Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
Symbol of the Government of Canada

Common menu bar links

Strategic Partnership Grants Target Area Descriptions

Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks (SPG‑N) description
Strategic Partnership Grants for Projects (SPG‑P) description

Strategic Partnership Grants support research that addresses any of the challenges defined within one of the Target Areas listed. The description of the research challenges within a specific Target Area can be accessed by expanding the pertinent section below.

To print the descriptions of all Target Areas, select Print All Target Areas.

Advanced Manufacturing


The overall objective for proposals in the Advanced Manufacturing Target Area is to lead to innovations and improvements in both the manufacturing process as well the products produced. The overarching research thrust for all proposals must be to expand knowledge of the interactions between the material/part behaviour, machines and the final product performance. Proposals in this area must address these through a combination of science-based modelling and experimentation. This involves the integration of mathematical models of processes, materials, products and machines across manufacturing operations. Proposals in the application areas of transportation (e.g. automotive and aerospace) and food systems are encouraged.

Research Topics

1. Automation (Including Robotics)

The goal of research proposed under this topic is to design innovative machines and their efficient utilization to improve quality and productivity in manufacturing through experimentally proven science-based digital models.

Design: Projects under this Research Challenge should focus on design and digitally model intelligent, modular, reconfigurable and multi-functional machines that are easy to adapt to products in manufacturing. The following areas are specifically targeted: develop and model modular kinematic arrangements of the multi-axis machines, robots and material-handling devices; develop and integrate novel smart sensors, actuators, robots and devices; multi-body dynamics and vibration modelling of machines; computer control modelling of multi-axis, multi-functional machines; digital modelling of physical interaction between machine structure, computer controller and manufacturing processes.

Utilization of machines: Projects under this Research Challenge should focus on developing methods and instruments to improve the productivity, accuracy, operation and safety of manufacturing, with the following target areas: integration of smart devices to manufacturing machines, robots and assembly systems; human-machine/robot interaction in manufacturing; digital modelling of the manufacturing process physics for predictive process planning; on-line calibration and adaptive adjustment of digital models with sensory feedback during manufacturing; sensor-fused monitoring and adaptive control of manufacturing processes; on-line and off-line part and machine metrology; energy-efficient manufacturing; environmentally friendly manufacturing processes; development of methods to improve safety in the manufacturing environment.

2. Lightweight Materials and Technologies

Lightweight product design, assembly and use: Projects should focus on the development of innovative materials, material structures, designs and manufacturing methods, including fabrication technologies, that are needed to create lightweight multi-material products and assemblies of equivalent or superior performance in use and for maximum life-cycle energy efficiency. Projects that address component- level product development or system-level approaches will be considered. Specifically, projects are to address optimization for manufacturing (material and machine) built on a framework of integrated computational materials engineering (ICME), linking structure/process/property relationships to accelerate and enhance future product and process design. In the development of lightweight products and assemblies, care should be given to identify potential integration issues and formulate possible mitigation strategies.

3. Additive Manufacturing

Projects in this area must integrate innovative solutions from more than one of the described Research Challenges.

Process stability, monitoring and control: This Research Challenge focuses on the development of the next generation of additive manufacturing technologies, integrating in-process monitoring, sensing and close-loop control strategies that allow for simultaneous improvement in manufacturing speed, repeatability and product consistency. Included in this challenge are hardware and algorithms adapted to process dynamics encountered during additive manufacturing processing and the response of the deposited material.

Development of tailored materials for additive manufacturing: This Research Challenge focuses on the improvement and development of new additive manufacturing-specific categories of materials with adapted printability, allowing for new additive manufacturing opportunities, improved deposition quality/utilization (including recyclability and re-use) and response to post-processing operations. These will lead to superior process sustainability, part quality and performance.

Design for additive manufacturing: This Research Challenge focuses on the development of integrated computation and design methodologies linking additive manufacturing process characteristics, part functionality, component and feature geometries, topology and internal structure optimization, and adaptive slicing strategies, to fully capture the novel disruptive potential of additive manufacturing.

