Fifty delegates from 27 countries visited Perimeter Institute this week to learn how fundamental, collaborative research helps spur an ecosystem of innovation.
Senior government officials, private sector leaders, and members of the media from more than two dozen countries gathered at Perimeter Institute on Thursday as part of the sixth Americas Competitiveness Exchange (ACE), to discuss how investments and partnerships in science can advance society.
Representatives from around the Western Hemisphere, as well as Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, visited Perimeter as part of a wider tour of innovation hubs throughout Ontario, including in Waterloo Region, Toronto, Hamilton, and the Niagara Region.
At Perimeter, the delegates attended a keynote presentation by Perimeter Founder and Board Chair Mike Lazaridis about the Quantum Valley ecosystem, which spans theory, experiment, and commercialization of emerging technologies, including those tied to quantum computing, sensors, and new materials.
“In order to build the Quantum Valley, we needed a very strong foundation in theoretical physics,” Lazaridis said of the 1999 founding of Perimeter. “The cooperation of the government, academics, and the region allowed us to get a lead. And that gives us a competitive advantage going forward as the world explores quantum technologies.”
The Role of Science and Clusters
The keynote was followed by a panel discussion, moderated by journalist Kate Lunau, featuring leaders throughout the Quantum Valley in the Region of Waterloo. In addition to Lazaridis (who also co-founded Quantum Valley Investments), the panel included Perimeter Director Neil Turok; David Cory, Deputy Director of Research at the Institute for Quantum Computing; and Micheál Kelly, Dean of the Lazaridis School of Business and Economics.
Panelists shared their perspectives on the importance of investing in science, their outlook on the quantum future, and the culture of collaboration between their respective institutions that is helping to position Canada for decades to come.
“Science is all about collaboration,” said Turok. “It’s one of the really special things about this area – all the institutions work together, and that’s why it has grown so fast. There is no better investment than a magnet centre that will inspire young people and attract international scientists. Science bridges all international barriers, and brings people together around a conception of the future.”
The ACE gathering aimed to share best practices among countries and stimulate new collaborations and investments that can help turn ideas into tangible innovations.
“I don’t think you can have a strong innovation economy without a strong foundation in science," said Kelly.
The kinds of ideas that will lead to the most important solutions, the panellists said, are those rooted in pioneering fundamental research.
“We’re not going to be impactful unless we’re both pushing the frontier and finding the applications,” said Cory. “That’s what we can do here ...We can be at the leading edge of changing the world.”
Earlier in the week, The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Canada's Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, said: “Countries in the Western Hemisphere are blessed with an abundance of natural resources, but we cannot rely on them alone.
“Our countries must work together to drive economic growth through innovation, especially during a time of rapid change brought on by globalization, technology, and climate change. These challenges transcend national borders. But we also have an opportunity to work as a community of nations to turn these challenges into opportunities and seize the future. That is the purpose of the Americas Competitiveness Exchange.”
Perimeter Institute is the world’s largest research hub devoted to theoretical physics. The independent Institute was founded in 1999 to foster breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of our universe, from the smallest particles to the entire cosmos. Research at Perimeter is motivated by the understanding that fundamental science advances human knowledge and catalyzes innovation, and that today’s theoretical physics is tomorrow’s technology. Located in the Region of Waterloo, the not-for-profit Institute is a unique public-private endeavour, including the Governments of Ontario and Canada, that enables cutting-edge research, trains the next generation of scientific pioneers, and shares the power of physics through award-winning educational outreach and public engagement.