Technology & Science

RIM co-founder donates $50M to Waterloo physics centre

Research in Motion co-founder Mike Lazaridis has donated an additional $50 million to the Waterloo, Ont.-based Perimeter Institute, bringing his total contribution to the centre for theoretical physics to $150 million.

Research in Motion co-founder Mike Lazaridis has donated an additional $50 million to the Waterloo, Ont.-based Perimeter Institute, bringing his total contribution to the centre for theoretical physics to $150 million.

The co-CEO of Waterloo-based Blackberry maker RIM made the private donation Wednesday evening just prior to a public lecture at the institute.

"These are exciting times in science, and we have the good fortune to propel new ideas right here in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada," he said. "It is an important mission I feel passionate about and wish to support."

It's the second major financial boost Lazaridis has provided the institute: his initial donation of $100 million helped found the centre in 2000.

Since then Perimeter has gained an international reputation for its diverse and leading-edge thinking in cosmology, quantum physics, particle physics and superstring theory.

Perimeter spokesperson John Matlock said Lazaridis's contribution is an acknowledgement of the centre's continued success.

"Mike's funding has helped propel the institute forward," he said. "I think he recognizes that this is no time to slow down funding for research and that this is an area that Canada can be a dominant player."

Last month the institute landed a major coup when it hired Cambridge University cosmologist Neil Turok, 49, to take over as its new executive director.

The South-African born Turok, a close colleague of theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, was appointed to a five-year term beginning Oct. 1.

Turok's departure from Cambridge to the Perimeter Institute also raises the possibility that Hawking, best known for his book A Brief History of Time, might make Waterloo his home away from home for a few months of the year.

According to the Times of London, Hawking is considering joining Turok in Waterloo for two to three months a year. Turok left Cambridge in part because of his frustration over government funding, particularly his inability to secure a commitment to expand Cambridge's Centre for Theoretical Cosmology and rename it after Hawking.

Matlock said there have been discussions with Hawking about visiting the institute for a few months but said nothing has been decided yet. Stanford University string theorist Lenny Susskind joined the institute in a similar role as an associate professor last year, said Matlock.

"There has been an invitation extended to be here, and he and other top physicists are always welcome," said Matlock.

Matlock said it will be up to Turok to decide how the new funds will be spent, but suggested the institute was close to maximizing its space and might seek to expand.