4. Nanotechnology

Design and synthesis of nanomaterials: Projects should focus on the understanding of structural/functional properties and self-assembly characteristics that enable the synthesis of functional hierarchical 3D systems. Advantages of the material at the nanoscale and the impact of dimensionality on product properties of interest must be demonstrated. Emerging nanomaterials of interest include hybrid materials such as graphene, quantum dots, metal oxides, polymer-nanocomposites and their assemblies, based on Earth-abundant and Earth-friendly materials. A theoretical understanding, based on science-based modelling, of how these materials can be designed and integrated into manufactured products must be provided.

Scalability of synthesis and deposition/manufacturing processes: Projects in this Research Challenge must focus on novel, efficient and sustainable manufacturing techniques for mass production of nanomaterials. Techniques to realize mass production on scales required for their integration into manufacturing processes or products, using either top-down or bottom-up processes, must be demonstrated. Clean manufacturing techniques, such as those using Earth-abundant and Earth-friendly materials, green solvents or solvent-free techniques, are encouraged. Reproducibility of the production process and engineering scale-up is required to produce high-quality nanomaterials, addressing safety aspects in handling and use. Modelling of the process and key parameters are required to demonstrate scalability.

5. Quantum Materials

Scalability and manufacturing of graphene or graphene-like materials: Projects in this area must address the mass production of graphene or graphene-like materials. Graphene, the two-dimensional atomic crystal, possesses superior physical properties that include extreme mechanical strength, exceptionally high electronic and thermal conductivities and impermeability to any gas. The laboratory process of mechanical exfoliation of graphene is simple and cheap for small graphene sheets; however, a major challenge is to mass-produce graphene (both small and large sheets) with the same outstanding performance as those created in laboratories. Manufacturing of several new two-dimensional materials that have many of the properties of graphene is also important for future applications. These include a single layer of silicon (silicene), germanium (germanene) and black phosphorus (phosphorene) or other similarly structured materials.

Integration of graphene or graphene-like materials into devices: Projects should address the possible applications of small and large graphene (or similar materials) sheets and projects in the area of integration into future devices. For example, the small sheets of these materials could be used in composites, functional coatings, batteries and supercapacitors. Large graphene films could be used in touch panels; low-cost photovoltaic devices; next-generation flexible, wearable electronics and optoelectronics; high-frequency transistors; photodetectors; optical modulators; energy generation and storage; sensors; and bioapplications. The films of silicene and germanene could be directly integrated into the current electronics industry, once the hurdles of manufacturing these materials on a large scale are resolved. A single layer of black phosphorus is promising for novel applications in nanoelectronics and nanophotonics.

Environment and Agriculture


There is a strong interdependency between agriculture and the environment. Ecosystem services are needed that support agriculture and aquaculture food-production systems, and that are environmentally sustainable and resilient to the shocks of climate change and natural disasters. Contaminants in water resources, invasive species and diseases have damaging effects on terrestrial- and aquatic-based food supplies.

Methodological frameworks for food-production systems that incorporate holistic modelling and monitoring of biogeochemical interactions are required. Diversity of cropping systems and biodiversity preservation are critical to resiliency of the food-production system. Understanding interactions within agricultural landscapes will allow for the configuration and management of these landscapes to support more adaptive and resilient food systems.

It is increasingly important to assess and manage risks and opportunities for agricultural production related to climate change. Natural disasters due to extreme climate events have led to crop failure, inability to remain competitive in international agricultural trade, and depressed economic conditions in farming communities. Mitigation measures to combat these disastrous effects on food production are required. Recent advances in biotechnology enable the improvement of crop agriculture to cope with a changing climate.

There are continued challenges for the effective management of water resources and aquatic ecosystems both in Canada and worldwide. These challenges include protecting source water; ensuring the quality, quantity and sustainability of water supply; using water efficiently in anthropogenic activities; and optimizing water treatment and distribution. All of these challenges are complicated both by high energy costs and climate change.

Research Topics

1. Water: Health, Energy, Security

Strengthening water resource sustainability in agriculture: Integrated, system-based modelling and monitoring platforms can inform strategies to protect and sustain water resources in the face of climate change, rising water demands and intensification of food production. A key challenge, for which research is required, is to incorporate realistic representations of the biogeochemical activity of transitional environments (e.g., capillary fringe, riparian buffers, hyporheic zones, seepage and recharge areas, natural and engineered reservoirs) when predicting the environmental fate and transport of carbon, nutrients and contaminants (including pesticides, pharmaceuticals and pathogens) from agriculture. Research can include the modelling, field validation and monitoring of reactive transport processes in these transitional environments, as well as the simulation of their impacts on water quality across multiple spatial and temporal scales.

Aquatic ecosystems: A key challenge, for which research is required, is to determine how climate change, land-use change and other anthropogenic activities affect aquatic ecosystems services; how various aquatic ecosystems services depend on the health of those ecosystems; and the cumulative effects of various stressors, and of interactions among these stressors, on the ability of aquatic ecosystems to provide services.

Ensuring secure community water systems: Technologies are required to enable the management of elements (such as energy, conservation, waste reduction and efficient use of capacity) associated with treatment, distribution, collection and discharge of water and wastewater. New clean technologies, or modification of existing technologies, need to be developed to treat legacy and/or new and trace contaminants; and for water/wastewater treatment, water desalination/reuse/replenishment, managing water loss and managing storm water and infiltration. A key challenge for northern, remote or rural communities is the development of appropriate clean technologies for protection of aquatic ecosystems and a focus water distribution and water management.

2. Biotechnology

Biotechnology to develop climate-change-resilient plants: Climate-change-induced environmental conditions necessitate the development of plants that can thrive under abiotic stresses and under biotic stresses not previously encountered in the regional growing conditions. To keep Canadian agriculture competitive, crop improvement using biotechnology, including genomic strategies, is needed to develop “climate-change-resilient” plants. Specific targets include resistance to biotic and abiotic stresses, plant architecture for enhanced photosynthetic productivity, as well as better water and nutrient utilization through in planta modification and/or through optimizing the soil microbiome and its interaction with plant roots, all of which can lead to improved seed quality and/or stabilized or increased yield under changing climatic conditions.

3. Aquaculture

Reducing incidence of diseases in aquaculture: Aquatic animal diseases can have a significant negative economic impact, as well as cause potential ecological damage, to aquatic resources. Improved on-farm fish and shellfish health management practices can minimize negative consequences to both cultured and wild fish populations. Research addressing and understanding emerging diseases, mechanisms of disease transmission and modelling, disease physiological response and resistance, and impacts of changing environmental conditions on disease occurrence will all contribute to improving the environmental sustainability of fish farming and the resiliency of aquaculture production. Integrative approaches addressing the interdependency of aquaculture and the environment are an essential consideration in mitigating risk factors related to disease occurrence, spread and connectivity among fish farms as well as interactions with wild aquatic resources.

4. Food and Food Systems

Sustainable agricultural landscapes: Agricultural practices need to be improved to enhance food production and other ecosystem services. A key area in which research is required is the development of sustainable agricultural intensification methods and, in particular, improved understanding of the influence of landscape configuration on ecosystem services (e.g., crop production, carbon sequestration, soil quality, water availability and quality, biodiversity, pollination). Such research should focus on the landscape scale, but could also integrate across scales, and can include field experiments and/or modelling.

5. Climate Change Research and Technology

Adapting agricultural production systems to climate change: The changing climate presents risks and opportunities for Canadian agriculture. Research should focus on improved understanding of the impacts of climate change, including extreme events, multiple stressors and their interactions. Studies could examine effects on soil and water resources, crop and livestock productivity, crop pests, diseases and weeds. Researchers are encouraged to identify and assess existing or innovative adaptation options and tools for managing the risks and capturing the opportunities related to changing climate conditions. Exploration of synergies and trade-offs between climate change adaptation and mitigation that these solutions offer would be an asset.

6. Disaster Mitigation

Disaster mitigation for climate extremes: Extreme climate events can have profound consequences for Canadian agricultural production. An integrated approach to forecasting and predicting climate extremes is required, together with biophysical modelling to quantify their impacts on Canadian agriculture. In addition, research should include disaster mitigation strategies such as drought protection, flood-control measures and methods to cope with extreme temperatures and precipitation.

Information and Communications Technologies


The overall objective for proposals in the Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) Target Area is to empower and protect individuals, organizations and society by leveraging ICT at scale. Indeed, many research challenges in the ICT area are focused on enabling humans to access the benefits latent in systems and data at scale while ensuring privacy and data security. Individuals can be empowered by utilizing data to improve their health, reduce environmental impact, increase personal productivity and enhance social interactions. Private and public organizations can use data analytics to enhance context awareness, leading to better decision-making. Innovative ICT helps societies to create successful economies while minimizing environmental impacts. Information is at the heart of these opportunities; however, information needs to be protected as well as responsibly and securely shared to gain the anticipated societal benefits.

Systems and data at scale require dealing with increasing data volume and velocity, data validity and veracity, and network and system diversity and complexity. Six research topics in ICT have been identified in support of this common thrust. Transformative research on communication networks and services is required to satisfy future bandwidth, energy and service needs. The Internet of Things (IoT) will allow unprecedented and fine-grained awareness of the surroundings, but will require overcoming communications and data-fusion challenges. Advanced data management and analysis techniques will allow humans and organizations to make better decisions on crucial social and/or economic issues. Cybersecurity is required to protect the confidentiality, privacy, integrity and availability of data and the systems over which it travels. Rethinking human interactions with digital media will improve the usability and usefulness of access to overwhelming amounts of information. Quantum computing is the next frontier of ICT, enabling improvements in sensor sensitivity and computational power by many orders of magnitude.

A strategic investment in ICT will allow Canadian researchers to remain at the forefront of innovation, leading to economic opportunities for Canadian companies as well as social benefits for Canadians. Research in this target area must specifically address one of the ICT research challenges below. For a proposal to be considered for funding, the proposed application must be of demonstrable interest to the supporting organization(s).

Research Topics

1. Communications Networks and Services

Transformative research on software-defined networks: Future communication networks need to be scalable, flexible, agile, secure, and cost-effective to offer an array of end-to-end communication services and applications that meet the requirements of big data, cloud computing, mobility and IoT.

Software-defined networks will scale by control and adaptive management and will handle changing demand and resources to achieve energy and resource efficiency and sustainability. Orchestration of services built on cloud computing and virtualized resources will support a dynamic applications environment. Architectures and methods will scale by enabling end-to-end connectivity spanning heterogeneous networks, including wired and wireless segments. They will deliver Quality of Experience, real-time and bandwidth-intensive applications, as well as tolerate transient disconnection. Wireless networks will scale by exploiting dynamic spectrum to provide higher bandwidth, with reliability and low power, leveraging future radiofrequency and millimetre wave. Heterogeneous radio networks will interoperate to support services in IoT and 5G networks and to replace existing wired access, as well as new satellite and airborne networks. Wireline networks will be transformed by software-defined network elements (switches, routers, appliances) and virtualized network functions that will leverage scalable photonic and electronic technologies.

2. Internet of Things/Machine-to-Machine Systems

Scaling Internet of Things infrastructure: The next-generation IoT has the potential to change the way people and systems live in a world of massive and disparate data sources, and to provide opportunities for connectivity at different scales. It needs to include advanced communications with a wide range of low-power, low-cost, software-enabled devices. It should accommodate stationary, autonomous and wearable elements, in robust self-reconfiguring arrangements.

Integration, analysis and consumption of sensor data: Next-generation IoT systems need to operate in real or near-real time in a context of extreme data diversity and volumes. Information architectures and standards are needed to enable the reliable fusion of sensor data of disparate types from the full spectrum of data sources. The resulting systems must support the efficient extraction and rendering of relevant information to allow timely decisions and actions by users and systems, while enforcing appropriate requirements for data authentication and verification.

3. Advanced Data Management and Analytics

Management, analytics and information extraction of data at scale: The volume, velocity, variety and veracity of data demand new approaches to the management of that data. New analytical methods, including the ability to predict, optimize and anonymize at scale—in real or near-real time—are required to derive useful information from the data. Information needs to be extracted from a spectrum of data sources, such as numeric, textual, image, audio and video data, as well as social interactions and personal data.

Analytics for decision-making: Data at scale need to be analyzed to enable decision-making by people, applications, machines and systems. This includes interactive visualizations, query systems and other analytics that allow decision participants (human or software) to dialogue with the data and the analytics to arrive at a decision that is accurate and effective.

4. Cybersecurity

Secure authentication and authorization at scale: New and improved methods to authenticate the identities of people, sensors, processes and systems, and to authorize access to services and information, will mitigate a fundamental weakness exploited by many cyber attacks. Useable, effective and scalable security interfaces and protocols are required. With increasing amounts of data, progress in this area will aid data security and privacy.

Quantitative approaches to cybersecurity: Quantitative approaches to cybersecurity will facilitate the application of data analytics and other metric-based approaches to protecting information and systems. The development of ontologies, behavioural and mathematical models, analytics, metrics, patterns, use cases and datasets will further the understanding, detection and prevention of both existing and new cyber threats—such as those being driven through the emergence of personal informatics, the IoT and quantum computing.

Advanced threat detection and defence systems: Advanced threats that are difficult to detect and defend against include moving and polymorphic targets that change over time, “low and slow” attacks and targeted attacks, which avoid detection by simple alert-based systems, in an ever-increasingly complex network of participants and targets. Advanced threat detection and defence systems will require coordination and correlation across different points in time and data sources, and will leverage analytics and other approaches such as polymorphic defence.

5. Human Interaction with Digital Media

Designing effortless interactions: Interactions must become invisible and engaging, as well as transparently indicate data quality. Invisibility: Sensors and intelligence that make the interface disappear can address challenges of wearability, minimization of mental load and actionable feedback. Engagement: Gamification, for example, can sustain motivation for challenges such as health, sustainable practices and people-centric security. Transparency of data quality: In the face of noisy data, information display should convey data uncertainty at a cognitively acceptable level. Application examples include novel interaction techniques; interactions for special groups, places and contexts; collection and collation of personal data for personal use; living in information spaces; and augmented reality and virtual environments.

Effective tools for creating and populating physical and virtual objects and spaces: For designers ranging from professionals to hobbyists, software tools are needed to support maker and do-it-yourself cultures, to facilitate seamless transition between physical and virtual worlds and objects, and to leverage interactive modelling and animation. Design tools must support practices including sharing and collaboration, iterative prototyping, and stages of creative inception, refinement and deployment. Individuals and groups require tools for customization of interfaces to specific use cases, demographics, context and individual preferences, with as little training as possible. Individuals need tools to deploy their own approaches to information management. Designers of varying expertise need tools to create virtual and augmented environments, and to build social information spaces.

6. Quantum Computing

Exploitation of quantum devices: The challenge involves exploiting quantum engineering for improved performance and efficiency of useful devices. In particular, it includes development of quantum devices and applications that use multiple qubits, entanglement and quantum algorithms for sensors, actuators and communication systems that outperform their classical counterparts. Examples include deploying and improving navigation tools; quantum sensors for chemistry, magnetic fields, electron transport and photon detection; quantum actuators for interconversion of information (spin/charge/photon/phonon); and quantum communication for physics-based information security. The challenge is to develop devices and applications that can be deployed with near-term impact to areas such as medicine, environmental monitoring, materials and chemical characterization, security, improved nanofabrication and metrology.

Special-purpose quantum processors: A quantum computer is the ultimate quantum device and has broad applications, from breaking classical security protocols to machine learning. The challenge is to realize special-purpose quantum computers and in particular to deliver a well-working processor of 100 qubits. Examples include one optimized for running quantum simulations of materials and another for testing the robustness of quantum error correcting methods. These two building blocks are essential to the continued development of yet more complex and capable quantum processors. In addition to new hardware devices, the challenge includes new algorithms for quantum computing, particularly for small, noisy processors.

Natural Resources and Energy


Canada is fortunate to have vast natural resources. These include renewable resources from forestry, fisheries and agriculture; world-class mineral deposits; and immense oil and gas reserves, including rapidly expanding unconventional resources from low-permeability formations. In the face of the rapidly changing climate and an increasingly competitive global economy, there are critical challenges for responsible development and stewardship of these resources. Nowhere are these needs more acute than in Canada’s Arctic, where they are exacerbated by remoteness, highly sensitive ecosystems and extraordinary engineering demands due to harsh operational conditions. Foundational research at universities, in partnership with industry and government, will play a critical role in addressing natural resource and energy challenges throughout Canada.

New research and technologies are needed to unlock Canada’s enormous economic potential for bioenergy and bioproducts, but distinct technological challenges arise from vast distances and slow biomass regeneration. There are also exceptional opportunities to harness research synergies that cross-cut the mining and energy sectors. In the case of low-permeability hydrocarbon reservoirs, technologies such as hydraulic fracturing have dramatically altered the energy landscape, yet urgent scientific, environmental, economic and societal issues remain. In the case of mining, reclamation and effective management of waste and water are of paramount importance for sustainable development. By incorporating traditional knowledge and developing effective environmental solutions for resource development, Canada is poised to play an international leadership role, especially among Arctic nations.

There is a need for transformative research focused on responsible development of key natural resources and energy technologies. Development responsibilities include a balanced approach that considers social license, environmental issues such as climate change, cumulative effects and water use, and economic factors such as resource assessment/management and critical elements of the innovation chain. Strategic challenges for research in Canada, outlined below, are linked by this common thrust.

Research Topics

1. Bioenergy and Bioproducts

Innovative bioproducts to compete in the global economy: Canada possesses significant bioresources from forests, agriculture residues and organic waste streams. There is an urgent need for less expensive and better performing bioproducts that can compete economically while reducing environmental impact. The research challenge is to significantly reduce cost, improve function, and enhance properties and performance by incorporating fibre and chemicals into products or substituting existing materials; producing and separating glucose and xylose from cellulosic materials; producing and separating phenolics and carbons from lignin; and incorporating biomass derived materials into hydrophobic matrices. Addressing these challenges will accelerate the development of these sectors essential to Canada’s economy by leveraging the country’s unique resources to create a competitive advantage.

Reliable bioenergy solutions for the Canadian context: Canada’s vastness and cold climate present both challenges and opportunities to develop biofuels that are Canadian-sourced, competitively priced and have minimal environmental impacts. Not only are biofuels needed for current combustion engines, but specialized biofuels are also required for aviation. For remote communities, sustainable processes must be developed to produce bioenergy from locally sourced biomass. The research challenge is to develop new processes and products for these applications that are environmentally benign, including minimization of life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs).

2. Sustainable Methods of Accessing Mineral and Unconventional Energy Resources

Reducing environmental impacts of extraction: The extraction of minerals and unconventional (low-permeability) oil and gas resources has environmental impacts. Improved environmental performance focused on water management, GHGs and impact on lands will minimize cumulative effects, enhance social acceptability and realize economic benefits. Research challenges related to water management include treatment technologies, methods to minimize water use, water contamination, and understanding regionally integrated water sourcing and disposal systems. Research, technologies and detection methods aimed at reducing GHGs include those involving fugitive emissions, well casing vent flows, and pipeline and vehicle emissions. Research needed to reduce the impact on lands includes geohazard analysis such as induced seismicity and storage area failure, mine waste management and reclamation, with emphasis on biodiversity and climate adaptation.

Improving resource characterization and extraction efficiency: Methods for resource extraction need to be optimized to increase efficiency, reduce environmental footprint and maximize recovery. Research is needed to characterize mineral and unconventional oil and gas resources, focusing on mapping, modeling and imaging; and to develop technologies to quantify rock properties, including hydraulic fracturing behaviour. Other areas of research are quantifying rock–fluid (liquid and gas) interactions related to hydraulic fracturing, understanding fluid dynamics during and after extraction, improving proppant technology and materials, and removing undesired minerals from mineral products. Integrative approaches to resource extraction will be critical to minimize development costs and environmental impacts.

3. Arctic: Responsible Development and Monitoring

Sustainable technologies for Arctic resource development: The Canadian Arctic has substantial resources, but they are situated in highly sensitive environments. As the region becomes more easily accessible due to climate change, increased resource development is anticipated. Research is needed to develop and adapt sustainable technologies for transport systems, as well as other infrastructure. Additional work is required on the interaction between infrastructure and the accelerated degradation of permafrost due to climate change. Further, research is needed to create cost-effective energy solutions for Arctic development, such as renewable sources or use of gas hydrates.

Understanding environmental impacts of development in the Arctic: With increasing development in the Arctic, an improved understanding of associated environmental challenges and solutions is required. Research is particularly needed to address and understand environmental sensitivities at the landscape and site level, in order to minimize impacts on ecosystems from shipping, mining, and oil and gas activities. Moreover, research on cumulative effects of resource development is required to ensure that ecosystem impacts remain below environmental thresholds. Methods to integrate traditional knowledge are of particular importance, as well as approaches that increase the understanding of shifting ecological baselines due to climate change.

4. Understanding Sources of Supply and Improving Environmental Performance for Key Natural Resources

Forest sector: Research is required for improving the accuracy and precision of forest inventories while reducing costs and increasing speed of data acquisition; correlating ecological knowledge with remote-sensing technology to predict and quantify the fibre characteristics of trees at the forest-stand level; the development of forest-renewal methods that maintain and support natural biodiversity while maximizing potential forest-site productivity; and genome mapping and breeding strategies in natural forest stands, and clonal management in fast growing plantations, for understanding physical and chemical fibre characteristics and forest stand renewal. In addition, research is required to determine the impacts of climate change on forest diversity; new approaches to measuring environmental risk and uncertainty, given the growing complexity of forest management; and new tools and technologies for measuring the environmental costs and benefits of different land-use strategies in terms of their impact on forest diversity.

Fisheries sector: Research is required to identify strains, varieties and populations that may be especially well suited to withstand current and future environmental stressors and whose genetic diversity could be used to develop and enhance aquaculture and fisheries and to determine the key environmental factors for maintaining and improving fisheries and restoring high-value fisheries and effective methodologies and technologies to facilitate remote mapping of aquatic areas, aquatic habitat types, habitats supporting fisheries and species diversity. Optimization of this important resource can be aided by research into the exploitation of potential new fisheries to maximize productivity and ensure sustainability of the resource; and the development of new stock enhancement and management tools and improvement of existing ones so as to apply genomics and best practices to enhance biodiversity protection and restocking strategies. The impact of climate change and pests could be addressed by research into environmental impact mitigation strategies, and methods for dealing with key risks to fisheries and aquaculture.

Minerals sector: Research is required to help conduct exploration for strategic mineral commodities to secure domestic sources of key materials that are required for the next generation of energy-efficient products; to identify opportunities to create new commodity streams using poorly understood or under-represented mineral systematics; to understand tectonic context and regional tectonic setting of mineral deposits as a driver for mineral exploration; to find exploration methods for remote, undercover and deep mineral deposits; and to convert geoscience data into knowledge for mineral exploration. Natural resource exploration, extraction, processing and management activities must be reconciled with the environmental changes and impacts that they can entail. Therefore research is needed on analytical tools for identifying types of mineral deposits whose extraction may result in negative environmental impacts; and on the assessment and reduction of the environmental impacts of mineral exploration, extraction and processing operations and of closing decommissioned mines and mining facilities.

People Discovery Innovation