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Creating an inclusive future through global partnerships

By Steven N. Liss, Vice-President, Research and Innovation at TMU
December 07, 2023
Toronto Metropolitan University campus in the foreground with and the downtown Toronto skyline at dusk.

This article was originally published in Canada’s Innovation Leaders 2023. Read the original version of the article. (external link) 

As we navigate the complexities of an ever-evolving global landscape, the role of science diplomacy has become increasingly crucial in fostering collaborative research initiatives that transcend borders. A paradigm shift toward community-engaged and inclusive research practices has taken root, emphasizing the importance of involving diverse perspectives for comprehensive problem-solving.

Toronto Metropolitan University’s (TMU) researchers actively engage in cross-cultural collaborations, recognizing that complex challenges require diverse perspectives and collective action. Through these partnerships, TMU is not only contributing to the global knowledge pool but also fostering diplomatic relations that extend beyond the realm of politics, emphasizing shared humanity in the pursuit of scientific understanding.

Led by Dr. Anna Triandafyllidou, TMU’s Canada First Research Excellence Fund program, Migrant Integration in the Mid-21st Century: Bridging Divides, leverages national collaboration with partners Concordia University in Montréal, the University of Alberta and the University of British Columbia. This $98.6 million program brings together 25 research leaders and more than 200 organizations seeking scalable solutions to build a new understanding of the challenges and opportunities that migrant integration poses for Canada and the world.

Another collaboration showcasing TMU’s dedication to wielding science as a tool for positive global impact is the work of Dr. Carolyn Johns, who is co-leading a U.S. – Canada research team to establish the Global Center for Understanding Climate Change Impacts on Transboundary Waters. This joint research project with the University of Michigan and McMaster University was awarded more than $10 million to research climate change impacts, in particular on vulnerable communities.

TMU’s inclusive research practices extend beyond traditional academic boundaries, fostering partnerships with community organizations, businesses and policymakers. This holistic approach ensures research outcomes have practical applications and contribute to the well-being of the communities involved. Dr. Mandana Vahabi, Co-Director of the Centre for Global Health and Health Equity, recently received the Canadian Cancer Research Alliance’s Distinguished Service to Cancer Research award for her pioneering, innovative and impactful research in often underfunded areas and for highlighting the importance of integrating research into practice, particularly for underserved communities in Canada and India.

Research is strengthened by a willingness to cross disciplinary boundaries, break down barriers, build alliances and take risks to advance inquiry, discovery and knowledge. This need is especially evident in rapidly developing fields, like quantum computing, which are changing the way we live and work. TMU is developing training to equip a workforce capable of harnessing the potential of quantum technologies through a collaboration with Xanadu, which allows TMU students and researchers to access world-class quantum computing hardware and software to explore and develop novel software applications.

Quantum technologies will play a significant role in how our future cities are planned and operated. TMU is poised to make significant strides in leveraging technology to manage networked transportation systems, smart infrastructure and energy grids. The Centre for Urban Energy (CUE), led by Dr. Bala Venkatesh, takes an academic-industry partnership approach to deliver novel, tangible, sustainable and affordable solutions to the pressing energy problems of today – and tomorrow. CUE has partnerships that span the globe from South America, Europe and Asia, and they work collaboratively and inclusively with an international group of experts to develop real-world, deployable clean energy solutions.

In an era where the challenges facing humanity are inherently global, collaborative research can contribute to science diplomacy to build bridges between nations and foster an environment where researchers from diverse backgrounds can unite to address shared challenges. By fostering partnerships between researchers and communities, we can enhance the relevance and applicability of research outcomes, ensuring they address real-world challenges and contribute positively to societal well-being.