Canada’s Advanced Manufacturing sector received a huge boost in February with a new investment of $177 million from the Government of Canada to the Global Innovation Clusters program, which includes NGen, Next Generation Manufacturing Canada. This month’s Research Spotlight focuses on advanced manufacturing in Canada and how NGen projects build and expand innovation in manufacturing through collaborations between industry and researchers that provide solutions to challenging, real-world problems.
March is Women’s History Month and, as a female-founded company with female-identifying individuals comprising 60% of our staff, Profound Impact is delighted to recognize and celebrate the achievements of women in this issue of Profound Connections.
Dr. So-Ra Chung, Professor and Principal Investigator at the Centre for Smart Manufacturing at Conestoga College is also profiled as part of our Research Spotlight on Advanced Manufacturing this month. So-Ra is passionate about teaching her students via hands-on, project-based learning and working with industry partners on tangible problems.
Wendy Powley, Associate Professor in the School of Computing at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario is the subject of this month’s Impact Story. Wendy has inspired and supported thousands of young women as a professor and mentor and through CAN-CWiC, the annual celebration of Canadian women in computing. You’ll meet Wendy and learn more about how she founded the CAN-CWiC conference in 2010 and has single-handedly worked to make it the most important and prestigious Canadian conference for women in computing.
Profound Impact is a proud sponsor of the program developed by the Waterloo Region Chapter of Women in Communications and Technology to celebrate International Women’s Day (IWD) throughout the month of March. Check out the Women Empowering Women Digital Community (WEWDC) at https://wewdc.com/iwd2023wr to join sessions related to this year’s IWD theme of #Embrace Equity.
Happy Women’s History Month and IWD 2023 and, as always, thank you for your engagement and support.
The traditional view of manufacturing features unskilled labour working on assembly lines for the mass production of cars, farm machinery, electrical equipment and textiles. In 2023, Canada’s advanced manufacturing eco-system employs innovative technologies, a highly skilled workforce and partnerships with world-renowned research facilities to develop unique solutions to challenges in areas including health care, pharmaceuticals, aerospace, food and beverage processing and the assembly of electronic vehicles.
Canada’s history in manufacturing began with the use of gristmills to process grains into flour in the 18th century in New France. Confederation and the completion of the Canadian Pacific Railway in the 19th century paved the way for factories to produce lumber, grains and food products for domestic use. With the discovery of electricity and the demands of the First World War, Canada’s manufacturing expanded to shipbuilding and the production of steel and pulp and paper. The Second World War led to yet more manufacturing growth, with the fabrication of vehicles, aircraft and weapons and a manufacturing industry that employed more than 25% of Canada’s workforce.
Manufacturing in Canada today has made great strides and includes the use of robotics, nanotechnology, advanced materials, 3D printing, artificial intelligence and the integration of network and information technology to advance product development, reduce costs, increase quality, functionality and customization and reduce supply chain issues and time to market.
According to Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), manufacturing represents more than 10% of Canada’s total GDP, with exports of more than $354 billion each year, representing 68% of all of Canada’s merchandise exports and employing almost 2 million people across the country. The government of Canada recognized the importance of manufacturing to the country through the creation of Next Generation Manufacturing Canada(NGen), one of five national networks supported by Canada’s Global Innovation Clusters (Supercluster) initiative. According to François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, “Our government’s investment in the clusters has been about finding new and innovative ways to build connections. By incentivizing collaboration and growing strong Canadian ecosystems, the Global Innovation Clusters are generating good, well-paying jobs across the country, developing a highly skilled and diverse workforce, and contributing to our economic recovery by creating stronger and more resilient economic growth.”
NGen is a non-profit organization with the goal of “strengthening the competitiveness and growth potential of Canada’s advanced manufacturing sector, enhancing the support capacity of Canada’s advanced manufacturing ecosystem, and contributing to the well-being of Canadians.” NGen’s 5,000 members include more than 1,000 manufacturers, over 2,500 SMEs, 372 industry partners and 261 academic and research partners with over 200 students working on 165 NGen-funded projects.
Research partners participate through invitation by NGen-funded industry partners, working mainly on technology development and are funded by federal and provincial research and development grants. CEO Jayson Myers notes that NGen projects provide funding to Canadian manufacturers and technology companies to work together with university researchers and their students to develop transformative and customized solutions to solve demand-driven challenges. “Each project partner has a role to play. Universities and research facilities provide training and education and a long-term view of the use of technology as well as access to research test-beds. Industry partners supply innovation and ingenuity and use of facilities. Partners collaborate to focus on developing transformative solutions.”
Cities across Canada – including Calgary, Edmonton, Winnipeg, Toronto, Waterloo and Ottawa – are centres of excellence in advanced manufacturing, with expertise in areas including bio-industrials, nanotechnology, geospatial data collection and analysis, advanced communications and navigation, aerospace manufacturing, cleantech, automotive, aviation, robotics and the development and integration of defence and security products. NGen plays a strategic role in connecting and supporting collaborations between experts in these centres in a broad range of projects. Examples include:
A partnership between Sona Nanotech in Halifax, the VIDO-Intervac Research Centre at the University of Saskatchewan and the Runnymede Healthcare Centre in Toronto to use Sona’s proprietary nanotechnology to develop a rapid point-of-care antigen test to screen for COVID-19. The test has been commercialized in Europe as a screening tool for individuals in high-risk settings and has resulted in $100 million in sales.
