Investing in Ontario's future

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Advancements in AI and automation have shifted the focus of traditional industries, stimulating the emergence of entirely new sectors that are effecting a transformational change in the economic landscape. Ontario looks to be at the forefront of this changing economic landscape. As a world-class hub for STEM research and leader in artificial intelligence, clean technology, and public health, Ontario has seen robust growth in the industrial sector over the last two decades. With over 15,000 tech companies and 5,200 start-ups alone in the Toronto-Waterloo region alone, the province is a hotbed of technological innovation.

Fundamental research in the mathematical and statistical sciences is inextricably linked to the development of the new technologies and products that have made Ontario a nascent technological superpower. A report by the European Science Foundation in 2010 remarked that “mathematics is the language of innovation,” and many sectors of Ontario’s industry depend on the mathematical sciences (including statistics) to advance discovery. Collaborations between industrial firms and academic researchers have assisted in accelerating the discovery process, moving innovation through the continuum from research to commercialization at a speed that allows companies to remain competitive in an increasingly cluttered global marketplace. However as Ontario’s industrial sector continues to grow, there is also a corresponding need for a large pool of talent capable of deploying the cutting-edge techniques and methodologies required to create the technologies of tomorrow.

Responding to this need for a critical mass of highly skilled quantitative scientists, the Fields Institute has created the Fields Centre for Quantitative Analysis and Modelling (Fields-CQAM). Building on the strengths of similar programs at Mitacs and NSERC, Fields-CQAM focuses in on Ontario, forming a network of research and training laboratories hosted at universities across the province. These laboratories bridge the gap between academia and industry, leveraging research partnerships with industry partners to generate solutions to commercial problems in science and technology and train the next generation of quantitative scientists. From strengthening Ontario’s capacity for rapid response to emerging public health issues using mathematical modelling to applying quick-change detection to predict the health of commercial jet engines, Fields-CQAM researchers will progress Ontario’s leadership in research and industrial growth across a spectrum of current and emerging technologies, including statistical methods and techniques.

Speaking at the Fields-CQAM lab launch, Matt Davison, Dean of Western’s Faculty of Science and co-director of the Fields-CQAM Financial Data Analytics Lab, commented on the importance of Fields-CQAM as not only a generator of commercial solutions, but also to its value as a training program for producing highly-qualified personnel (HQP) ready to undertake research in the industrial sector.

There are some fascinating mathematical problems that come of industry that we will never know about if we do not work with our colleagues in industry. We have fantastically well-trained students in mathematics that need to understand how to apply their skills to practical problems in industry, and this gives them a training wheels environment to learn that.”

Academic and industrial reports note this existing gap in skills acquired by graduates in STEM fields, and the industrial skill requirements for highly technical job postings - with an estimated cost of $24.3 billion Canadian per year to the Ontario economy in foregone GDP from the skills gap. Fields-CQAM aims to narrow this gap, through a multi-dimensional strategy spanning practitioners, academic disciplines, and industrial sectors. Leveraging the expertise of its lab members, the Fields-CQAM training program empowers HQP with advanced quantitative skills through participation in research, experiential learning internships, graduates courses, and workshops. Ensuring that undergraduates, graduates and current industry practitioners meet the skills needs of firms in areas of strategic importance to the province will facilitate their success in positions across the public, private and educational sectors, boosting the technological and economic development of Ontario.

Fields-CQAM looks not only to meet the current needs of the province with its research and training program, but also looks to the future. “Fields-CQAM is looking forwards,” said Huaxiong Huang, Director Fields-CQAM. “Today’s research informs tomorrow’s innovation, and Fields-CQAM is laying the groundwork for future applications of our research, by not only developing the techniques and methodologies to drive forward technological innovation, but also by training the quantitative scientists to apply them.”

By meeting Ontario’s immediate and long-term skills gap, Fields-CQAM will assist the province in becoming an internationally leading knowledge economy.

Fields-CQAM looks forward to participation from researchers in the statistical sciences by forming new labs, or joining existing labs, and organizing special research and training activities. For more detailed information, please visit: www.cqam.ca.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

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