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Promoting a healthy planet

$123M research grant to electrify society and decarbonize communities

Volt-Age will redefine electrification, smart buildings and net-zero communities

The Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) awarded Concordia a historic $123-million-plus grant to support the activities and initiatives to be encompassed in the university’s Volt-Age program. Canadian Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry François-Philippe Champagne announced the funding in April.

The investment, the largest single research award in the university’s history, significantly amplifies Concordia’s already formidable expertise in several areas related to electrification, smart buildings and net-zero communities, furthering its leadership in helping Canada achieve its goal of carbon neutrality by 2050.

Volt-Age, originally called Electrifying Society: Towards Decarbonized Resilient Communities, officially launched in October. It brings together Concordia researchers from across all faculties and colleagues from seven Canadian universities. More than 25 non-academic partners, including from various levels of government and Hydro-Québec, Indigenous Clean Energy, Nouveau Monde Graphite, Lion Electric and others, are also involved.

They will work with Indigenous, private, public and not-for-profit sector experts to deliver integrated, affordable decarbonization solutions, focused on electrification. This includes energy systems and storage, transportation and smart buildings, deployment of digital twin technology, cybersecurity and the internet of things.

Together, the university and its partners are establishing a world-leading research program designed to apply novel technologies to create innovative energy sources, secure critical infrastructure and deliver affordable, green energy under diverse conditions in municipalities and communities across Canada. Central to the program is a network of living labs to incubate new ideas, test and bundle new technologies, nurture startups and mobilize citizen engagement to foster social adoption of the innovations developed through the research program.

Karim Zaghib, professor of chemical and materials engineering and CEO of Volt-Age. Karim Zaghib, professor of chemical and materials engineering and CEO of Volt-Age.

Karim Zaghib, professor of chemical and materials engineering and CEO of Volt-Age, says that Volt-Age’s arrival is timely because “a new era of electrification is crucial if we are to create green and resilient communities that will thrive for years to come.”

The impressive list of advisory board members, who played a crucial role in creating Volt-Age, includes chair Norman Hébert, BComm 77, executive chair of Groupe Park Avenue and former chair of Concordia’s Board of Governors, and Grégoire Baillargeon, president of BMO Financial Group Quebec and vice-chair of BMO Capital Markets.

Concordia introduces its bold climate initiative PLAN/NET ZERØ

In line with Concordia’s pledge to have sustainability guide every aspect of its activities and be a leader in climate action, the university launched PLAN/NET ZERØ. The forward-looking project aims to show how large institutions can work with diverse partners to target net-zero emissions now.

As one of Canada’s largest and most urban universities, Concordia’s stated goal is to achieve carbon neutrality before 2040. To do so, it will transform its two Montreal campuses into living labs that reduce energy consumption, optimize heating systems and encourage behavioural change, and serve as a blueprint for cities around the world.

“The need for a clean-energy transition to decarbonize our rapidly urbanizing planet is urgent,” says Concordia President Graham Carr. “With 80 buildings across 62 acres on two very different campuses, Concordia offers a unique space to develop and test innovative, integrated, scalable decarbonization solutions that can be blueprints for cities around the world.”

Sir George Williams Campus in the heart of downtown and Loyola Campus in residential Notre-Dame-de-Grâce contain urban greenspaces and examples of almost every phase of Montreal’s architectural history over the last 150 years. Their buildings include contemporary LEED-standard research pavilions, 20th-century office towers and low-rise heritage buildings.

Serving 50,000 students and 7,000 faculty and staff, as well as thousands of visitors each day, Concordia’s campuses span a huge range of activities, from academic to administrative, sports, research, performance, study, BIXI bike stations, car parks, retail spaces and more. Ranked among the top 10 in Canada by the London-based Times Higher Education Impact Rankings for Reduced Inequalities, Climate Action and Sustainable Cities and Communities, Concordia is well positioned to lead a project at the scale of PLAN/NET ZERØ.

The expertise of its Next-Generation Cities Institute and across the university in energy-efficient buildings, smart cities, electrification and renewables, sustainable mobility solutions, energy storage, applied artificial intelligence (AI), cybersecurity and smart-grid security is recognized globally. PLAN/NET ZERØ will take advantage of Concordia’s strengths and its vast network of community, civic, academic and industrial partnerships.

Photo credit: Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash.


Concordia partners with Arkema and Rondol for battery innovation

As part of its leadership in battery-components modernization, the university signed a five-year collaborative agreement with world-leading material sciences company Arkema and extrusion tech specialist Rondol Industrie, both from France. The partnership promises to stimulate progress in the battery industry, as the use of renewable energy in society continues to increase. The partners are combining efforts to explore the benefits of an emerging extrusion process named PEXBASO.

The agreement is in line with Concordia’s Volt-Age program. The project focuses on the production of innovative rechargeable battery components and has been designed to meet the rising demands for sustainable and new materials.

Concordia-led initiative will accelerate climate action in Montreal

To help the City of Montreal meet its target of carbon neutrality by 2050, Concordia has launched the UNIVER/CITY 2030 initiative, based at Concordia’s Next-Generation Cities Institute. The partnership seeks to bring Montreal’s universities together to help achieve municipal goals related to socioecological transitions, with an initial focus on reducing carbon emissions and mitigating climate change.

“UNIVER/CITY 2030 creates new ways for universities to work with each other and with government, civic society groups, communities and businesses, using shared goals as the glue that holds everything together,” explains Jason Ens, Concordia’s executive director of academic policy, planning and strategic initiatives, who developed the project’s proposal.

Student-developed video game assesses urban livability and sustainability

A group of Concordia Institute of Co-operative Education student interns working through the Next-Generation Cities Institute is designing a video game called CityPlayer to help city dwellers, planners, researchers and decision-makers visualize potential solutions for urban development in real time.

“The player can make fundamental changes to a city at the intersection of livability and sustainability,” explains Christopher Gibbs, the long-time video game industry veteran leading the project. “We are turning our gamification imagination into reality in a real-world environment where we are applying what we learned in class,” adds Jiarui Li, BCSc 22, the project’s lead gamification programmer.

Pictured from left to right: Christopher Gibbs and Jiarui Li, BCSc 22. From left to right: Christopher Gibbs and Jiarui Li, BCSc 22.
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