Magna’s Stronach Centre for Innovation and Maple Advanced Robotics in Ontario, in partnership with the University of Waterloo, the University of Toronto and Toronto Metropolitan University worked together to develop an Autonomous Adaptable Robot System (AARS), a novel robot integration solution. AARS integrates 3D vision technology, artificial intelligence and collaborative robots to allow any operator with minimal training to quickly modify the robot path and workspace, significantly expanding the role of robots in large-scale or small and medium-size production and in retail services such as auto body repair shops.
Advanced BioCarbon 3D in Rossland, BC is conducting a feasibility study and a pilot project with KF Hemp in Regina, Virtual Layer in Kelowna, BC and a research team at the University of British Columbia to support the development of a commercial-scale biorefinery for the production of high-performance bioplastics and other advanced materials made from hemp.
In Ontario, Linamar in Guelph is partnering with Westhill Innovation in Simcoe and McMaster University in Hamilton to scale up production of Westhill’s inverter technology for use in zero-emission vehicles. The technology uses 1/12th the space and mass of other competing inverters and the project proposes to develop a manufacturing process to produce smaller, lighter inverters for use in Zero-Emission Vehicles.
Canada has provided significant investments in advanced manufacturing to maintain and grow the country’s role as a global leader in system integration, artificial intelligence, sensors, machine vision and automation. In addition to NGen Supercluster funding, Canada has introduced federal tax credits, including a 100% write-off for newly-acquired manufacturing and processing equipment. The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Program provides income-tax credits and refunds for expenditures on eligible R&D activity in Canada. And the Strategic Innovation Fund (SIF) supports business activities including R&D projects, collaborative technology demonstration projects and clean technology adoption and decarbonization.
Innovation in Canadian manufacturing has evolved from Computer-Aided Design (CAD) and Computer-Aid Manufacturing (CAM) to today’s use of advanced technologies to produce big solutions to big challenges. Federal tax credits, funding of research and development, the results of NGen-funded collaborative advanced manufacturing projects and the training of the next generation of workers provided through these projects all serve to secure the progress of Canada’s manufacturing sector in order to deliver innovative products and processes for Canada and the world.
Growing up in Seoul, South Korea, Dr. So-Ra Chung wanted to be a scientist with a Nobel Prize like Marie Curie. Her father was a Philosophy professor and when his sabbatical year at the University of Toronto brought the family to Canada, So-Ra enrolled at Jarvis Collegiate as an international student with a very rudimentary knowledge of English and a love of science. So-Ra credits the compassionate, talented and open-minded teachers at Jarvis for recognizing her enthusiasm for science and for supporting and encouraging her.
So-Ra completed high school and, inspired by a presentation by a University of Toronto biomedical engineering researcher, decided to study Engineering Science in university. But, while a student at the Electrical and Computer Engineering at Western University in London, Ontario, she became interested in Meteor Burst Communications. Studying these signals, which are sent to shooting stars, combined her love of the outdoors, where she could observe the stars, and the appeal of applying science to real-world problems. After completing her Master’s degree at Western, So-Ra returned to Korea to work in the Space Business Division of Hyundai Electronics building commercial satellites. Then she returned to Canada to work as a systems engineer in the MDA Space Mission International Space Station Program for 8 years. Her desire to be a professor eventually drew her to pursue her PhD in Systems Design Engineering at the University of Waterloo.
So-Ra is passionate about her work as a professor in the School of Engineering and Technology at Conestoga College and a Principal Investigator in the school’s Centre for Smart Manufacturing. “I am guided by what John Tibbits, President of Conestoga College, says – What you do here counts out there”, says So-Ra. “My goal is for my students to be more employable by adding a meaningful line on their resumes that distinguishes them. I want them to learn about ethics and critical thinking and to be able to work independently and as part of a team.”
As with all degree programs at Conestoga, the project-based Bachelor of Engineering curriculum features a mix of theoretical and hands-on learning, where students apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to projects that bring that knowledge to life. Working with industry partners within the Centre for Smart Manufacturing allows students to participate in providing solutions to industry problems related to topics including robotics, automation, mechanical design and prototyping, cybersecurity, machine learning control of automation and machine vision. So-Ra’s dual role as professor and principal investigator provides her with the opportunity to teach the next generation of engineers as well as to work on tangible problems with industry.
To relax, So-Ra enjoys learning how to read different languages. She is currently learning Greek and Arabic and compares matching sounds to letters to solving an encrypted code. “It uses a different part of my brain than engineering”, she notes.
So-Ra credits her parents, and especially her father, for supporting her early interest in science and her academic and professional journey. “I have been lucky to have great mentors in my parents and my colleagues in the Centre for Smart Manufacturing.” And, in turn, she participates in outreach programs to encourage the study of STEM subjects and to promote women in engineering.
So-Ra Chung’s passion for teaching and mentoring her students, her inquisitiveness and her work as a professional engineer who has found a way to combine her love of the outdoors with her love of science is an inspiring researcher, professor and role model in her personal and professional communities.
