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By John Shmuel

Guangjun Liu is pushing the boundaries of innovation. As a Ryerson researcher, Liu deals with advanced engineering concepts like control systems and robotics.

But Liu’s well funded research is an exception; most professors at the school are desperate for more cash to fund their projects.

Ryerson’s research funding lags behind other comparable universities, and while funding has increased 32% over the last two years, funding for new professors and researchers remains a concern.

“If you look at some of the comparable figures for research funding at other universities, we definitely have work to do,” said Robert Dirstein, Director of the Office of Research Services at Ryerson.

A recent consultation paper on Ryerson’s Academic Plan for 2008-2013 noted that research and creativity output was lacking in relation to comparable universities.

It cited Scholarly, Research and Creative output as an area where Ryerson needed to grow. Liu, who is a professor in Aerospace engineering and one of Ryerson’s Canada Research Chairs, said increasing funding for professors just starting in their field was a particular concern.

“Not every professor is as lucky as I am,” said Liu, who receives significant funding from several federal granting agencies for his research on control systems and robotics.

However, the picture is not entirely bleak. In 2007, the university allocated $5 million specifically to fund research projects and update research labs.

The money was a one-time-only gesture of good will to upgrade labs and fund some projects. That same year saw Ryerson’s annual external research funding grow from $12.4 million in 2006 to $16.2 million.

The increase coincides with the appointment of Tas Venetsanopoulos as Ryerson’s first VP of Research and Innovation. Venetsanopoulos said the school’s goal is to double the current amount of external funding for research in five years to $30 million.

He points out that not all departments benefit from external research equally, a problem the university is well aware of. “There are other areas, which are very important, but might not be funded at the same rate, for example, literature or theatre.”

Ryerson lags far behind the GTA’s other two universities, York and U of T in terms of research funding. For 2006, the latest figures available, U of T’s annual research budget from external sources was $763.5 million, while York’s was $54.9 million.

According to Venetsanopoulos, research funding is a critically important issue for the board of governors at Ryerson.

“This is a high priority for Ryerson, and we’re very happy to see research is expanding rapidly,” he said.

Venetsanopoulos admits there is still much room for improvement however.

“Of course, we still have a long way to go,” he said. “At this time, we’re trying to grow everywhere.”

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