Government of Saskatchewan Invests $2.2 million in Advanced Research Computing


On January 18, 2018, the Government of Saskatchewan announced a commitment of $2.2 million to Compute Canada and regional partner WestGrid to support the delivery of advanced research computing resources, support, and services to researchers. The funding will be provided through Innovation Saskatchewan’s Innovation and Science Fund over a five-year period from 2017 to 2022.

“Today’s funding announcement is exciting and positive news for our research community in Saskatchewan and for Canadians across the country,” said Rick Bunt, a member of Compute Canada’s Board of Directors and Professor Emeritus of Computer Science at the University of Saskatchewan. “Investing in supercomputing to support Canadian research translates into investments in healthcare, education, the environment, industry — areas that impact and benefit all of our lives.”

Over the last five years, more than 480 researchers from Saskatchewan’s universities have benefited from access to Compute Canada and WestGrid’s infrastructure and support services, with an estimated value of $4.9 million to the province.

“Saskatchewan is home to innovative research and technical facilities, and we are proud of the remarkable work they do,” said Steven Bonk, Minister Responsible for Innovation. “This initiative will provide Saskatchewan researchers with access to supercomputers that support and accelerate research into agriculture, water security and other areas important to the province.”

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) will provide matching funding through its Major Science Initiatives (MSI) program; a continuation of a program that ran from 2012-2017.

“From leading-edge research into global food and water security to the innovative work done on medical beamlines at the Canadian Light Source synchrotron, University of Saskatchewan researchers are increasingly harnessing the power of supercomputers in ways that contribute to the provincial economy and to Canadian global competitiveness,” University of Saskatchewan Vice-President of Research Karen Chad said. “This investment will provide the advanced computing services needed to catapult innovation.”

Access to the resources is just one piece of the puzzle, said Bunt.

“Researchers also need support to make the most of what advanced research computing has to offer. This is where Compute Canada comes. We take resources researchers need — everything from powerful datacentres to specialized networks to data management tools — and works with regional partners like WestGrid, Compute Ontario, Calcul Québec and ACENET to add the essential service layer of expert consultants and front-line technical support. There are more than 200 of them spread across Canada. Not only does this team support all scopes, scales and disciplines of research, it also provides training that builds essential skills in computational research. Our collaborative approach to this national platform maximizes resource use, knowledge transfer, and research impact.”

(Photo (left to right): Kevin Schneider, AVP Research, U of S; Nisha Puthiyedth, researcher and postdoctoral fellow in Computer Science, U of S; Steven Bonk, Minister of Economy, Government of Saskatchewan; Rick Bunt, Compute Canada Board Member and Professor Emeritus, Computer Science, U of S.)

Compute Canada & WestGrid Impacts in Saskatchewan: Research Case Studies

  • Federated Research Data Repository (FRDR)
    In partnership with Portage, Compute Canada, and the Canadian Association of Research Libraries, a team of research data management experts at the University of Saskatchewan helped launch the Federated Research Data Repository (FRDR), a single online location from which research data can be shared, preserved, discovered, curated, and cited.
  • Ravindra Chibbar – Professor and Canada Research Chair in Molecular Biology for Crop Quality, College of Agriculture and Bioresources, University of Saskatchewan
    Using Compute Canada and WestGrid computing resources, Chibbar is analyzing DNA sequencing data to identify which molecular mechanisms determine grain quality characteristics in crops such as wheat, barley, rye, and chickpea. Results from his work will lead to the development of better cereal and pulse crops in the future.
  • Bill Zeng – Associate Professor, Petroleum Systems Engineering, University of Regina
    With research interests in oil and gas reservoir development and high-performance reservoir simulation, Zeng relies on Compute Canada and WestGrid computing resources to conduct complex mathematical models on fluid flow and fluid displacement.
  • Kathryn McWilliams – Professor, Physics & Engineering Physics, University of Saskatchewan
    McWilliams is leading the Canadian contingent of the Super Dual Auroral Radar Network (SuperDARN) project. This international project operates 36 high-frequency radars around the world — including one in Saskatoon — synchronized to scan millions of square kilometers every minute, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Tapping into Compute Canada and WestGrid’s massive data storage capabilities, the SuperDARN Canada team collects and analyzes immense datasets so that one day we can predict space weather fluctuations and reduce disruptive impacts to our power grids, satellite signals, and telecommunications networks.