Associate Professor, Queen’s School of Computing, Queen’s University
The School of Computing at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario has one of the highest percentages of female students in undergraduate Computer Science in Canada. In large part, that is due to the outstanding work and dedication of Wendy Powley.
Wendy’s passions are computer science education, teaching and outreach. For more than 30 years, Wendy has personally mentored and inspired thousands of women across the country and internationally and has worked tirelessly to celebrate and connect Canadian women in computing.
Computer science and teaching are far from Wendy’s original plan, as a high-school student, to work as a flight attendant – even though she had never been on an airplane. When her guidance counsellor pointed out that she wasn’t tall enough for that career, she decided to pursue studies in Psychology and Education instead in order to work with children with intellectual disabilities. It was her first job after graduation, as a research assistant on a study in psychology and urology at Queen’s University, that introduced her to computer science. “I taught people how to urinate!” recalls Wendy. “The study was on how biofeedback could be used to help people who weren’t able to properly empty their bladders. I was tasked with analyzing data collected by the toilet and through EMG (electromyography).”
This first experience with using computers to solve real-world problems inspired Wendy to pursue a master’s degree in Computer Science and launched her career as a Research Associate and, eventually, a professor at Queen’s University.
Wendy teaches more than 1,000 students per year and she especially enjoys teaching those in their first year. Sharing her first-hand understanding of Impostor Syndrome and her struggle to learn to code has helped students, many of them women, understand that these challenges are normal and that they can be overcome. Wendy’s support has motivated many students to pursue or continue their studies in Computer Science.
Wendy’s experience helped her understand the need to encourage students outside of the School of Computing to learn to code. She restructured a computing course for students in the humanities to include mentorship by lab assistants in the weekly hands-on labs. This resulted in the enrollment of a record numbers of female students in a second course in computing.
In 2003, Wendy founded Queen’s Women in Computing (QWIC) for female-identifying students and faculty. Under Wendy’s leadership, QWIC is currently run by students, with upper year students mentoring their younger counterparts and a recently-introduced program includes computer science alumni as mentors and role models.
Wendy’s outreach and support of women to pursue studies and careers in Computer Science is not limited to Queen’s University. Wendy founded what is now the premier Canadian conference for women in computing in 2010. Wendy has led the organization of CAN-CWiC, the annual Canadian celebration of women in computing, for 12 years. Through Wendy’s vision and leadership, the conference has grown to a national annual event that attracts more than 750 attendees from universities, colleges and tech companies across Canada. CAN-CWiC provides a unique opportunity for students to hear from keynote speakers, presenters and panelists who share their stories of professional challenges and achievements. The conference also offers graduate students a chance to present their research to female faculty members for their feedback. Students who attended CAN-CWIC have progressed to roles in the tech industry and are invited back to the conference to serve as role models and mentors for students and young professionals. In 2023, a Mentoring Circles program was added, for senior faculty to discuss research and teaching issues in academia with junior faculty members and graduate students.
Wendy also works with young women in high school through the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT) Aspirations in Computing Awards Canada program to inspire them to pursue careers in technology. Over 100 female students in Canada received awards through the program in 2022. AiC award winners are invited to attend the CAN-CWiC conference to meet with undergraduate and graduate students as well as industry professionals.
Wendy’s dedication to promoting gender diversity in computing was recognized by CS-Can|Info-Can, Canada’s national organization for computer science professionals, in 2022 with the organization’s Distinguished Service Award for her outstanding service to the Canadian computer science community.
As Wendy reflects on her career, she says “I would never have imagined I would be teaching full time.” After attaining her master’s degree, she worked as a project manager on research study on air traffic control at the Royal Military College and a range of projects in the Queen’s School of Computing prior to being hired as a professor in the school. And, as she looks to the future, Wendy plans to focus on growing the Aspirations in Computing Awards and looks forward to resuming travel after three years of a pandemic-imposed break of meeting with family, friends and colleagues around the world.
Wendy’s tremendous work on promoting women in computing is perhaps best expressed by her former student, Nailah Ogeer, who recently posted on LinkedIn: “Wendy Powley was my first female mentor in computer science 20 years ago in university. She helped me in so many ways throughout the years. After attending CAN-CWiC 2022, I invited Wendy to come talk to our Women in Tech group at work. I asked her what made her think about organizing the first event in 2010. She said, ‘I wanted to bring the conference to my students’ and ‘I want my students to hear from ladies in the real world.’ She also told us that it is so important that women in industry empower girls to join technology. Thank you, Wendy, for all you do for the community.”
You can see more of Wendy’s impact in the community in the visualizations below:
Do you have an Impact Story to share? Reach out to us at email@example.com for a chance to have your story featured in an upcoming newsletter!
The past few weeks have been exciting for the research community in Canada with announcements of the country’s National Quantum Strategy and a new federal investment of $40 million to enable the Toronto-based quantum computing company Xanadu Quantum Technologies Inc. to build and commercialize the world’s first photonic-based, fault-tolerant quantum computer. You can learn more about quantum research and development in Canada in this month’s Research Spotlight.
In this month’s newsletter, you’ll meet two outstanding young women making profound impacts in very different areas. Our February Impact Story introduces Swatil Mahmud, co-founder of Swayong, the online platform that aims to tackle social injustice through storytelling. Based in Bangladesh, Swatil and her team of volunteers share the stories of real women and girls in order to dismantle social injustices, one story at a time.
