • Provide an internationally competitive ultra-high-speed network for Canada’s research, innovation and advanced education communities;
  • Develop, demonstrate and implement next-generation technologies;
  • Bolster Canada’s technology capabilities by assisting Canadian institutions and companies operating in Canada to advance innovation and commercialization of products and services.

CANARIE members include colleges, universities, healthcare facilities, research and post-secondary institutes, non-profit innovation organizations, government agencies and private sector organizations from across Canada.

“The organization’s mandate has evolved over its 30-year history,” says Kathryn Anthonisen, CANARIE President and CEO.  Initiatives led by CANARIE since its inception include:

  • laying the groundwork, with provincial partner networks, for the first commercial Internet in Canada;
  • incubating the Internet Registration Authority in Canada, now known as CIRA;
  • working with global peers to align international research and education infrastructures to support globally collaborative research, now formalized via the Global Network Advancement Group (GNA-G);
  • developing the grid certificate authority in Canada that provides secure access to data generated from the Large Hadron Collider and other advanced digital technologies;
  • supporting the uptake of cloud technology by Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs) in Canada;
  • identifying gaps in research software and championing the development of powerful research software tools to efficiently enable researchers across many disciplines to accelerate discovery, a program that has transitioned to the Digital Research Alliance of Canada as part of the Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI) Strategy; and
  • supporting Research Data Canada to align research data activities within Canada and internationally, now transitioned to the Digital Research Alliance of Canada as part of the DRI Strategy.

CANARIE’s current mandate includes enhancement of the cybersecurity capabilities of Canada’s research and education institutions. “The post-secondary education sector is one of the top three targets in Canada for cybersecurity breaches” notes Anthonisen.  “Threat actors from nation-states are sophisticated, well-funded, and well-organized. They target research data, intellectual property and infrastructure to disrupt and disable the peace of mind of Canadians,” she says

To address its cybersecurity mandate, CANARIE launched the Cybersecurity Initiatives Program (CIP) in November 2020. 97% of 220 research and post-secondary organizations that are eligible for the program are now participating in the CIP, which offers funded services to strengthen organizations’ cybersecurity capabilities.

As part of this work, CANARIE and its provincial and territorial partners in the National Research and Education Network (NREN) launched a national cybersecurity assessment service, based on the five key dimensions of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework. The goals of the assessment are to provide a clear, comprehensive picture of the cybersecurity maturity of Canada’s research & education sector, and identify risk-based priorities for the planning, investment, and delivery of future cybersecurity initiatives at the organizational, regional, and federal level.

CANARIE, with its partners in the NREN, is also piloting a federated Security Operations Centre for the research and education sector, CanSSOC. Given that many institutions and NREN partners have already invested in cybersecurity expertise, processes and infrastructures, “CANARIE’s goal is to stitch together these existing investments to cost-effectively enable advanced threat detection and response for universities, colleges, polytechnics and CEGEPs across Canada,” says Anthonisen.

To support innovation in the private sector, Canadian companies with fewer than 500 employees have access to CANARIE’s DAIR Cloud Program, which provides resources to assist start-ups and SMEs for rapid and scalable design, development, validation, and demonstration of products and services. Over 1900 start-ups have used the DAIR Cloud program to build and test new products and services. This service is part of CANARIE’s Private Sector Innovation mandate, which recognizes CANARIE’s unique position at the nexus of research, technology, and government policy, and serves to accelerate the adoption of transformative technologies among Canadian businesses.

“CANARIE is an essential service,” notes Sylvie LaPerrière, who serves as Past Chair on the organization’s Board of Directors.  “We are very much at the service of the community. We do a lot of listening to uncover future needs. And through this listening comes innovation.”

CANARIE is deeply committed to equity, diversity and inclusion, which is reflected in the diversity of its Board of Directors. The Board of Directors includes members from across Canada, representing research, education and industry from all regions. “A plurality of voices makes the board stronger,” says LaPerrière. “The CANARIE Board, with extensive expertise from both the public and private sectors, strengthens CANARIE’s ability to deliver on its mandate priorities by ensuring a diversity of perspectives that challenge management to maximize the value CANARIE delivers to its stakeholder communities.”

This commitment applies equally to CANARIE’s 84 employees. “When people feel they can bring their whole selves to work, they are able to bring richness and value to the organization,” says Anthonisen.

In late October, Profound Impact founder and CEO, Sherry Shannon-Vanstone, was appointed as the Vice Chair of the CANARIE board working with the newly appointed Chair, Larry Rosia, President of Saskatchewan Polytechnic, and Past Chair, Sylvie LaPerrière.

Sherry’s appointment as Vice Chair of the CANARIE board reflects the significant contributions she has made to a range of industries, including cryptography, information security, and telecommunications as well as her dedication to the advancement of women in technology. “I look forward to working with my fellow board members to strengthen Canada’s national digital infrastructure and ensure our country continues to inspire ground-breaking innovations and remain globally competitive,” she says.