Research Spotlight: Canada’s National Quantum Strategy

“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 Alberta connects 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.”


Researcher Spotlight: Estelle Inack

Estelle Inack, Research Scientist, Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics

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.

Swatil Mahmud

Swatil Mahmud

Co-Founder, Swayong

“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.

Collaboration is essential to the success of Swatil’s work and Swayong frequently collaborates with organizations working on social justice issues to launch joint campaigns and projects. Swayong has conducted events and campaigns featuring storytelling as a tool for change that have been funded by the United Nations Development Programme, the Manusher Jonno Foundation, UK Aid, and Global Affairs Canada

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 connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to have your story featured in an upcoming newsletter!

CEO Message

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!

Sherry Shannon-Vanstone

Research Spotlight: AI Research in Canada

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.

AI Commercialization

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

Doina Precup, McGill University

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.

Adrija Jana

Adrija Jana

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.

Do you have an Impact Story to share? Reach out to us at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to have your story featured in an upcoming newsletter!

CEO Message

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.

All the best in the remaining weeks of 2022!

Sherry Shannon-Vanstone

Claudette McGowan

Claudette McGowan

Founder and CEO, Protexxa and Chair, CILAR

Claudette McGowan’s first mentor was her mother, a nurse who believed strongly in the importance of caring for and helping people. “There was always someone staying with our family, whether from the church or a family member,” she recalls. As a global information technology leader, entrepreneur, and mentor, Claudette puts into practice what was modelled by her mother by providing opportunities for participation, prosperity, and leadership.  

A graduate of Lakehead University and Athabasca University, with certifications from Ontario Tech University, York University, Harvard, and the University of Toronto’s Rotman School of Management, and an honorary doctorate from Carleton University, Claudette broke barriers as she advanced in her career. In 2020, Toronto Life recognized her as one of the city’s Top 50 Most Influential Torontonians. Digital Finance Institute honoured her as one of the Top 50 Canadian Women in FinTech, and the Women’s Executive Network recognized her as one of the Top 100 Most Powerful Women in Canada. In 2022, Claudette received the DMZ Woman of the Year Award and NACO, the National Angel Capital Organization, named her as a Nation Builder of the Year in Canada.  

In 2022, Claudette followed a calling to become an entrepreneur and founded Protexxa, a cybersecurity platform that leverages Artificial Intelligence to rapidly identify, evaluate, predict, and resolve cyber issues.  “Cybercrime has quadrupled since the pandemic” notes Claudette. “Through Protexxa, I can work with people around the world to help them assess cyber threats, train them to reduce cyber vulnerabilities and strengthen cyber capabilities.”

Fundamental to all of Claudette’s work is ensuring that support systems are in place for everyone, regardless of race, gender or age, in order to thrive and progress.  “There are 3.5 million open cybersecurity jobs in the world, 25,000 of them in Canada.  My goal is to create more cyber leaders,” she said.

To this end, Claudette helped found and is currently the chair of the Coalition of Innovation Leaders Against Racism (CILAR), a group of senior Canadian business leaders committed to fighting systemic racism within the innovation economy.  CILAR was founded in 2020 to engage all people to participate in the growing innovation economy, which will soon represent half of the global GDP and workforce.  At CILAR, Claudette is one of the leaders overseeing the effort to focus on increasing access and opportunity for Black, Indigenous and People of Colour.  (BIPOC) men and women through five integrated pillars: 

Youth Development

Carve pathways for BIPOC Youth in the innovation economy through mentorships and access to programs that lead to meaningful employment.

Job Opportunities

Provide transformational employment opportunities.

Venture and Capital Support

Offer access to capital and programs to entrepreneurs seeking opportunities to grow their ideas into viable, sustainable and global platforms through BIPOC Venture Capital Funds.

Community and Leadership

Strengthen all communities by connecting Canada’s established innovators with aspiring innovators.

Inclusive Innovation and Technology

Establish technology and data standards to develop innovation enablers for both consumer and business purposes.

To help women succeed in the technology industry, Claudette recently helped launch the women-focused archangel fund, Phoenix Fire.  These angel-stage investment funds apply a systematic, disciplined approach to investing in women entrepreneurs across Canada. Phoenix Fire offers active portfolio management with experienced angel investors as well as access to high-potential, talented, entrepreneurial women.

