Media Releases

U of T Lab Retrofit “An Historic Investment In Canadian Science And Innovation”

July 28, 2016

Toron­to, ON –  In what Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Pres­i­dent Mer­ic Gertler called “an his­toric invest­ment in Cana­di­an sci­ence and inno­va­tion,” the fed­er­al and provin­cial gov­ern­ments are join­ing with the uni­ver­si­ty to pro­vide almost $190 mil­lion to upgrade almost half of U of T’s research labs over the next two years.

The announce­ment of the Lab Inno­va­tion for Toron­to (LIFT) project was made Thurs­day at U of T’s Med­ical Sci­ences Build­ing by Pres­i­dent Gertler, fed­er­al Inno­va­tion, Sci­ence and Eco­nom­ic Devel­op­ment Min­is­ter Navdeep Bains and Sci­ence Min­is­ter Kirsty Dun­can, and provin­cial High­er Edu­ca­tion Min­is­ter Deb Matthews. The uni­ver­si­ty will pro­vide $91.8 mil­lion, while the fed­er­al and provin­cial gov­ern­ments will con­tribute $83.7 mil­lion and $14.3 mil­lion respec­tive­ly for a total of $189.8 mil­lion.

“These invest­ments will us attract and retain tal­ent from around the world and across the coun­try. It’s real­ly crit­i­cal,” Gertler told reporters in a scrum fol­low­ing the announce­ment. “We’re very well known as a research pow­er­house but as the min­is­ters have said if the [lab research] space is sub­stan­dard it lim­its what this tal­ent and fac­ul­ty and stu­dent body can do. By mod­ern­iz­ing that space the sky is real­ly the lim­it.”

The LIFT project will lead to the renew­al of 47 per­cent of U of T’s research space, said Scott Mabury, vice-pres­i­dent oper­a­tions. The labs to be ren­o­vat­ed by the project are on aver­age 50-years-old and com­prise more than 50,000 square metres of inef­fi­cient space, he said. Work has already begun and will be com­plete by the spring of 2018.

Using a square metre as a prop at the event, he gave the appre­cia­tive crowd an impromp­tu les­son in what the scale of the infra­struc­ture project real­ly means. If you add the cur­rent inef­fi­cient lab space up, he said, it’s equiv­a­lent in total size to 15 soc­cer pitch­es. And, if U of T was build­ing all-new labs instead of reju­ve­nat­ing exist­ing facil­i­ties, the total cost per square metre would be approx­i­mate­ly $12,000, total­ing close to $650 mil­lion.

“The ren­o­va­tions will mod­ern­ize U of T’s research labs to increase usable space and enhance the qual­i­ty of the research and learn­ing envi­ron­ment,” Mabury said. “They will also improve air han­dling, cli­mate and elec­tri­cal sys­tems.”

The fed­er­al con­tri­bu­tion is part of the government’s Post-Sec­ondary Insti­tu­tions Strate­gic Invest­ment Fund, Bains said. “This once-in-a-gen­er­a­tion invest­ment by the Gov­ern­ment of Cana­da is a his­toric down pay­ment on the government’s vision to posi­tion Cana­da as a glob­al cen­tre for inno­va­tion,” he said, adding that the fund­ing would “cre­ate the con­di­tions for inno­va­tion and long-term growth that will keep the Cana­di­an econ­o­my glob­al­ly com­pet­i­tive.”

Dun­can, who has had first-hand expe­ri­ence of U of T lab facil­i­ties as both a stu­dent and instruc­tor, agreed.

“It’s a lit­tle extra spe­cial to be here today. I’m a proud UC grad­u­ate and a for­mer fac­ul­ty mem­ber … being back at the uni­ver­si­ty is bring­ing back won­der­ful mem­o­ries,” she told the crowd. “Sci­ence has a cen­tral role in [Canada’s] Inno­va­tion Agen­da … Through invest­ments such as these, we are strength­en­ing the foun­da­tion for build­ing Cana­da as a glob­al leader in sci­en­tif­ic excel­lence.”

