The Fondation Courtois gives $159M to UdeM for the discovery of new materials

Credit: Amélie Philibert

Credit: Amélie Philibert

The largest donation ever made for the natural sciences in Canada will enable researchers in chemistry, physics, computer science and operations research to solve the greatest challenges of our time.

The Fondation Courtois and Université de Montréal today announced an unprecedented $159-million gift for research in the natural sciences.

"This funding confirms Université de Montréal’s place among the country’s leading research universities and makes Canada a player to be reckoned with in the natural sciences on the international stage," said UdeM rector Daniel Jutras. "Advanced materials research is crucial to the green innovation strategy we as a society need in order to face the challenges of our time. We now have the means to make a major contribution to finding the solutions of the future through scientific advances made here in Montreal."

The donation will fund the Institut Courtois , created to support open, ambitious research on material properties by providing high-calibre teams with state-of-the-art facilities. The concept of this cutting-edge research centre was developed by an interdisciplinary team with the shared goal of leveraging recent advances in artificial intelligence and robotics to accelerate the discovery, development and characterization of new materials.

"By investing in basic research and supporting the next generation of scientists, we are meeting the innate drive to explore new frontiers that elevates all of humanity," said Jacques Courtois , president of the Fondation. "We are also responding to more immediate concerns such as the need to ensure our technological sovereignty. It is the societies that have produced the most basic science that have generated the greatest economic prosperity."

Transforming science

Developing greener batteries, improving the functionality of 3D-printed objects and finding alternatives to the mining of polluting minerals are among the lines of research that will be pursued at the Institut Courtois.

"Thanks to deep learning, the use of robots in the experimental process and increases in computing power, major advances in the understanding and uses of matter will become possible," said Frédéric Bouchard , dean of UdeM’s Faculty of Arts and Science. "This donation will enable us to change the way science is done."

Accelerating the pace of progress will depend on developing and bringing together extensive expertise in emerging fields such as new materials, chemistry, physics, quantum computing and artificial intelligence, areas in which UdeM is already recognized worldwide.

The Institut Courtois is located in the Science Complex of UdeM’s MIL campus. The donation from the Courtois Foundation will make it possible to add a wing to the Science Complex to house the new laboratories, once the project has obtained all necessary government approvals. This new wing will be in addition to the one already planned for UdeM’s Department of Computer Science and Operations Research and Department of Mathematics and Statistics. The innovation environment that is being created will give scientists access to the best available research facilities and allow them to interact with talent from all scientific backgrounds.

Laboratories of the future

The Institut Courtois’ teams are made up of established and emerging researchers, including: Mickaël Dollé, Audrey Laventure, Richard Martel, André Charrette and Andrea-Ruxandra Schmitzer from the Department of Chemistry; William Witczak-Krempa, Luc Stafford and Philippe St-Jean from the Department of Physics; and Yoshua Bengio, Gilles Brassard and Glen Berseth from the Department of Computer Science and Operations Research. They will have access to next-generation laboratories with technical, robotic and high-performance computing support. As computing capabilities are key, super-calculators that can process complex problems and manage high volumes of data will be available to researchers and students at all times.

The Institut will also be a training ground for new generations of researchers and qualified professionals. "This gift gives researchers the freedom to experiment and tackle the most complex challenges," said Audrey Laventure , Canada Research Chair in Functional Polymer Materials. "It is very exciting to be part of this place that encourages risk-taking and innovation in an environment that is conducive to new discoveries."

About the Institut Courtois

The Institut Courtois was born of a simple idea: to transform scientific research by pursuing non-oriented basic research in state-of-the art facilities. At the intersection of new materials, quantum physics and artificial intelligence, the Institut Courtois explores the frontiers of matter by bringing together the latest advances in information technology with research in chemistry and physics. The Institut Courtois is part of Université de Montréal’s Faculty of Arts and Science and is located on the MIL campus.

About Université de Montréal

Deeply rooted in Montreal and dedicated to its international mission, Université de Montréal ranks among the top 1% of the world’s universities and is considered the top comprehensive university in the Francophonie. Founded in 1878, UdeM today has 13 faculties and schools, and together with its two affiliated schools, HEC Montréal and Polytechnique Montréal, constitutes the largest centre of higher education and research in Quebec and one of the most important in North America. It has 2,300 professors and more than 70,000 students.

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