When asked about the most significant point of her more than 20 years as a global information technology leader, Claudette points to her decision to leave her role as l Global Executive Officer of Cybersecurity at TD Bank to found Protexxa. “I saw a problem and an opportunity to offer solutions. I decided to go for it by building a new cyber platform and a phenomenal team. It’s been the most rewarding experience of my lifetime.”

Claudette McGowan has made outstanding contributions as a technology leader, mentor and entrepreneur.  Her work to increase access to careers in technology across Canada for BIPOC youth and innovators and to women, to train people to create cyber capabilities, and to foster a new generation of cyber leaders truly makes a profound impact for millions of people around the globe.

You can see more of Claudette’s work with CILAR and her recognitions over the years in the visualizations below.

Do you have an Impact Story to share? Reach out to us at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to have your story featured in an upcoming newsletter!

CEO Message

I’d like to start by thanking everyone who joined us on September 14 for the third annual Profound Impact Day! We have been building a strong community of supporters over the years and I can’t thank you enough for being such an important part of our impact story.This year, on Profound Impact Day 2022, our team launched Research Impact, a unique and targeted service to automatically match grants to researchers. The Profound Impact team launched Research Impact to solve the challenge of clumsy, manual systems that aren’t digitally enabled to deliver fast, accurate matching capabilities.  

Profound Impact’s unveiling of Research Impact in 2022 follows the launch of Career Impact in 2021, and 2020’s Connection Impact, all of which utilized data driven solutions to support organizations looking to make an impact. Each step in Profound Impact’s evolution remains deeply founded in the academic community while honing in on the most persistent challenge to solve. Our team looks forward to growing our Research Impact pilot project to bring our proprietary algorithms to universities around the world! 

As Profound Impact continues to accelerate forward, I had the opportunity to sit down with the Startup Canada Podcast to discuss the company’s journey, the importance of women and their contributions to STEM, and my experience as a leader and entrepreneur in the tech industry. I can’t wait to share this episode with you. 

This month, the Profound Impact team is attending two conferences. The annual THINK Conference (October 19-20) and the CAN-CWiC Canadian computing conference for Women in Technology (October 21-22). We look forward to meeting you there! 

This month’s Impact Story highlights the amazing story of Kehkashan Basu, M.S.M. who was the winner of this year’s Impactful Actions Award. At just 22 years old, Basu has already made a tremendous impact on our world. We were so inspired by her work through her organization, Green Hope Foundation, and know that you will be too!  

September 14 was and always will be a day to remember and reflect. Your support made recognizing global leaders and changemakers both powerful and memorable! 

As always, we are thankful for your ongoing support and engagement.

Kehkashan Basu

Kehkashan Basu, MS.M.

Founder/President, Green Hope Foundation

A humanitarian with a passion for empowering vulnerable communities, Kehkashan Basu, M.S.M., founded her own charitable organization at the age of 12 in Toronto, Ontario. Now, 10 years later, Green Hope Foundation works across 26 countries, helping more than 300,000 vulnerable women and girls live in a world where all voices are valued. Basu believes that every child has the right to education regardless of their gender, to a clean environment, and the freedom to decide their own destiny.

“I started at a time when advocacy for sustainable development didn’t involve the people who should be included in the process,” Basu said. “I really wanted to change that. Green Hope Foundation came about to address this lack of inclusivity. Over the last decade, working with my team on the ground, as well as engaging with those at the highest levels of policymaking, we’ve really seen our impact grow.”

Basu said Green Hope Foundation is focused on three pillars: sustainability, society and environment. They follow an intersectional approach, recognizing all three pillars in their work. 

“The first actions we really took were with education for sustainable development, reaching out to schools and trying to get children involved,” Basu said. “We also got involved in ground level actions, like tree planting and conducting clean ups.”

Basu started her advocacy journey by planting a tree on her eighth birthday, which falls on June 5: World Environment Day. The United Nations noticed her work and invited Basu to speak at one of the largest sustainable development conferences at the time, Rio+20, in 2012. 

“I grew up seeing my parents giving back to people and the planet their whole lives,” Basu said. “I thought everyone was doing something good for the environment and for their community. But, slowly and steadily, I realized there were a lot of other inequities in our world. There was a tremendous lack of inclusivity of children and women in achieving a sustainable world.” 