Our February Researcher Spotlight profiles Dr. Estelle Inack, Research Scientist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, entrepreneur and role model. Read about how Dr. Inack bridges industry and academia while working at the intersection of quantum computing and artificial intelligence.
The Profound Impact team continues to work with university and college research offices across the country on the launch of our Research Impact product. And we’re looking forward to International Women’s Day activities we’re participating in and supporting in the month of March.
Enjoy this month’s edition of Profound Connections and thank you for your ongoing support and engagement.
“Quantum technologies will shape the course of the future and Canada is at the forefront, leading the way. The National Quantum Strategy will support a resilient economy by strengthening our research, businesses and talent, giving Canada a competitive advantage for decades to come. I look forward to collaborating with businesses, researchers and academia as we build our quantum future.” The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announcing the launch of Canada’s National Quantum Strategy on January 13, 2023 at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Waterloo.
The national strategy, supported by a $360 million investment by the federal government in basic and applied research, the development of talent and the funding of commercialization to bring research results to market, is the most recent action by Canada to strengthen the country’s leadership in quantum research and technologies.
Canada is an internationally recognized trailblazer in quantum innovation, with a decades-long history of groundbreaking research, an impressive and growing pool of qualified researchers and industry professionals and a growing list of quantum technology companies. Canada invested more than $1 billion in quantum research and development over the last 20 years. This research funding, along with provincial investments and collaboration with industry, has given rise to world-renowned researchers and research labs in universities across the country.
At the Université de Montréal, Gilles Brassard is a pioneer of quantum information science. His most celebrated research breakthroughs include the invention of quantum cryptography and quantum teleportation. Dr. Brassard has been recognized for his work with prestigious awards, including the Breakthrough Prize in fundamental physics in 2022, the 2018 Wolf Prize in physics (which he shares with Charles Bennett of the IBM Thomas J. Watson Research Center) and the Gerhard Herzberg Canada Gold Medal for Science and Engineering. A holder of the Canada Research Chair in Quantum Information Science since 2000, Brassard is a member of the Centre de recherches mathématiques (CRM) and the Institut transdisciplinaire d’information quantique (INTRIQ), two strategic clusters funded by the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT).
Established as the Institute for Quantum Information Science in 2005, the Institute for Quantum Science and Technology (IQST) at the University of Calgary brings together researchers in computer science, mathematics, chemistry and physics to conduct research in pure and applied quantum science and technology and to advance the field through education and training and connections with other quantum science institutes and industry. IQST currently includes over 160 members including researchers, research staff and students, and its 18 research groups conduct work in four research themes: molecular modelling, nanotechnology, quantum information and computing, and quantum optics.
While based in Calgary, the Institute has expanded provincially through Quantum Alberta, which has sites at the University of Alberta and the University of Lethbridge in addition to the Calgary site. Quantum Albertaconnects the province’s quantum research community to ensure that Alberta is a world leader in quantum technology research, development, education and training.
Waterloo, Ontario’s quantum ecosystem, known as “Quantum Valley,” is home to more than 16 companies specializing in quantum cryptography, software, communication and consulting and over 250 researchers at two of the world’s largest quantum and theoretical physics research centres. The Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo and Perimeter Institute, along with Quantum Valley Investments (QVI), a quantum technology commercialization incubator created by BlackBerry founders Mike Lazaridis and Doug Fregin, have attracted more than $1.5 billion in public and private investment over the last 20 years.
Launched in 2000 through a personal investment of $100 million from founder Mike Lazardis, Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest independent theoretical physics research hub, with research focused on areas including quantum fields and strings, quantum foundations, quantum gravity and quantum matter. Perimeter provides a collaborative environment for 150 resident researchers and the more than 1,000 scientists from around the world who visit each year. Dr. Rob Meyers, Director of Perimeter Institute since 2019, is one of the leading theoretical physicists working in the area of quantum fields and strings. Upon his appointment as Director, Dr. Myers observed, “Perimeter is an environment unlike any other in which researchers from around the globe collaborate across disciplines in search of profound new truths. Breakthroughs await where brilliant people, bold ideas, and diverse cultures intersect.”
The Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo opened in 2002 as a result of Mike Lazardis’ understanding of the power of the emerging field of quantum information science, generous investments of his personal funds and partnerships with industry, academia and the provincial and federal governments. Dr. Raymond Laflamme joined IQC as Founding Director and worked closely with Dr. Michele Mosca as Deputy Director to bring together researchers from across Canada and around the world in the fields of physics, mathematics, computer science, engineering and chemistry to conduct research in IQC’s four research pillars: quantum computing, quantum communications, quantum sensing and quantum materials. Currently, 29 faculty members and a community of over 300 researchers work at IQC in areas including digital quantum matter, engineering quantum systems, nuclear magnetic resonance and quantum encryption and science satellites.
Transformative Quantum Technologies (TQT), the development unit of IQC, is led by Professor David Cory, a physical chemist who works to develop quantum devices for sensing and computation. TQT researchers collaborate with industry and quantum research institutes internationally to transfer quantum theory into quantum products that deliver economic and social benefits.
