MS gives Canadian universities a technology boost

The University of Waterloo in Ontario is the first recipient of a fund created by Microsoft Canada aimed at promoting technology initiatives within Canadian universities.

Microsoft announced Wednesday the Microsoft Canada Academic Innovation Alliance which will offer R&D funding and “stimulate technology innovation” to accredited schools.

“Microsoft Canada is committed to advancing collaboration between industry and academia, which is crucial to delivering a shared vision for the future of technology and education,” said Microsoft Canada President Frank Clegg in a Webcast Wednesday.

Clegg noted that the initiative marks Microsoft’s commitment to invest in the Canadian IT sector.

A $10-million fund will provide support over five years, Clegg said, adding that eligible universities are welcome to apply for participation. The University of Waterloo will receive $2.3 million for a proposal within three of the four program categories.

George Kyriakis, manager and director for the education sector at Mississauga, Ont.-based Microsoft Canada, said projects considered for funding must address at least one of four categories, which were selected in collaboration with the academic community to achieve common goals: Academic Research, Education Solutions, Curriculum Integration and Industry Outreach.

Microsoft Canada has established a series of criteria for each category that will determine funding eligibility, Kyriakis said, adding that consistent across all categories is the requirement to use Microsoft .NET-connected services and applications.

Kyriakis said the focus is on research, e-learning, and emerging technologies to enhance learning.

The Alliance will not only encourage best practice sharing within the academic community but also promote outreach to the business community, Kyriakis said.

More than 8,000 U of W electrical and computer engineering students will gain remote access to lab equipment and lab simulators through .NET-connected Web services. Students will practice the concepts of electronic and digital circuitry by working in the lab itself, Microsoft said, adding that staff will be recruited to devise solutions in providing Web-access to the new curriculum content and support the education solutions infrastructure.

Specifically, the university said it is embarking on a research project involving a team of three professors, a researcher programmer, a post-doctoral fellow and six graduate students who will develop a mathematical recognition engine for the Tablet PC, a next-generation portable computer that includes an advanced handwriting recognition capability. The university-developed engine will enable mathematicians to enter and compute complex formulas using pen-based input.

University of Waterloo President David Johnston said he was “thrilled and privileged” to enter into the partnership with Microsoft.

“That Microsoft has chosen Waterloo as the first institution…testifies to our long-standing collaboration, through co-operative education, research and development,” Johnston said.

“The new fund will enable many more of our best students and researchers to advance the boundaries of knowledge in this area, which is so crucial to Canada’s innovation strategy.”

Details on Microsoft Canada’s initiative can be found at