uOttawa to push boundaries of quantum research and autonomous vehicle technology with NSERC grants

Research and innovation
Faculty of Science
Faculty of Engineering

By University of Ottawa

Office of the Vice-President, Research and Innovation, OVPRI

professors Robert W Boyd, Anne Broadbent, Ghassan Jabbour, Burak Kantarci and Adina Lucian-Mayer.
From left to right, professors Robert W Boyd, Anne Broadbent, Ghassan Jabbour, Burak Kantarci and Adina Lucian-Mayer.
With its success in securing multiple prestigious grants, the University of Ottawa is set to further solidify its position as a leading institution in quantum research while breaking new ground in autonomous vehicle technology.

The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada’s (NSERC) call for Alliance Quantum Consortia grants saw uOttawa secure a significant portion of the available funding, making it the only university to receive three out of eight grants awarded across the country, totalling approximately $15 million.  

Similarly, uOttawa’s exceptional performance in the NSERC-Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) program, securing two out of three grants in the quantum call, will allow the University to further develop the next generation of quantum researchers and professionals. 

Quantum technologies have a transformative potential on many sectors, including health care, energy, finance and security. For instance, quantum sensing can enhance medical imaging and disease detection, quantum cryptography can improve data security and quantum computing can facilitate the development of new materials and drugs. 

While quantum science can be revolutionary, receiving an NSERC CREATE grant for Training and Research in Autonomous Vehicles for Reliable Services in the Air and on Land (TRAVERSAL), represents another significant milestone for research and innovation at uOttawa. 

The autonomous technology-focused program will run at the Smart Connect Vehicle Innovation Centre (SCVIC), the first academic lab to be established in the Kanata North Tech Park at uOttawa's satellite campus. With an emphasis on experiential learning, TRAVERSAL will provide training to highly skilled professionals, with the opportunity to complete internships with local companies, in fields such as electrical engineering, computer science, management information systems, etc. 

“The recent grants not only demonstrate uOttawa’s strong research capabilities but also its commitment to advancing quantum science and autonomous vehicle technology in Canada,” said Sylvain Charbonneau, vice-president, research and innovation, at the University of Ottawa. “They align with our key strategic area of research of shaping the digital world. The new quantum grants awarded also bring welcome support to NexQT, our newly inaugurated institute in quantum technologies, which consolidates our researchers’ talents and skills to drive innovation and commercialization initiatives.”

NSERC Alliance Quantum Consortia grants 

The Alliance Consortia Quantum grants facilitate coordinated quantum research and innovation between academic researchers from universities located in Canada’s quantum research and innovation hubs and partner organizations from the private, public or not-for-profit sectors supporting large-scale quantum projects. 

These grants are part of the National Quantum Strategy launched by Canada in 2021 to strengthen the country’s position in quantum research, technology and talent.  

Project title: QUébec Ontario consoRtium on quantUM protocols (QUORUM)
Lead: Professor Anne Broadbent, Faculty of Science, Department of Mathematics and Statistics 

Offering secure and distributed computation, the quantum internet (QI) is considered the future of networking. 

Led by Professor Anne Broadbent, the QUORUM consortium seeks to redefine the limits of the quantum internet by improving its algorithms, while finding ways to bridge the gap between hardware and software. 

The consortium is informed by real market issues. It will partner with startups active in quantum science and train a new generation of professionals in quantum information, positioning Canada as a leader in this emerging field. 

Ultimately, QUORUM aims to develop disruptive QI software technologies that will give rise to more efficient methods of computation, particularly in the areas of secure and distributed computations, while addressing the legal and ethical impact of such technologies and promoting equitable access.  

Project Title: Quantum Enhanced Sensing and Imaging (QuEnSI) 
Lead: Professor Robert W. Boyd, Faculty of Science, Department of Physics 

The QuEnSI Alliance comprises 10 scientists from different Canadian universities and five non-academic partner institutions. Using quantum measurement methods, it seeks to enhance sensing and imaging technologies in practical problems of interest to society. 

Its research methodology includes innovative concepts such as nonlinear wave mixing, with a focus on quantum sensing with atoms, biology, artificial intelligence and lidar. Its work could lead to advances in fields such as medicine and environmental monitoring, as well as enhanced measurement accuracy and improved commercial product performance. 