Green Hope Foundation has seen a tremendous amount of growth since it began a decade ago. The group has planted 950,000 trees so far and hopes to hit 1 million by the end of the year. 

“We are learning and growing every single day,” Basu said. “We understand that our work can really never stop. Even if we do achieve a sustainable world, we have to do something to maintain that.”

In 2015, Green Hope Foundation installed solar panels to an area in western India with no access to electricity. The panels are still in use today, and have helped the area thrive.

“We have an energy system that enables farming, we have a full solar grid for their schools,” Basu said. “The children, and the girls specifically, are getting lessons in STEM in a solar-powered computer lab.”

The organization plans to continue expanding into the future, upscaling current projects and thinking of new ways to engage. “We want to continue to educate the younger generation about why it’s important to care for the community and the planet,” Basu said. 

Basu received her undergraduate degree at the University of Toronto, majoring in environmental studies and minoring in women and gender studies and physical and environmental geography. “Those subjects were a no-brainer for me,” she said. “I wanted to get a degree in something that I was passionate about.” Now, Basu is in her first year of her MBA at Cornell University. By specializing in business, she hopes to engage the private sector in the work of Green Hope Foundation in the future. 

Last month, Basu was named the winner of the 2022 Impactful Actions Award, an annual award presented by Profound Impact™ Corporation to recognize individuals who are inspiring collaborative solutions to difficult global problems.

“It’s a huge honour,” Basu said. “I really like that it’s focused on impact, because it’s a motivation for me to continue to do more, create more impact and inspire others.”

You can see highlights of Basu’s education and accomplishments in the visualizations below:

You can see highlights of the work of Green Hope Foundation in the visualizations below:

Do you have an impact story to share? Let us know at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter!

Impactful Actions Award Finalists

Environmental activists, scientists, and government advocates – the finalists for the 2022 Impactful Actions Award are global leaders exemplifying collaboration while making a positive impact on the world around us. The Impactful Actions Award is presented annually and celebrates individuals who inspire collaborative solutions to difficult global problems.

We’d like to introduce this year’s finalists (in alphabetical order) and provide three short stories of impact. The winner will be announced on September 14th at the 3rd annual Profound Impact Day. 

L-R (In Alphabetic Order) Kekashan Basu, M.S.M., Dr. Mona Nemer, Dr. Neil Turok

Kehkashan Basu, M.S.M.

Kehkashan Basu, M.S.M., began her commitment to making the world a better place when she was a child. 

“When I was seven, I saw an image of a dead bird with its belly full of plastic. That was very disturbing to me,” Basu said. “I realized that I had to do something to stop that from happening again.” 

She planted her first tree at eight years old and founded her own humanitarian organization, the Green Hope Foundation, at the age of 12. The foundation is now celebrating its 10th anniversary.

“I wanted to be able to bridge that lack of inclusivity and really empower those who don’t have access to bringing about change in their own spheres of influence,” Basu said. 

The Green Hope Foundation is a global social enterprise working across 26 countries impacting more than 300,000 people. The group works closely with vulnerable communities, bringing them education for sustainable development, and turning that education into ground-level actions focused on water, sanitation, clean energy and food security. 

“Overall, we’re working to create an equal and peaceful society so that we are able to really leave no one behind and ensure a life of dignity for all,” Basu said. 

Mentorship and collaboration are at the heart of Green Hope Foundation’s work. “You can’t do this on your own,” Basu said. “You need to be able to work with others, share best practices, see where they’re succeeding, and learn from that as well. It’s really about joining hands to bring our effort together, because at the end of the day, it’s our common humanity, it’s our common planet.”

Basu hopes her work through Green Hope Foundation will continue to inspire people to give back to their community and protect the planet. “We want the Green Hope Foundation to be in every country, ensuring we’re able to change the mindsets of those all across society.”

The visualization below showcases Basu’s past accomplishments and awards:

Dr. Mona Nemer

A leader in providing scientific advice for policy development, Dr. Mona Nemer was named Chief Science Advisor to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in 2017. In her role, Dr. Nemer helps to ensure that science is taken into consideration in government decision-making.

