The $200-million Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) grant awarded to the University of Toronto’s Acceleration Consortium will help build a world-leading centre for accelerated materials discovery and innovation – and drive a “big science” revolution.
The funding will support the consortium’s work on “self-driving labs” that realize the game-changing potential of AI by combining it with robotics and advanced computing to discover new materials and molecules in a fraction of the usual time and cost – from life-saving medications and biodegradable plastics to low-carbon cement and renewable energy.
With equity, diversity and inclusion guiding project implementation and research design, the Acceleration Consortium – a U of T institutional strategic initiative – will use the funding to commercialize ethically designed technologies and materials to benefit society and train today’s scientists with the skills they need to advance the emerging field of accelerated materials discovery. It will also examine critical issues regarding the application of the technology, including from environmental and Indigenous perspectives.
Leaders and researchers from U of T and Acceleration Consortium spoke about the impact the CFREF funding – the largest federal research grant ever awarded to a Canadian university – will have on the consortium’s game-changing work and unique model of cross-sector collaboration.
U of T’s vice-president, research and innovation, and strategic initiatives
This transformative capability has the potential to affect so many different parts of our lives and our planet. So, the consortium’s focus on equity, diversity and inclusion in program delivery and research design, as well as its emphasis on environmental and Indigenous perspectives, is crucial. The CFREF grant allows us to do big science – through an interdisciplinary team-based approach with an incredible scope and potential for impact – in a way that’s critical for Canada to remain competitive on the international stage.
The CFREF grant allows us to do big science in a way that’s critical for Canada to remain competitive on the international stage.
Dean, Faculty of Arts & Science; professor, department of cell and systems biology
Director, Acceleration Consortium; professor, departments of chemistry and computer science in the Faculty of Arts & Science; Canada 150 Research Chair in Theoretical and Quantum Chemistry; CIFAR AI Chair at the Vector Institute for Artificial Intelligence
We’ve essentially supercharged the process of scientific discovery.
Acceleration Consortium Researchers
Senior scientist at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, University Health Network; professor of medical biophysics at the Temerty Faculty of Medicine; director of the Toronto node of the Structural Genomics Consortium
It has broad implications in a whole number of areas. Our SDL will complement another self-driving lab that is making engineered tissues that mimic human tissue or a disease state like a tumour – allowing one to test drugs or early-stage compounds in disease-relevant assays.
The self-driving lab concept condenses the time it takes to get to the answer you need – and does so more efficiently.
Professor of marketing at the Rotman School of Management and Rotman Chair in Artificial Intelligence and Healthcare; chief data scientist at Creative Destruction Lab
Professor in the department of history and the Women and Gender Studies Institute in the Faculty of Arts & Science; co-director of the Indigenous-led Environmental Data Justice Lab at the Technoscience Research Unit; Canada Research Chair in Science and Technology Studies and Environmental Data Justice
Insisting on Indigenous collaboration in defining sustainable substances is what marks the innovation of this work.
Assistant professor in the department of mathematical and computational sciences, U of T Mississauga; UTM Robotics faculty adviser; director of the Robot Vision and Learning Lab; and Vector Institute faculty affiliate
Bioengineering post-doctoral researcher in the Kumacheva Group
Chief science and technology officer, Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany