Aug. 22, 2018

Partnership makes significant investment in cybersecurity research at UCalgary

Computer Science prof Rei Safavi-Naeini named NSERC–Telus Industrial Research Chair

The University of Calgary’s leading expert in cryptography and information security, Dr. Rei Safavi-Naeini, PhD, has received new funding to continue her research on developing new security and privacy technologies for securing the future Internet.

“Security has become an urgent concern because of the rapid growth of the Internet of Things, increased connectivity and the development of quantum computers, which affects the current security infrastructure of the Internet,” says Safavi-Naeini.

Safavi-Naeini was recently named the NSERC-Telus Industrial Research Chair in Information Security, which was made possible by a three-way partnership between UCalgary, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), and Telus. The program also has strong support from Alberta Innovates, who has provided funding for the group over the past 10 years. NSERC and Telus have together provided $1.25 million in new funding to establish the Industrial Research Chair.

“Telus is committed to ensuring Canadians are protected from threats in their digital lives, both today and in the future,” says Carey Frey, chief security officer at Telus. "The NSERC–Telus Industrial Research Chair is an investment in both the University of Calgary, its students and faculty, and in the future of our national security infrastructure. Technology evolves rapidly, and this research will ensure Canadians continue to be safeguarded in their digital lives."

The support from NSERC and Telus will allow Safavi-Naeini’s team to significantly advance their research outcomes.

Addressing cybersecurity challenges

“Rei is playing a critical role in understanding how, in today’s digital world, cybersecurity challenges have grown to be a fundamental concern in the delivery and evolution of communications technology. The leadership demonstrated by Telus and by NSERC in establishing this Chair ensures we continue to bring scientific insights to better understand how these challenges have become a fundamental risk,” says Dr. Lesley Rigg, dean, Faculty of Science at the University of Calgary.

The NSERC Industrial Research Chairs program is one of Canada’s key innovation instruments. First introduced in 1984, the program currently funds approximately 168 research chairs across Canada. Developed to ensure new scientific evidence is applied to industrial needs, the program also makes certain graduate students and postdocs are trained in emerging areas of importance. The program requires the university to secure industry funding to match the federal government investment. And as for all scholarly results, findings from this program are shared publicly through peer-reviewed sources.

“NSERC’s Industrial Research Chair program supports collaborations that allow new scientific evidence to be applied to industrial needs,” says Dr. Marc Fortin, vice-president, research partnerships, NSERC. “Dr. Safavi-Naeini has demonstrated extensive expertise and experience in the area of information security and privacy, and has established herself as a global leader in this area. She and her team are well suited to develop new technologies to address internet information security and privacy challenges that will directly impact communication providers and provide significant economic benefits to Canada.”

Understanding impact of Internet of Things, quantum computers and blockchain technologies

The goal of the Industrial Research Chair is to answer fundamental research questions that are fuelled by the recent developments in information and communication technologies that will have major impacts on information security – in particular, the rise of the Internet of Things and quantum computers. The research program will also explore blockchain applications, which are widely considered a transformative technology for many sectors.

“The support from Telus and from NSERC boosts our research capacity and allows us to hire new experts and expand our existing educational program to train the next generation of highly qualified cybersecurity personnel,” says Safavi-Naeini. “This ambitious research program would not be possible without this kind of leadership and partnered support.”

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