Ontario premier Kathleen Wynne was in Waterloo to announce a renewed commitment and a $50 million investment to the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics over the next five years, with Premier Wynne saying in front of a packed theatre audience that the cutting edge research conducted at the facility will position the province at the forefront of a competitive global knowledge economy by “putting Ontario on the map in terms of theoretical physics.”
Made through Ontario’s five-year, $400-million Business Growth Initiative, the funding will help physicists pursue research in the areas of cosmology, condensed matter and quantum science, which are all becoming ever more scrutinized as frontiers in new computer technologies continue to open up.
Among Perimeter’s theatre audience were dozens of leading cosmologists who had just arrived for the “Cosmological Frontiers in Fundamental Physics” conference.
“This place has become a magnet for people who have the capacity to ask these very deep and important questions,” said Wynne. “In finding out more about the foundations of our universe, you’re building the foundation for ideas and inventions that will change our lives. You’re building the foundation for a strong economic future.”
The not-for-profit Perimeter Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, and has since become the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics.
Also on hand for the announcement was Ontario Minister of Research, Innovation and Science, Reza Moridi, who said, “Our support of the Perimeter Institute puts Ontario at the head of breakthroughs in physics, leading to new knowledge and value, furthering economic growth and jobs. It also continues our commitment to attracting the best and brightest minds to the province, retaining home-grown talent, and seizing opportunities for global leadership.”
Wynne and Moridi were given a tour of the facility in advance of the formal announcement by Perimeter founder and board chair Mike Lazaridis, director Neil Turok, and other members of the Institute’s senior leadership team.
Wynne was introduced to Yakir Aharonov, a leading researcher in quantum foundations who is at Perimeter through the Distinguished Visiting Research Chairs program.
The Premier spoke with faculty members, and met with students from around the world who are completing the Perimeter Scholars International master’s program.
“The people I’m meeting could’ve chosen to go anywhere, but you’re here,” said Premier Wynne, before asking the students if they planned to come back to Perimeter later in their careers, to which she added, “I’m seeing a lot of nods.”
Mike Lazaridis thanked the Premier for the province’s investment, and added, “The early investments in quantum physics that started with the creation of Perimeter Institute some 17 years ago have given Ontario and Canada an early-mover advantage. Our progress here in Quantum Valley is not only being noticed, but it is prompting concentrated efforts to catch up in research labs, tech companies, and governments around the world.”
Lazaridis is referring to the fact that Ontario has committed more than $166 million in research funding to the Perimeter Institute since 2003, including this latest investment.
In 2014/2015, the Perimeter research community grew to include 24 faculty (1 new full-time faculty, 1 new Visiting Chair this year), 17 associate faculty, jointly appointed with other Canadian institutions (3 new), 8 Perimeter Research Chairs (3 new), 44 Distinguished Visiting Research Chairs (4 new), 22 Visiting Fellows (8 new), 6 Emmy Noether Visiting Fellows, part of Perimeter’s initiative to recruit and retain more women in physics, and 113 Affiliate members from across Canada (9 new).
The Ontario government has also announced that it will create a new position of Chief Science Officer to lead its efforts to advance basic and applied science.