In addition to the world-renowned quantum research facilities and researchers working in Canada, the number of Canadian companies working in this area is growing. These include Xanadu Quantum Technologies in Toronto, D-Wave Systems in Vancouver, Anyon Systems in Dorval and ISARA in Waterloo and many start-up companies in areas ranging from quantum cryptography to quantum computing software to quantum-enabled scientific instruments and natural resources sensing. In addition, global technology companies, including IBM, Amazon, Microsoft and Google, are working to advance the field and to incorporate quantum technologies into their product roadmaps.
Canada’s National Quantum Strategy has been announced as the commercialization efforts of universities, research institutions and industry work to transfer quantum research results to market and as regions and countries including the U.S., the UK, the EU, Australia and China are developing strategies and increasing investment in quantum research and development. According to a 2020 study commissioned by Canada’s National Research Council, it is estimated that by 2045 and including all economic effects, quantum will be a $139 billion industry in Canada and employ more than 200,000 Canadians.
A newly established Quantum Advisory Council, co-chaired by Dr. Raymond Laflamme, Canada Research Chair in Quantum Information at the Institute for Quantum Computing at the University of Waterloo, and Dr. Stephanie Simmons, Canada Research Chair in Silicon Quantum Technologies at Simon Fraser University and founder and Chief Quantum Officer of Photonic Inc., will provide independent expert advice on the implementation of the strategy.
The National Quantum Strategy will focus on three quantum technology areas:
Computing hardware and software
Communications to develop a national secure quantum communications network and post-quantum cryptography capabilities for Canada
Sensors to support the development and commercialization of new quantum sensing technologies
Rob Myers, Director of Perimeter Institute, notes that the $360 million investment by the Government of Canada is the start of a new era for quantum in Canada. “It is important to think that this is not only the end. This is the beginning of developing a quantum ecosystem across Canada.”
Dr. Estelle Inack was trained to believe that a problem is interesting if it’s hard. A research scientist, company co-founder and Chief Technology Officer, and advocate and inspiration for women in science, Dr. Inack works at the juncture of academia and industry to advance research and to solve difficult real-world problems.
Dr. Inack is a member of the Perimeter Institute Quantum Intelligence Lab (PIQuIL), working on research that couples quantum computing with artificial intelligence. And, as the use of both machine learning and quantum computing is advanced by its use in a range of industries, Dr. Inack has found herself working to bridge academia and industry through the commercialization of her research results.
Dr. Inack didn’t plan to become a physicist. She was influenced by her mother’s work in the marine industry and her own interest in natural science to seek a career on the technical side of the marine business. Her childhood fascination with naval architecture and advice that an undergraduate degree in physics was the best preparation for that work led her to study physics, rather than her first choice of mathematics. As her interest in the maritime industry waned, Dr. Inack focused on her masters’ degree and continuing her studies in English rather than her original language of French.
As someone who had wanted to pursue a PhD in physics but was steered by funding sources to study engineering instead, Dr. Inack’s father strongly encouraged her to continue her studies in physics at the doctoral level. She received a scholarship to study in Italy and, for her postdoctoral work, elected to join Perimeter Institute, as a Francis Kofi Allotey Fellow. She chose Perimeter over other offers from the University of Alberta, Microsoft and the University of Southern California because she knew that working at Perimeter would allow her to expand her research interests to include machine learning and neural networks. Originally from Cameroon, she is proud to have been awarded a fellowship named for an internationally renowned African mathematical physicist.
Dr. Inack’s work at PIQuIL has provided unique opportunities for collaboration with industry. As she designed algorithms to solve optimization problems, she understood that her research results would be valuable to industry. She partnered with fellow academic physicist, Behnam Javanparast, who also had worked in the financial industry, to found quantum intelligence start-up yiyaniQ. yiyaniQ, which combines the words for intelligence and future in Dr. Inack’s local language of Bassa, provides advanced derivative pricing and portfolio optimization based on quantum intelligent algorithms.
Thanks to her participation in the Creative Destruction Lab Quantum Stream bootcamp in 2021, Dr. Inack is developing a different approach to research, one that not only seeks to develop the best possible tools but that also looks for potential business applications for those tools. In the future, besides the financial sector, yiyaniQ plans to look at other verticals where, working with partners with domain expertise, additional real-world problems can be solved using her research results.
As she has progressed in her career, Dr. Inack has realized that the influence of her strong mother, who taught her that a woman can do anything that a man can do, has been a key factor in her success. In order to recalibrate the mindset that math and physics isn’t for women, she spends time promoting women in science, with a focus on Africa. “It’s important to have those conversations, to let young women know that it’s possible to do science. And to educate male counterparts.”
When asked what she’d like to be known for, Dr. Inack says “For solving the hardest problems and for making an impact on daily life.” And she does just that as a researcher at the intersection of quantum and machine learning, as an entrepreneur providing commercial applications of her work and as an inspirational role model for young women.
“Women’s stories are universal,” says Swatil Mahmud, co-founder of Swayong, a youth and women-led platform that aims to tackle social injustice through storytelling. Along with her sister, Kazi Mitul Mahmud, Swatil created Swayong to be a safe, inclusive, and constructive space for conversation and growth and where people are able to interact meaningfully with sensitive topics, breaking down inhibitions about women’s issues that are often burdened with shame.