“Increasing the visibility and understanding of science is an important aspect of the work of my office, as it helps provide people with the tools they need to make good decisions for their lives,” Dr. Nemer said. 

As Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Nemer is responsible for offering expert advice on key scientific issues. She also assesses how the federal government supports quality scientific research and recommends ways to improve that support. “Science is our best tool for understanding and being able to make predictions about the world,” she said. 

Prior to taking on the role of Chief Science Advisor, Dr. Nemer was Vice President of Research and Director of the Molecular Genetics and Cardiac Regeneration Laboratory at the University of Ottawa. A leader in molecular cardiology, Dr. Nemer has discovered several genes associated with development and function of the heart. Her research has contributed to further development of diagnostic testing for heart failure and genetic birth defects. 

Dr. Nemer has served on multiple national and international advisory committees and boards, including as an Executive Committee Member of the COVID-19 Immunity Task Force. Dr. Nemer put together the COVID-19 expert panel, bringing together researchers and practitioners to provide multidisciplinary advice on aspects of the covid pandemic from infectious disease research and disease modelling to behavioural sciences. The panel helped to bring emerging scientific information about COVID-19 to the Prime Minister and Cabinet in a timely manner to ensure Canada was handling the pandemic in the most effective way possible.

“We saw scientists step up and not only provide advice to governments, but communicate and explain science to the public on a variety of issues,” Dr. Nemer said. “That is because there was really no aspect to the health crisis that shouldn’t be informed by science.”

Dr. Nemer’s work has expanded and diversified scientific advice provided to the federal government by establishing a multidisciplinary network of federal scientific advisors. She worked to help create the Interdepartmental Indigenous STEM Cluster to inform and advance Indigenous innovation in natural science stewardship. Dr. Nemer has a strong commitment to educating the next generation of scientists, supervising more than 100 graduate and postgraduate students around the world during her time in academics. Now, as Chief Science Advisor, she continues to help develop young scientific minds through her pan-Canadian youth council, which provides evidence-based input on scientific issues affecting young people.

The visualization below showcases Dr. Nemer’s past accomplishments and awards:

Dr. Neil Turok 

After spending years as a theoretical physicist, Dr. Neil Turok wanted to do something to give back to his home continent and to the global scientific community. Nearly two decades ago, he was prompted by his father to write up a concept note describing his idea for a new kind of centre for advanced scientific training, in Africa. The note was shared with a range of interested parties and the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS) was born. Dr. Turok, now the Higgs Chair of Theoretical Physics at the University of Edinburgh, was a Professor at the University of Cambridge when AIMS’ first centre was launched in Cape Town, South Africa.

“As a theoretical physicist and a cosmologist, I don’t exactly work on useful things. I work on what happened at the Big Bang and where the universe is going,” Dr. Turok said. “Just about the only useful thing I could do was teach people math, computing and related skills.”

Students travel from across Africa to take part in the program, where they learn from the best lecturers from around the world. Now, more than 19 years since its inception, AIMS graduates over 350 students at Master’s level each year, at centres in Cameroon, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal and South Africa.

“As soon as we started, we were overwhelmed with the enthusiasm of the students,” Dr. Turok said. “They said, ‘this is a totally life-changing experience.’ And then all of the international lecturers who came to teach them said, ‘this is the best teaching experience I’ve ever had, because suddenly I’m with these super enthusiastic students from many different cultures and backgrounds.’”

Spots at AIMS are fully funded, including travel, medical insurance, accommodation and tuition. Students make meaningful connections with like-minded scientists around the world. Most go on to lecturing positions at African universities or into industry.

“These students come, in general, from very disadvantaged backgrounds. They come to us because they can’t afford to pay for a scholarship to go overseas to Europe or the U.S. for further study,” Dr. Turok said. “AIMS provides an environment where they can really thrive.”

Dr. Turok said AIMS plans to create five more centres in the next 10 years, scaling up its postgraduate training and research as well as teacher training and STEM high school programs. Dr. Turok predicts a wave of highly motivated young African scientists entering and positively impacting global science. 

The visualization below showcases Dr. Turok’s past accomplishments and awards:

Do you have an impact story to share? Let us know at connections@profoundimpact.com for a chance to be featured in an upcoming newsletter!