News

News

Small businesses to reap big Benefits from new OCE High Performance Computing Initiative

October 25, 2012

Southern Ontario Smart Computing Innovation Platform (SOSCIP) offers previously cost-prohibitive service to small businesses striving to remain globally competitive

The announcement of the IBM Canada Research and Development Centre. From L-R: Pat Horgan, Vice President, IBM Canada; Don Aldridge, General Manager, IBM Canada; Paul Young, Vice President, Research, University of Toronto; Tom Corr, President and CEO, Ontario Centres of Excellence; Steven N. Liss, Vice-Principal (Research), Queen’s University; Dan Sinai, Director Research Services, Western University; The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State (Science and Technology) (Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario); Janice Deakin, Provost & Vice-President (Academic), Acting Vice-President (Research), Western University; Dr.Michael Owen, Associate Provost, Research, UOIT; Mona Nemer, Vice President, Research, University of Ottawa; The Honourable Brad Duguid, Ontario Minister of Economic Development and Innovation.

High performance computing (HPC) is the next big thing in small business. The technology powers through unimaginably massive sets of data to find the actionable information and meaningful correlations - accelerating commercialization opportunities.

But processing big data costs big bucks - outside the reach of many small businesses. Until now.

OCE is part of a partnership with IBM, the province (Ministry of Economic Development and Innovation), the federal government (FedDev), and a consortium of Ontario universities for high performance and cloud computing, known as the Southern Ontario Smart Computing Innovation Platform (SOSCIP). OCE’s specific mandate in this partnership is to help SMEs in Ontario increase their competitiveness and productivity through access to this highly specialized technology. 

IT can help a business become more efficient and more productive. And for a small business, HPC can be a game changer, helping it leapfrog ahead across the competition, especially if that company is the first to deploy it. 

Led by its new Director of Research Development, High Performance Computing, Ron Van Holst, OCE will be identifying high-potential companies that could make considerable gains using HPC. Ron and a team of business development specialists will be meeting with SMEs in Ontario, including conducting a roadshow to illustrate the benefits of the platform and networking with potential candidates.

“This is an unprecedented opportunity for Ontario businesses," said Ron Van Holst. “This kind of access to highly advanced computing combined with university applied research in healthcare and smart infrastructure allows these small companies to pursue R&D at a greatly reduced risk. In this highly supportive environment they are far more likely to make advancements that take them to the next level.”

Companies that could benefit from this program include:
  • Small start-ups that think big
  • Innovators with great ideas for which standard computers just aren’t powerful enough
  • Companies that want to lead their markets in research, quality, performance, etc.
  • Companies mining for insights in their data to reshape their businesses into global leaders
  • Founders (or influential internal champions) who have used HPC in grad school or at a previous employer
  • Computer savvy companies experiencing performance issues with products, services or internal processes
  • Companies that like to codify their IP in software
  • Companies that like to create models to simulate business processes
  • Companies with good track records of university or college research collaboration (with OCE, RIC, FedDev, NSERC, etc.)
  • Companies with a knack for what’s next
Further information on the SOSCIP program and road show will be available through www.oce-ontario.org as details are confirmed. Also, follow OCE on Twitter @OCEInnovation or use hashtag #SOSCIP for SOSCIP news.

OCE In The News

  • December 1, 2016 – Queen's GazetteSimulating Real-World Challenges

    A grant from the Ontario Centres of Excellence (OCE) will help Queen’s University and Toronto tech firm Ametros Learning develop an intelligent, web-based simulation platform for students in law, medicine, engineering and business.

    The $250,000 in funding through the OCE’s Advancing Education program will enable the Queen’s Law-Ametros partnership to develop a simulation authoring environment that any instructor can use to create intelligent, highly-interactive simulations, explains Dirk Rodenburg, Director, Undergraduate and Professional Programs at the Faculty of Law.

    Utilizing IBM Watson’s cognitive computing platform, the focus is on case-based teaching through simulations of real-world challenges. This allows students to develop the problem-solving and decision-making skills needed when they enter the workforce.

    “One of the major reasons for using an intelligent simulation is to bridge the gap between theory and practice, using the notion of ‘thick authenticity’ to provide the student with true role-based, real-world scenarios,” Mr. Rodenburg says. “Closing that gap has been identified as a key objective for educators within many professional schools, and we’ve seen a significant move to include techniques such as problem-based learning, standardized patients and clients, and real-time role play as ways to address the issue. But these methods are expensive and not easily scalable. The beauty of this type of platform is that you can achieve a high level of realism in a distributed, easily accessible and very cost-effective manner.”

    In the Queen’s Law-Ametros Learning platform, students will interact with artificially-intelligent characters in scenarios they will typically face as professionals. However, instructors are able to maintain direct oversight of the scenario and provide feedback when needed, which is critical when students are presented with complex challenges.

    “The instructor has visibility over every message between students and the AI engine,” said Dr. Robert Clapperton, Head of Development at Ametros Learning. “So an instructor can look at a message a student has sent to the system and say ‘You know what? At this point in time, that is not the right question to ask.’ The instructor can then send it back to the student with the request to rephrase the question. Or they can choose to let it pass through and have the student deal with the consequences. They can also modify any response the AI generates. The instructor serves as mentor to the student.”

    The platform, which is currently used to teach communication skills, was created by Dr. Clapperton, who is also an assistant professor at Ryerson’s School of Professional Communication. The Faculty of Law has reached out to the School of Medicine, the Smith School of Business and the Faculty of Engineering to explore, incorporate and expand intelligent simulation within cross-disciplinary pedagogical strategies. Queen’s Law and Ametros Learning are also partnering with a consortium of international law schools to bring the platform to Hong Kong, the U.K. and Australia. The OCE Advancing Education grant is aimed at augmenting the existing platform so that instructional teams can create scenarios and characters independent of technical skills.

    “This project fits in perfectly with our strategic commitment to innovation in teaching and learning,” said Bill Flanagan, Dean of the Faculty of Law.  “We are moving quickly to bring new techniques and technologies into the faculty to support both online and blended courses, and intelligent simulation is certainly on the forefront of approaches to legal pedagogy. The ability to engage students in meaningful, authentic, real world scenarios will, we believe, have a significant and positive impact on their understanding of legal issues and practice.”

    For more information on the Queen's Law-Ametros Learning simulation partnership project, visit simlaw.queenslaw.ca.

  • November 18, 2016 – Canada's Innovation LeadersChampioning Government’s Role as First Customer of Innovation
    As OCE has grown and evolved over the last thirty years, so has our understanding of what it takes to drive innovation. We’ve learned that it requires identifying and employing a number of different levers. This includes everything from business advice, seed financing and support for industry-academic collaboration to support for companies to scale up and pursue global ambitions, knowledge transfer through industry-based internships and fellowships, and investment in infrastructure.