Swatil grew up in and is based in Bangladesh, where women’s roles are traditionally defined by their responsibilities as wives and mothers. Her mother, a nurse, teacher and director of a masters’ level nursing program, was a powerful role model for Swatil and her sister, who both travelled the world to study. Swatil has returned to Bangladesh to work as a communications and development professional and, through Swayong, to share the stories of real women and girls in order to dismantle social injustices, one story at a time.
Swayong, which translates as ‘self’ from the Bangla language, was founded in 2020 as a pandemic project with 11 volunteers. The platform now boasts a team of 65, referred to as Swayong Warriors, who fight gender-based social injustice.
The first stories shared by Swayong were those of frontline healthcare workers, hospital staff, aid workers and journalists during COVID-19. The platform provided, and continues to provide, a safe and inclusive space for women of all ages and from all walks of life, including people with disabilities, transwomen, indigenous women, gender-diverse folks and other marginalized communities. Swayong has reached over 850,000 people in almost all the major cities in Bangladesh and also communicates through their website www.swayong.org and via Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn.
Since its inception, Swayong has run 23 campaigns on issues such as body positivity, curtailed bodily autonomy, sexual harassment in public places, child abuse, transgender awareness and parental leave. Campaign topics, which are not limited to women’s issues, all feature factual information and data illustrated by personal stories. Swayong also produces Angur Fol Tok (Grapes are sour), a live talk livestreamed on Facebook, where eminent activists and experts come together to talk about issues related to social injustice and taboo and “shameful” topics.
Under Swatil’s leadership, Swayong organized a feminist storytelling festival to promote sensitization to feminist, sexuality, and marginalization issues through panel discussions, storytelling and cultural performances. As part of the festival, members of feminist groups, LGBTQIA communities and transgender rights activists were invited to be “human books” to create a feminist human library. Swatil also produced Swayong’s feminist documentary Jongla phul (Wild Flower) to showcase diverse women who, like wildflowers, survive despite adversity.
All of Swatil’s work aims to create public awareness and a sense of community and to influence national policy formulation and reform. She serves as a mentor and guide, collaborating with other young feminists to expand the impact of her work and to ensure a larger reach of her advocacy initiatives. She is one of the founding members of Feminists Across Generations, an intergenerational feminist alliance that brings together activists and other individuals to stand up against gender-based violence and abuse against women. As part of her feminist advocacy and activism, Swatil mobilizes and leads activities like protests and flash mobs to raise awareness about gender inequality and violence against women.
Swatil believes youth must be included in the solution to achieve gender equality and wants young people to be a testament to the power of the collective. Her advice to young women who wish to make meaningful change is “Be fearless and never underestimate the power of a storyteller!”
You can learn more about Swatil’s work and Swayong in the visualizations below.
Do you have an Impact Story to share? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org for a chance to have your story featured in an upcoming newsletter!
I’m excited to share Profound Impact’s plans for this year as we amplify our focus on research and researchers across Canada and internationally.
Our new Research Spotlight column, which debuts this month highlighting Canada’s role as an AI research leader, will feature stories about emerging research and collaboration in areas including Artificial Intelligence, Quantum Information Processing, Sustainability, Alternative Energy, Climate Change, Biomanufacturing, Social Innovation, and Technology and Society.
We’ll also introduce some of the world-renowned researchers working in these areas to transfer their research results from the lab to innovative products and services. This month you’ll meet Professor Doina Precup from McGill University, who conducts fundamental research on reinforcement learning and works on AI applications in areas that have a social impact.
March 8 is International Women’s Day and this year’s theme is Embrace Equity. The Profound Impact team is delighted to be working with the Waterloo Region Chapter of Women in Communications and Technology and community organizations from across the region to present a series of IWD2023 events throughout the month of March to celebrate the women of Waterloo Region. We’ll share information about these events in upcoming issues of Profound Connections.
I know that you’ll be impressed by the accomplishments of Adrija Jana, featured in this month’s Impact Story. At just 18 years of age and just beginning her studies in English Literature at the University of Delhi in India, this exceptional young woman has made great impact as a poet, researcher, social activist, artist and active citizen.
Enjoy this month’s edition of Profound Connections and hope you are having a great start to a healthy, happy and prosperous 2023!
Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been featured in popular culture for decades. From the giant robots who kidnapped Lois Lane and were taken down by Superman in the 1941 animated film The Mechanical Monsters, to HAL 9000, the AI antagonist in 2001: A Space Odyssey to the currently ubiquitous AI portrait generators, artificial intelligence has been portrayed as a promise, a threat and a cool tool.
At Profound Impact, our newly-launched Research Impact product uses AI and data analytic tools to automatically match research collaborators with multiple online sources for funding opportunities and with potential industry partners to create competitive grant applications.
But what is AI and what role do Canada’s researchers play in advancing the field?
Canada’s Advisory Council on Artificial Intelligence states that AI represents a set of complex and powerful technologies that will touch or transform every sector of industry and that has the power to address challenging problems while introducing new sources of sustainable economic growth.
In 2017, in partnership with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), Canada launched the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. The country’s national AI strategy, the first in the world, has a stated vision that “by 2030 Canada will have one of the most robust national AI ecosystems in the world, founded upon scientific excellence, high-quality training, deep talent pools, public-private collaboration and our strong values of advancing AI technologies to bring positive social, economic and environmental benefits for people and the planet.”
AI research in Canada is currently centred in three national AI institutes: the Alberta Machine Intelligence Institute (Amii) in Edmonton, the Vector Institute in Toronto and Mila in Montreal. These not-for-profit organizations work in partnership with research universities and companies conducting AI research and development across Canada.
Four key strategic priorities have been identified as part of the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy:
Advancing AI Science
Fundamental and applied research in areas including machine learning, natural language processing, autonomous vehicles, games and game theory and human-AI interaction.
AI for Health
AI-based approaches to health and healthcare that leverage Canada’s strength in health research and publicly-funded healthcare systems.
AI for Energy and the Environment
Innovative solutions to protect the environment and deal with the effects of climate change.
Funding and incentives for Canadian companies to develop AI technology and products.
The three hubs of AI excellence in the Pan-Canadian AI are recognized internationally for their research expertise and results, training of the next generation of AI researchers and practitioners and the transfer of scientific knowledge to industry.
Alberta-based Amii’s team includes 28 Fellows (including 23 Canada CIFAR AI Chairs) and eight Canada CIFAR AI chairs at universities across Western Canada. Amii researchers are pioneers and leaders in fields including Reinforcement Learning, Precision Health, Games and Game Theory, Natural Language Processing, Deep Learning and Robotics and work with a range of companies to translate research results to innovative products across industry sectors.
The Vector Institute was launched in March 2017 in partnership with the University of Toronto, the University of Guelph and the University of Waterloo to work with research institutions, industry, and incubators and accelerators across Canada to advance AI research and drive its application, adoption and commercialization.
Three key pillars in the Vector Institute’s three-year strategy are research, industry partnerships and thought leadership. Currently, the Vector Institute comprises more than 600 active researchers and professionals from across the country. More than 40 industry sponsors, representing a broad range of industries including health care, finance, advanced manufacturing, telecommunications, retail and transportation, collaborate with Vector Institute researchers on projects related to opportunities in AI.
The fourth pillar in the institute’s strategy and a focus of research is health, including responsible health data access for research, the use of machine learning tools, methods to analyze de-identified health data, and the creation of a secure data platform for applied AI research. Vector programs, including the Smart Health initiative and the support of Pathfinder Projects, facilitate the use of AI-assisted technologies in the health sector and the deployment of machine learning tools in hospitals across Ontario.
Mila was found in 19983 by Professor Yoshua Bengio of the Université de Montréal as a research lab to bring together researchers with a shared vision for the ethical development and advancement of AI. In 2017, the scope of Mila was expanded through collaboration between the Université de Montréal and McGill University and work with academic institutions Polytechnique Montréal and HEC Montréal.
Now a non-profit research institute, Mila also works with Quebec universities including Université Laval, Université de Sherbrooke and École de technologie supérieure. More than 1,000 researchers, including 51 CIFAR AI chairs, with expertise in machine learning theory and optimization, deep learning, computer vision and robotics, reinforcement learning, computational neuroscience and natural language processing.
In addition to conducting leading-edge research, Mila also works closely with 87 industry partners via collaborative research and technology transfer to facilitate the use of AI in company processes and product development. And the Mila Entrepreneurship Lab fosters student entrepreneurship from ideas to business projects through mentorship and funding. Eighteen Mila start-ups operate in Montreal, Toronto, New York City, Addis Ababa and Germany, working on the use of AI in medicine, finance, neuroscience and transportation.
Canada continues to fund emerging AI research institutes including the Centre for Innovation in Artificial Intelligence Technologies (CIAIT) at Seneca College of Applied Arts and Technology in Toronto and the Durham College Hub for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence for Business Solutions (the AI Hub) in Oshawa, Ontario. At CIAIT, Seneca researchers will collaborate with industry partners to find AI solutions in sectors ranging from advanced manufacturing and commerce to creative media and finance. The AI Hub provides industry partners with access to AI expertise, state-of-the-art facilities and student talent to integrate AI solutions into products and business operations.
Canada’s strengths and global leadership in AI are powered by the investments made by the Government of Canada in AI research at institutions across the country. These investments are developing the adoption of artificial intelligence across Canada’s economy, connecting researchers and the next generation of AI professionals with industry partners to facilitate commercialization and advancing the development and adoption of AI standards to be used in Canada and around the world.
Researcher Spotlight: Doina Precup
Growing up in Romania, Doina Precup enjoyed science fiction featuring benign and helpful robots. That interest, plus the influence of her mother (a computer science professor), and the other women in her family with successful careers in science, were early draws for Professor Precup to the field of artificial intelligence.
Doina Precup is an associate professor at McGill University and head of the Montreal office of Deepmind. In addition to teaching at McGill, she is a core academic member at Mila, a Canada CIFAR AI Chair, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, a Fellow of the CIFAR Learning in Machines and Brains program and a senior member of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence.
Dr. Precup conducts fundamental research on reinforcement learning with a focus on AI applications in areas, such as health care, that have a social impact. At Deepmind, a subsidiary of Google, she leads a team of scientists, engineers and ethicists dedicated to using AI to advance science and solve real-world problems.
