A great day for digital innovators everywhere!

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The sunny smiles inside matched the sunny skies outside this morning at the University of Ottawa, where Minister of State (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear announced CANARIE’s renewed mandate and three-year funding of $62 million.

During the event, which representatives of the university and research community attended, the Minister was clear about the importance of CANARIE to Canada’s innovation ecosystem. He spoke eloquently on how CANARIE (together with its partner networks in the provinces and territories), enables Canadians to participate, and lead, in global initiatives that have a tangible impact:

“CANARIE is the bedrock for new advancements in science, health care and other important disciplines. These advancements improve our health, our environment, our economy and our future.”

The Minister also noted other initiatives that CANARIE is pursuing in order to meet the evolving needs of Canada’s innovators, researchers and educators:

“But beyond its core mandate as Canada’s premier research and education network, CANARIE has been making a valuable contribution to other government priorities, such as the economy and Canada’s global competitiveness.

“Last year, CANARIE launched the Digital Accelerator for Innovation and Research program, or DAIR. This pilot program supported a key element of Canada’s digital economy strategy—namely, helping to grow our information and communications technology industry.

“DAIR gave small and medium-sized digital technology firms access to CANARIE’s reliable, ultra-fast network to design and test their products, share massive amounts of data and accelerate innovation, giving them a first-to-market advantage.

“CANARIE is changing with the times in other ways as well. Traffic over the network has increased nearly 600 percent in the past five years. In response, CANARIE has been able to adapt and will continue to do so to meet this burgeoning user demand.”

Minister Goodyear’s enthusiasm and support of CANARIE and of the Canadians whose work it supports was obvious, and he was particularly eloquent in his closing remarks:

“CANARIE has helped Canada’s greatest minds accomplish incredible things, and we look forward to that track record of success continuing.”

Thank you Minister Goodyear, and the Government of Canada, for your continued support of CANARIE – a fundamental element of Canada’s digital infrastructure for research and education.

Read the full speech here in English, or here in French.

Innovating our policies along with our practices

Richard Hawkins speaking on innovation policy at the Tech Futures Summit.

An interesting conversation was happening today at the Alberta Innovates Technology Futures Summit. Richard Hawkins, University of Calgary Professor and Canada Research Chair in Science, Technology and Innovation Policy, presented on how to determine whether or not innovation policies are working.

He talked about how one of the challenges faced by government-sponsored innovation programs is to demonstrate impact from public investment, especially in the short to medium term. Unfortunately, that is not always enough time to collect conclusive data or tangible results.

According to Hawkins, the solution to this un-complementary fit is to re-calibrate performance expectations and broaden our measurements. These days, we should be looking at program impacts on multiple and different parts of the innovation system, including the social and economic sectors.

Also, developing more technology should be a means, not an end, he said. “There is no shortage of technology, but there is a shortage of innovation,” Hawkins said. Policies that focus on simply producing technology rather than deploying it are missing the point.

So, shifting our perspective from technology as the innovation to technology as the conduit (or “platform”, to give a pointed nod to CANARIE’s Network-Enabled Platforms Program as an example), we see that innovation and the resulting impacts are then driven by who uses the technology, what they use it for, and how that changes what they were doing before.

As innovation is built around change and disruption, it makes sense that our policies and policy-building approaches should evolve in response. Measuring short-term impacts will always be a challenge, but if we change what we’re looking at and where we’re looking for it, that can help uncover new measures of success.

What are your thoughts? Do current metrics accurately measure innovation impacts? If not, how should policies change? Please leave your comments below.

Canada needs to seize the green energy opportunity

The world’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector is in need of a green energy provider, and, according to Mohamed Cheriet, spokesperson for the GreenStar Network (GSN) project, that’s where Canada has the potential to make its mark.

Cheriet, a Professor in the Department of Synchromedia at the École de technologie supérieure in Montreal, gave an overview of the GSN project at the CANARIE Annual General Meeting (AGM) held on Tuesday, June 21. The virtual AGM was videoconferenced across four sites using CANARIE’s advanced network and the GSN. Cybera’s Calgary facility was one of the broadcast locations, joining Montreal, Ottawa and Vancouver.

Cheriet showed a map plotting 2,000 datacentres in the world. Of those, he said that half are based in the United States (US), 57 in Canada, and the rest are spread around the world. These centres are one of the ICT sector’s largest energy consumers. As more and more research organizations, institutions and businesses of all sizes turn to cloud, virtualization and remote storage as data solutions, the reliance on ICT — and the amount of greenhouse gases this sector produces — is expected to grow. Currently, Cheriet noted, the ICT industry in the US accounts for 8% of its national power consumption. The carbon dioxide produced from that energy consumption is growing by at least 6% per year.

This is where Canada and the GSN come in.

The Calgary-based GreenStar Network node is operated by Cybera and powered by eight solar panels located on the roof of the Alastair Ross Technology Centre.

As we’ve already noted in past blogs, the GSN project draws renewable energy from five nodes across Canada. Cybera is a local partner in the project, operating the Calgary solar-powered node located on the roof of the Alastair Ross Technology Centre (pictured at right). With a global reach in mind, the GSN project has expanded overseas to host nodes in Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Iceland, and Spain. A Memorandum of Understanding has also been signed with partners in China, and one with Egypt is in the works.

Cheriet says Canada offers unique advantages which make it an ideal green energy producer. The country’s expanding investment into hydro, wind and solar resources means energy can be provisioned at a low price. Access to high-speed optical network infrastructure (such as that provided by CANARIE) enables high-performance connections with major content providers, allowing for large-scale research projects and leading-edge network-enabled platforms. This has also set the stage for the GSN project to experiment with key areas of ICT operation and management technology, namely virtualization, cloud management, carbon monitoring and energy optimization. The next step, argues Cheriet, is to continue rallying and building government and industry support for adopting green IT and green energy platforms.

CANARIE, a major funder of the project, is on board with GSN’s vision.
“If we can become a leader in green IT, it creates economic advantages for all Canadians,” said Mark Roman, CANARIE President and CEO.

As CANARIE begins its mandate renewal process, the GSN is one of many funded projects that demonstrate CANARIE’s impact on advancing Canada’s digital economy strategy. Both Roman and Mark Whitmore, Chair of CANARIE’s Board of Directors, highlighted the following as priority areas for the organization’s mandate renewal:

  • reach out to more Canadian users and enhance international collaborations
  • incorporate emerging technologies such as cloud and wireless
  • spearhead economic development and job creation

Strong collaborations remain a cornerstone to these plans, Whitmore noted, and CANARIE will continue to develop and support partnerships in Canada’s research, education and industry sectors.

So what does the upcoming year look like for you? Is green energy or some form of green IT on the horizon for your organization? Are you using Cybera’s or CANARIE’s advanced network for a project or pilot? We want to hear about it. Leave your comments below!