UBC lands $66.5-million funding for quantum materials research

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The University of British Columbia has landed a whopping $66.5-million funding from the federal government for a single project involved with quantum matter research.

The funding, which will be spread over seven years, has been received by the university’s Quantum Matter Institute (QMI) from the new Canada First Research Excellence Fund – a funding programme specifically created to propel Canada’s top performing institutions and research centres onto the world stage. The inaugural funding round was of almost $350 million distributed among five recipients including the UBC.

QMI is also home to the Max Planck-UBC Centre for Quantum Materials, which fosters collaborations with 10 Max Planck institutes. This is the third international centre ever established outside Germany by the prestigious Max Planck Society, and the only one fully dedicated to quantum materials research.

QMI was created in 2010, under the leadership and vision of UBC professor George Sawatzky, and is made up of a research team of 13 professors, plus students, technicians and postdoctoral fellows. The group will grow to 20 professors by 2019. In 2012, Keimer and Sawatzky led the creation of the Max Planck-UBC Centre for Quantum Materials. Housed at QMI, it is the only international Max Planck Centre focused on quantum materials research.

According to the university, the materials and devices conceived within QMI are likely to create the foundation for new technologies. Entrepreneurial students or faculty can spin-off these concepts into start-up companies. QMI will anchor new companies or even whole industries around UBC, resulting in British Columbia becoming a hub for next-generation technologies that we cannot yet fully imagine.

Few quantum materials are currently used in industrial applications today as we are still trying to understand the basic physics and chemistry and how to create them, in order to control and harness their properties.

UBC President Arvind Gupta pegs this funding as an investment that will help the university establish itself as a global centre for high-tech quantum materials research. He added that the groundbreaking scientific discoveries made in this field not only have the potential to create practical applications that could spur new industries and employment in Canada but abroad as well and can provide public benefits in areas like health and the environment.

“UBC’s quantum matter community is extremely excited about today’s funding announcement,” said Andrea Damascelli, QMI director. “Support from Canada First Research Excellence Fund will propel our Quantum Matter Institute to the very forefront of the field internationally. By enabling us to fully exploit our institute’s state-of-the-art infrastructure and further strengthen our international partnerships, especially with the Max Planck Society of Germany, this funding program will advance Canada’s position as a global leader in quantum materials and future technologies.”