The QuEnSI Alliance’s diverse team and unique research approach position it to make outstanding contributions to the advancement of sensing and imaging technologies. 

Project Title: Programmable quantum simulators based on 2D materials (PQS2D)
Lead: Professor Adina Luican-Mayer, Faculty of Science, Department of Physics 

The goal of PQS2D is to build a special type of quantum machine that uses programmable devices made from 2D materials to simulate complex quantum systems. 

This will help us better understand and control quantum many-body systems (systems made up of many interacting quantum particles). In addition, the project aims to develop high-quality 2D materials and devices (including at the wafer-scale) and create theoretical models to understand how they work. 

The PQS2D project's potential impact on technology development lies in optimizing the performance of quantum materials for applications in electronics and optoelectronics. 

Collaborating with nine research groups across five universities and four partners, PQS2D is a large-scale project coordinated among three Canadian quantum hubs. The project will also train the next generation quantum workforce and solve critical problems in quantum phases of matter. 

NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) grants 

The CREATE program aims to enhance training and mentorship for the next generation of Canadian researchers by developing their communication, collaboration and professional skills, and by providing them with experiential learning opportunities relevant to both academic and non-academic research environments. 

Project Title: Training and Research in Autonomous Vehicles for Reliable Services in the Air and on Land (TRAVERSAL)
Lead: Professor Burak Kantarci, Faculty of Engineering, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science 

The TRAVERSAL program is a collaborative effort between four Canadian universities aiming to train highly qualified personnel in fields related to autonomous technologies. 

The program provides hard and soft skills and offers industrial internships to bridge skill shortages in Canada’s connected and autonomous vehicles workforce. 

Through a perfect combination of depth and breadth to train 120+ HQP in research and interdisciplinary excellence over six years, TRAVERSAL will focus on the dependability of AI for “Beyond 5G”-enabled autonomous services, end user behavior modeling and analysis for the widespread use of autonomous services, as well as the realization of responsible design of intelligence for autonomous systems.  

The program focuses on areas that are critical for the continuing and rapid growth of the connected and autonomous vehicles sector in Canada. Industry partners such as Irdeto, Wedge Networks, and Quanser are heavily involved, and partnerships with institutions in the US, Germany, Brazil, and the UK have been established.  

Training in Quantum Materials Multiscale Assembly via Low-Cost Low-Carbon Footprint Processes (CREATE-QuantM-MALL) 
Lead: Professor Ghassan Jabbour, Faculty of Engineering, School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science 

QuantM-MALL is a training program focused on quantum materials (QMs), which are critical for the operation and creation of new technologies. 

The program aims to provide multidisciplinary education and training in essential areas of QM research and applications, such as quantum catalysis and energy materials, quantum magnetic materials, electronic and photonic QMs and devices, and the environmental impact of nano and QMs. 

Students will be trained in topics such as quantum modelling, machine learning, combinatorial material discovery methods, device fabrication and testing, and environmental consequences of QMs. 

The program is HQP-centric and committed to providing a welcoming environment for students to develop their innovations, as well as training in essential areas of management, business, risk analysis and failure mitigation, entrepreneurship and innovation. 

Training in Materials for Quantum Technologies (MaQTech) 
Lead: Professor Adina Luican-Mayer, Faculty of Science, Department of Physics 

The MaQTech program focuses on equipping the future quantum workforce with skills that bridge the gap between academic research and industrial needs in quantum science and engineering, specifically by addressing grand challenges in quantum materials with a transformative impact on the technological challenges of tomorrow. 

The program includes 11 researchers from six Canadian institutions with broad expertise in theory, machine learning and artificial intelligence, materials synthesis, development of light-matter quantum interfaces, device fabrication, design of electronic circuits, and experimental characterization. 

The program will equip a diverse cohort of students with knowledge and know-how on solving technological challenges by developing new materials and integrating them into innovative quantum building blocks. MaQTech will provide mentorship and broader training in areas such as leadership, entrepreneurship and ethics. MaQTech trainees will have opportunities for national and international mobility and to conduct industrial and government lab internships.