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The Alliance awards $50M+ to Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria to renew advanced research computing infrastructure

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(Burnaby, B.C.) June 3, 2024 – The Digital Research Alliance of Canada (the Alliance) has awarded more than $50 million to two national host sites in British Columbia.

Simon Fraser University (SFU) was awarded $41,525,000 to upgrade the compute infrastructure of Cedar, one of the most powerful academic supercomputers in Canada.

The University of Victoria (UVic) received $10,282,500 for infrastructure upgrades to Arbutus, the largest cloud computing installation for academic research in the country.

George Ross, CEO of the Alliance, was joined by the Hon. Brenda Bailey, B.C. Minister of Jobs, Economic Development and Innovation, to announce the funding on SFU’s Burnaby campus on Monday. The Government of British Columbia announced an additional investment of $24,567,600 in SFU’s Cedar HPC renewal and $6,141,900 in UVic’s Arbutus Cloud renewal.

The joint investment will enable SFU to upgrade Cedar, which is nearing end-of-life. The new system will match or exceed Cedar’s current storage capacity and compute performance to the benefit of tens of thousands of users across Canada. 

The Arbutus investment will add powerful storage and compute capabilities to UVic’s cloud infrastructure, increasing stability and support for researchers when processing, sharing and storing massive data sets. The upgrade will also enable the next generation of supercomputers to be cooled more quietly and efficiently using water instead of air. The warm water expelled during the cooling process can be re-purposed for secondary uses like heating a building, contributing to UVic’s goal of becoming a climate-positive campus by 2050.

“Advanced Research Computing is a vital tool in the Digital Research Infrastructure Strategy,” said the Honourable Francois-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada. “Today's announcement will help ensure the researchers are better equipped to optimize research data to generate cutting-edge knowledge and ideas.  Expanding the capacity of Canadian supercomputing power ensure that Canada maintains its science and research excellence and remain globally competitive.”

“Our government is investing in B.C. universities to support a range of research bringing about advancements in healthcare like new heart monitoring technology and artificial intelligence for individually personalized cancer treatments, as well as research that will accelerate decarbonization pathways and grow B.C.’s hydrogen sector for a cleaner future,” said Minister Bailey. “Through the B.C. Knowledge Development Fund (BCKDF), we continue to invest in the research tools needed to secure our province’s place as a global leader in innovation, and to make life better for people.”

“Data is an essential national asset, foundational to our country’s knowledge creation, economic growth and social impact,” said Ross. “We are pleased to join forces with the Government of British Columbia and the world-class research computing teams at Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria to empower researchers Canada-wide. This significant investment in our national compute infrastructure demonstrates the Government of Canada’s commitment to scientific excellence and to bolstering Canada’s position as a leader in the global knowledge economy."

SFU’s Cedar system provides advanced computing power and storage to fuel research innovation and industry, government and academic collaboration across Canada. Cedar is helping SFU engineering science professor Mirza Faisal Beg to capture images of the human body and organ measurements much faster than traditional methods and could help in redefining cancer treatment. With each patient's unique body composition, a personalized treatment plan responsive to both disease and individual traits can lead to improved health outcomes while minimizing adverse side effects.

“For years, SFU's Supercomputer Cedar has empowered Canadian researchers to tackle problems in sectors ranging from personalized medicine for better patient care to green technologies to help fight climate change,” said SFU President Joy Johnson. “These generous investments from the Digital Research Alliance of Canada and the Province of British Columbia will allow us to continue making a difference for B.C., Canada and the world through the use of advanced computing power. I cannot wait to see the incredible innovations and discoveries that are ahead of us.”

UVic’s Arbutus Cloud has revolutionized how scientists process, share and store massive data sets. With processing speeds thousands of times faster than a desktop computer, it serves as the cornerstone for more than 1,000 research teams across Canada and more than 3 million end-users worldwide. Arbutus’s use of AI and machine learning to analyze and visualize advanced 3D imaging of the brain is helping determine exactly what causes the brain's immune cells to change drastically and how this affects cognitive function. UVic’s Marie-Ève Tremblay’s globally recognized research is providing a better understanding of learning, memory, behaviour and cognition.

“Cloud computing accelerates the speed of research and streamlines collaboration across countries and continents,” said UVic Vice-President, Research and Innovation Lisa Kalynchuk. “UVic’s Arbutus Cloud supports more than 1,000 research teams across Canada in their quest for new knowledge that impacts our everyday lives. We’re very grateful for this investment, which will support both fundamental science and applied research discoveries that improve our health, our homes, and our understanding of the universe – from unlocking secrets of the brain, to understanding the cosmos, to modelling solutions for a healthier, more sustainable future.”

This investment is made possible by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s Digital Research Infrastructure (DRI) Strategy and approved DRI funding for 2023–25



The Digital Research Alliance of Canada (the Alliance) advances and maintains digital research infrastructure (DRI) to support the management, storage and use of national research computing, data and research software. A non-profit organization funded by the Government of Canada, the Alliance serves researchers by improving data access, collaborating with DRI partners, nurturing the DRI workforce, integrating services and enhancing security. DRI is a critical national asset, and the Alliance leverages its capacities to support cutting-edge research and innovation across all disciplines — propelling Canadian research forward now and into the future.

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