French research institutions launch a satellite office at uOttawa

Posted on Tuesday, January 29, 2019

 

Jan Matas, arms crossed, is leaning on a wall.

Jan Matas, representative of the joint CNRS-Université de Lyon satellite office in Canada. Photo: Valérie Charbonneau

 

By Monique Roy-Sole

The Université de Lyon and France’s national centre for scientific research (the Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS)) have established a joint satellite office at the University of Ottawa. This initiative, which is the only one of its kind in Canada, stems from an effort to internationalize research between the two countries and aims to reinforce existing cooperation and initiate new joint projects at the national level.

The launch of the satellite office on January 29 featured the signing of an agreement to create a joint international laboratory, known as Laboratoire international associé (LIA), in neuromuscular research. This is the second LIA at uOttawa; the first, signed in 2014, formalized joint efforts in green chemistry.

The signing ceremony was followed by an Alex Trebek Forum for Dialogue, in which discussions on health and artificial intelligence brought together experts from French universities, the Montfort Hospital and uOttawa.

“For several years, the University of Ottawa has cultivated valuable research collaborations with the CNRS and the Université de Lyon,” said uOttawa President and Vice-Chancellor Jacques Frémont. “We are proud that these two prestigious institutions have chosen to establish their joint satellite office on our campus, since this will serve to strengthen our partnerships and significantly assist research internationalization efforts.”

Jan Matas is the representative of the joint CNRS-Université de Lyon satellite office in Canada and a geophysics researcher at the CNRS. He described the new joint venture:

Why did the CNRS and the Université de Lyon decide to establish a joint satellite office in Canada?

The satellite office is based on the depth of our current collaborations with researchers in Canada and, obviously, in Quebec. Both the CNRS, as a national research institute, and the Université de Lyon, as a research university that seeks to remain globally attractive, wish to highlight the internationalization of research. Both these institutions seek to further support, through clear and decisive measures, such internationalization with strategic partners, of which Canada is one.  

Why choose the University of Ottawa?

The University of Ottawa has a long tradition of collaboration with French institutions. As a bilingual university, uOttawa is a standard-bearer for the Francophonie in Ontario and in Canada. Moreover, the CNRS and the Université de Lyon have worked closely with the University of Ottawa for over a decade. Since 2008, the first institutional joint ventures, such as the LIA in green chemistry, have demonstrated the enormous scientific potential of such cooperation.

 Tom Baker, foreground, and a student, in the background, wear safety glasses in a laboratory.

Tom Baker, a professor of chemistry at the University of Ottawa, was instrumental in establishing, in 2014, the first joint international laboratory, known as Laboratoire international associé (LIA), with French research institutions. This is the type of research collaboration the joint CNRS-Université de Lyon satellite office seeks to cultivate across Canada. Photo: Peter Thornton

What are the main goals of the joint satellite office?

The satellite office aims to identify new opportunities for research collaboration, both in Ontario and elsewhere in Canada, and to promote a better understanding of how research is organized, funded and open to internationalization. The governments of Canada and France share a willingness to internationalize their research, and this joint satellite office aims to facilitate the implementation of measures to this effect. It seeks to build a constructive dialogue between the various research stakeholders and works in concert with the French embassy.  

The creation of this satellite office could help boost transatlantic relations between Europe and Canada. The satellite office will also assist in efforts to promote the value of scientific research within Canadian and French industry.  

Is the satellite office aiming for research collaborations in specific fields?

The Université de Lyon is focussing on research in the health sciences and the links between health and the social sciences and humanities. It is also looking to cooperate on projects in the sciences and engineering, especially in research on sustainable development and increased urbanization. As for the CNRS, it seeks to support cutting-edge projects that deal with global societal and technological challenges.

Tell us a bit about your career.

I was born in the Czech Republic and studied up to the master’s level at Charles University in Prague. After Prague’s Velvet Revolution, I decided to make the most of new opportunities to explore the world and other languages, which led me to complete a doctorate in geophysics at the Université de Lyon.

I have been a CNRS researcher for 18 years. In 2007, I was chosen to lead the international office at the École normale supérieure de Lyon. After five years, I went on to head up the international office at the Université de Lyon. I then switched gears to come to Ottawa.

Here’s a funny coincidence: I was born near the banks of the Otava River, and a few decades later, I find myself living near the banks of the Ottawa River!

 

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