Four years ago University of Waterloo professor Raymond Laflamme received money to buy lab equipment for research on quantum computers. On Monday, he got funding for the lab.

A new centre at the University of Waterloo devoted to quantum information processing is one of 86 projects receiving a combined $422 million in funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation on Monday.

CFI President and CEO Dr. Eliot Phillipson was at the university to announce the projects from 35 universities, colleges and research facilities for two new infrastructure funds in fields like genetics, nanotechnology, environmental science and neurology.

Other projects receiving a second round of funding include:

  • The University of Manitoba-led National Data Centre Network looking into social science research.
  • A virtual lab to study cyberpsychology and anxiety at the Université du Quebec in Outaouais.
  • A cancer stem-cell centre established by the University Health Network.

"We had requests totalling $1.2 billion worth of funding," Phillipson told CBC News Online. "So for those projects that made it through we can only describe them as outstanding and clearly of international calibre."

Laflamme, head of Waterloo's Institute for Quantum Computing, will head the project alongside researchers from the University of Western Ontario in London and Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.

The quantum computing project will receive almost $18 million from the CFI— the most of any individual project awarded this year — and over $50 million in total from both public and private funding sources.

The field of quantum computing takes the process of passing on information to a subatomic level, potentially allowing for exponentially faster machines.

"It has the potential to have a major impact on how information is processed. There has been a physical limit to how fast computers can work, and quantum computing can radically change all of that," said Phillipson.

It's also any area of great interest internationally, says Phillipson, one of the reasons Laflamme's project became one of 40 to receive a second round of funding from CFI.

It's a new development for the organization, which hadn't given researchers an opportunity to get a second chance at funding.

Now the CFI has split up the awards, giving out money for previously funded work through the Leading Edge Fund and continuing to promotefirst-time recipients through a New Initiatives Fund.

For Laflamme's project, four years can make quite a difference. His 2002 funding request for quantum information processing lab equipment netted the university $262,813.

New projects funded

Projects receiving first-time funding include:

  • The University of Alberta's Institute for Viral Immunology.
  • A full-scale wastewater treatment and aqua-streams research facility at the University of Calgary.
  • A micro- and nano-systems laboratory at McMaster University.

Phillipson said the proof that the initial funding paid off is in the renewed commitment of the Leading Edge Fund.

"When we gave out the first award we are rewarding potential, but to get money from this new fund you need to show more than potential. You have to show performance," he said.

The Leading Edge Fund awarded $141.4 million to 40 projects, while the New Initiatives Fund awarded $183.4 million to 46 projects. An additional $97.5 million was allocated toward infrastructure costs for research institutions.

The CFI is an independent corporation created by the federal government to fund research infrastructure. It commits funds to projects annually and thenprovides them on a continuing basis.