“Through invest­ments such as these, we are strength­en­ing the foun­da­tion for build­ing Cana­da as a glob­al leader in sci­en­tif­ic excel­lence.”

Deb Matthews, Ontar­i­o’s min­is­ter of advanced edu­ca­tion and skills devel­op­ment, said: “Our gov­ern­ment is proud to sup­port this impor­tant project, which will give Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to stu­dents access to the renewed facil­i­ties they need to pre­pare for suc­cess­ful careers in sci­ence and research. We know that pro­vid­ing access to high-qual­i­ty edu­ca­tion and train­ing facil­i­ties is crit­i­cal to build­ing the skilled work­force we need to sup­port good jobs and eco­nom­ic growth for today and tomor­row and this invest­ment will help us to do it.”

“The LIFT project will equip our bril­liant schol­ars, stu­dents and staff with the cut­ting-edge facil­i­ties they need to learn, col­lab­o­rate and dis­cov­er,” Pres­i­dent Gertler said as he thanked the fed­er­al and provin­cial min­is­ters. “The mod­ern­iza­tion of these labs will also reduce our green­house gas emis­sions sig­nif­i­cant­ly. The Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to great­ly appre­ci­ates the fed­er­al and provin­cial gov­ern­ments’ sup­port of post­sec­ondary edu­ca­tion and research, and their lead­er­ship in ensur­ing Cana­da secures its place among glob­al lead­ers of sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy.”

Daniel Haas, dean of U of T’s Fac­ul­ty of Den­tistry, also thanked the min­is­ters for the infra­struc­ture fund­ing, which will allow the fac­ul­ty to sus­tain its excel­lence and to make much-need­ed repairs.

“Our research facil­i­ties are bad­ly out­dat­ed,” Haas said. “Our pri­ma­ry build­ing opened 57 years ago in 1959, and a num­ber of our researchers are work­ing out of a facil­i­ty built in 1927. We have excep­tion­al­ly tal­ent­ed peo­ple who are being lim­it­ed in what they can accom­plish, sim­ply because of infra­struc­ture. The fund­ing announced today will allow our fac­ul­ty to cap­i­tal­ize on their poten­tial. It will help us mod­ern­ize our exist­ing facil­i­ties and sus­tain our posi­tion as lead­ers in health research.”

The LIFT project will affect all three cam­pus­es and nine aca­d­e­m­ic divi­sions. The facil­i­ties to be ren­o­vat­ed include not only med­ical, den­tal, biol­o­gy, chem­istry and engi­neer­ing labs, but also include a for­mer horse barn north of Toron­to now used for eco­log­i­cal research, a green roof on the his­toric 1 Spad­i­na Avenue build­ing (the new home of the John H. Daniels Fac­ul­ty of Archi­tec­ture, Land­scape, and Design), an elec­tro-acoustic music stu­dio at the Fac­ul­ty of Music and many oth­ers. For exam­ple, at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Scar­bor­ough, the cam­pus vivar­i­um and the S‑Wing research labs will under­go $17.8 mil­lion in ren­o­va­tions, while the Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to Mississauga’s Davis Build­ing will get a $17.1 mil­lion upgrade.

In total, 546 labs will be ful­ly ren­o­vat­ed, pro­vid­ing state-of-the-art research facil­i­ties to an esti­mat­ed 1,100 researchers and 5,500 stu­dents.

Mario Ostrows­ki is one of those researchers. A renowned HIV sci­en­tist affil­i­at­ed with St. Michael’s Hos­pi­tal and U of T’s Temer­ty Temer­ty Fac­ul­ty of Med­i­cine, Ostrows­ki says there is fierce com­pe­ti­tion among research insti­tu­tions for the best grad­u­ate stu­dents and post-docs. State-of-the-art labs will help U of T recruit the best and the bright­est stu­dents, he said, and will also inspire exist­ing researchers and stu­dents to greater achieve­ments.

“Just like great archi­tec­ture inspires peo­ple every day to achieve excel­lence, if you’ve got a nice lab that’s state of the art, rather than some­thing old and decrepit that’s falling apart, it inspires and stim­u­lates peo­ple to pro­duce excel­lence.”

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