Dr. Precup’s focus on creating social impact goes beyond her work in the research laboratory. To address the issue of gender imbalance in science and technology, she co-founded and serves as advisor of the CIFAR-OSMO AI4Good Lab, an organization that encourages women to study and work in artificial intelligence via a seven-week AI training program for undergraduate and graduate students who identify as women. Dr. Precup was also one of four renowned Canadian AI researchers who signed a letter sent in 2017 to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, asking that Canada announce its support for the call to ban lethal autonomous weapons systems at the United Nations Conference on the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW).
Her work as an award-winning AI researcher dedicated to solving problems to benefit humanity, her leadership in building a diverse and inclusive culture in AI and her support and mentorship of emerging talent have established Doina Precup as a respected and distinguished member of the AI research community in Quebec, Canada and internationally.
At only 18 years of age, Adrija Jana has been recognized, both internationally and in her home country of India, as an award-winning poet, spoken word artist, filmmaker and creative researcher. Despite these honours, Adrija doesn’t just think of herself as a creative artist but also as an activist whose art effectively protests against social injustices including domestic abuse, period poverty and education inequity. Adrija has channeled her creativity and energy to raise awareness about these issues and to empower others to speak out.
As a high school student at Mahadevi World Academy in Kolkata, India, Adrija served as a peer mentor for junior students while winning awards for her academic standing. She also taught creative and performing arts to disadvantaged children and mentored refugee children through her work with various NGOs.
Adrija has been involved in period poverty activism through her work at the Period Society, a youth-led non-profit which aims to improve menstrual and reproductive health. As a fellow at Civics Innovator fellowship at Civics Unplugged, she developed a case brief on the problem of menstrual stigma and period poverty in India. In addition to defining and analyzing the issues, Adrija recommended a two-pronged approach to be taken by the government for subsidy of period products and access to products in schools.
Adrija’s activism isn’t limited to issues in her home country. She has participated as a UN Model Delegate in more than 20 conferences and has led research projects about the effect of Covid-19 on education and on the opioid crisis in Arizona in her role as a research fellow in the 2020 and 2021 cohorts of Harvard Innovation Labs International Socioeconomics Laboratory.
A prolific writer, Adrija is inspired by her favourite contemporary poet of color, Nayyirah Waheed, and novelist Margaret Mitchell. She was inspired to write her first poem while in Grade 3 and reading about India’s nationalist movement for independence. The theme of gender equality runs through Adrija’s work – she recently published a paper on the Representation of Women in Literature to explore the role that literature plays in the portrayal of women’s social standing during the time they are written.
In addition to her research and poetry, Adrija creates documentaries that tell the inspiring stories of people who wouldn’t otherwise have a platform. Her films, including poetry documentaries, have been screened internationally to wide acclaim.
Adrija credits her mother as her biggest inspiration. “Her entire journey inspires me. She got married at a very young age, had me and my siblings, and was compelled to devote herself entirely to family life. She had to make great sacrifices, but never for once did she break down or give up. After we grew up, she started her own business to become self-reliant. After the national movement, it was her struggles that I expressed through my poetry. She is a living example of the heights one can scale if they persist.”
As Adrija is honoured for her work as an activist, poet and researcher, both in India and internationally, she is currently in her first year at University of Delhi, where she is studying English literature. Her goal is to pursue a PhD, in either the UK or the US, and to work as a researcher and professor while continuing her role as an activist. “This has become a very core part of me. I definitely see myself advocating for the issues I care about and to help communicate the voices of people who are normally ignored,” she said.
An exceptional young woman, Adrija has made great impact as a poet, researcher, social activist, artist and active citizen. When asked what advice she would give a young person who would like to get involved in issues as she does, Adrija says: “This is not something that is very easy to do. It may be easy to start something, but continuing with it will come with obstacles. If you are doing something that is considered revolutionary by traditional conventions, there will be backlashes. For example, in response to my poetry against marital rape and period poverty, I have received rape and death threats and other forms of cyber harassment. But you cannot let that deter you. All that matters is how determined you are. If you really believe something with all your heart, you should never let go of it.”
You can see more about Adrija’s impact in the visualizations below.
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With the introduction of a new product, the announcement of this year’s Impactful Actions Award, connecting with you through our newsletter, podcasts and participation in conferences, 2022 has been an eventful year for Profound Impact – one that we reflect on with pride. Our newsletter this month offers a reflection on highlights from 2022, introduces a new story of impact featuring Claudette McGowan, and explains how you can get involved in our 2nd annual giving campaign – the 12 Days of Impact.
In a recent team meeting, we revisited our mission statement: Connecting great people to do great things. In the 4+ years I have led Profound Impact, there has been plenty of change in the evolution of our products and the business itself, but our mission statement still holds true – it’s what guides our work daily and rallies our team towards results. Our mission has grown and evolved with us, which is a testament to its strength. Led by our mission, we approach 2023 with great energy on our path to create connection and profound impact.
To the Profound Impact team and all members of our growing community, thank you for your support and engagement throughout the past year. We look forward to presenting the exciting initiatives Profound Impact has planned for 2023, including a new section in our newsletter focusing on ground-breaking researchers and research programs and new ways to connect great people to do great things.