Memorial University to launch two innovation initiatives with support from feds, provincial government, IBM Canada

Terrence Tricco
Computer science professor Terrence Tricco is the principal investigator of the Accelerated Analytics and Machine Learning project. Image from Memorial University.
IBM’s contribution includes hardware, software, staffing.

Memorial University (MUN) is set to launch two new initiatives, the Centre for Analytics, Informatics and Research (CAIR) and the Accelerated Analytics and Machine Learning (AAML) project, with the support of the federal government, Newfoundland and Labrador Government, and IBM Canada

Funding for the initiatives includes more than $18 million in grants and in-kind contributions, with the majority ($16 million) in the form of in-kind services from IBM. IBM’s contribution includes hardware, software, and staffing during a period of four years.

Through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA), the Government of Canada is providing $1.4 million to St. John’s-based MUN. The provincial government is contributing $1.35 million.

Led by MUN, CAIR and the AAML project will focus on innovation and research in diverse fields such as data science and astrophysics, genetic analysis, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, image analysis, and scientific computing.

CAIR is expected to be equipped with high-performance computers that are designed to process large amounts of complex data, leading to faster insights for projects such as AAML. These computers will be used by MUN’s computer science faculty and students to conduct research in key areas that are driven by large data sets such as image processing, AI, and deep learning.

The AAML project will support the training of highly qualified professionals on CAIR’s hardware.

Brendan Barret, professor at MUN’s Faculty of Medicine has been appointed as CAIR’s principal investigator, as computer science assistant professor Terrence Tricco was named principal investigator for the AAML project.

IBM said it will also work with MUN to help drive economic development in the province by supporting skills growth. The corporation said it plans to achieve this through its SkillsBuild program, a free digital training program that aims to help learners develop valuable new skills and find jobs, regardless of their background or education.

In addition, IBM said it will also provide free development and cloud credits to early-stage entrepreneurs and startup companies via the Startup with IBM program.

On a global scale, IBM said it plans to provide 30 million people with new skills needed for jobs by 2030 through more than 170 academic and industry partnerships.

This most recent investment builds on a long-standing partnership between MUN, IBM, as well as the federal and provincial governments. In 2014, MUN received $50 million from IBM, the Government of Canada, and the province, to finance MUN’s Translational and Personal Medicine initiative at its medical school.

MUN and IBM also previously worked together in 2006, announcing a five-year strategic partnership to update the university’s technology systems and to install a campus-wide voice-over-IP system.

RELATED: IBM to hire 350 tech employees in Nova Scotia

“Ongoing collaborations with our government and industry partners allow Memorial to meet the challenges and opportunities of our province and beyond,” said Vianne Timmons, president and vice-chancellor of MUN. “These significant investments will further enhance Memorial’s capacity in strategic areas, provide world-class scientific training opportunities for faculty and graduate students and allow Memorial to continue supporting the tremendous growth of the local technology industry.”

According to Frank Attaie, general manager of technology at IBM Canada, the company aims to deliver more computing services to teaching and research communities, to accelerate innovations, and to increase its contributions in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“This investment is a testament to our continued commitment to support and collaborate with Memorial University and both levels of government to help further advance Canada’s ability to innovate, address a critical skills gap, and drive research and innovation,” he said.

IBM has been active in investing in all parts of Canada, including the country’s East Coast. In December, the company entered a deal with Nova Scotia Business Inc. to bring 350 new, highly-skilled jobs focused on AI and hybrid cloud to the province.

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz

Charlize Alcaraz is a staff writer for BetaKit.

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