Forward with Purpose: Launching a Strategic Plan for Research and Innovation 2023-2028

Five-year plan aims to bring the university’s globally recognized strengths to bear on grand challenges affecting society, the economy and the environment.


This week, the University of Alberta officially launched Forward with Purpose, our first pan-institutional strategic plan for research and innovation. This plan is the next step in a journey that will enhance our university’s position as a leader in knowledge generation and translation, inspiring solutions to grand challenges of local, provincial, national and global importance through creativity, research, and innovation.

Forward with Purpose identifies four goals–each with objectives, actions and key indicators–and six areas of research, including three in which we have broad, long-term and deep institutional strengths and three areas of leadership that are primed for further growth. Together, these areas of global excellence and growth, alongside our strategic goals for research and innovation, will help further position the U of A as a global leader that is addressing the grand challenges of our time.

Strategic research and innovation goals

Goal 1: Focus on people and nurturing talented researchers.

This plan puts people at the centre of our efforts, the brilliant and dedicated individuals working to better understand our past and present and looking to the future with new ways of thinking and doing. We will go beyond supporting, retaining and attracting exceptional researchers and innovators; we will also develop the leaders of tomorrow by integrating research and innovation into our teaching and training. Together, we will nurture an ecosystem that is more equitable and better positioned to explore important issues by bringing together a diversity of perspectives.

Goal 2: Support researchers with tools and infrastructure.

We will support people with world-class tools and infrastructure. We know that the brightest minds can only be successful when they have the resources needed to think big and take bold steps. We will build on our already strong foundations of support to ensure that researchers and innovators across all disciplines and faculties benefit from high-quality spaces and tools, including creative and artistic workspaces, data systems, lab equipment, computing power and other essential needs.

Goal 3: Strengthen our research culture and broaden our impacts.

As we invest in our people and the tools they need for success, we will also work diligently to strengthen our research culture and broaden the impact of our collective achievements. We will cultivate an environment that embraces a multitude of ways of thinking, knowing, doing and relating. We will stand behind our researchers and innovators, celebrating their successes, supporting them by removing barriers and helping them to connect with local, provincial, national and global networks of academia, government, industry and community partners.

Goal 4: Enhance the University of Alberta’s global research and innovation leadership.

The University of Alberta is poised for global leadership in research and innovation, and this plan will see us claim our place among the world’s top research universities. This will require us to be clear about our objectives and bold in our choices to address the grand challenges facing our world. We will do so by collaboratively building opportunities across our institution to leverage the work of individual researchers and multidisciplinary teams alike.

Addressing grand challenges for maximum impact

We will continue to foster fundamental research, support emerging and established researchers, and enhance our relationships locally, nationally and globally with Indigenous communities, and industry, government, academic and community partners – all with the aim of solving the world’s toughest challenges and most pressing issues.

We will do so by focusing on research areas in which we have global excellence – Energy and Environment; Artificial Intelligence; and Health and Well-being – as well as areas of leadership primed for further growth – Indigenous Research; Agriculture and Food; and Social Transformations.

These areas are multidisciplinary and interconnected. Our approach is synergistic and collaborative, designed to bring together the depth and breadth of our researchers, alongside partners and collaborators, to address the grand challenges of our time.

Areas of global excellence

  • Energy and Environment – Energy systems, resilience and climate change mitigation
  • Artificial Intelligence – Artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science
  • Health and Well-Being – Health, disease prevention and life-course approaches to care and well-being

Areas of growth

  • Indigenous Research – Indigenous research, community engagement and relationships
  • Agriculture and Food – Sustainable agriculture, resilient food security and value-added diversification
  • Social Transformations – Advancing social betterment in the 21st century

Collective effort of co-creation

I would like to take a moment to recognize the collective efforts of co-creation over the past two years that have led to this plan. My sincere thanks and gratitude to the members of our Working Group for their commitment of time, wisdom and vision and to the members of the university community and to our external partners who provided their insights and candid feedback on the draft plan. Forward with Purpose is stronger because of your involvement.

There is no denying the magnitude of work ahead, nor the variety of perspectives on how to achieve our goals. This plan – both ambitious and focused – challenges us to recognize our strength and potential as an institution as well as the capacity of our people.

We are here to work with all of you to make what you see on these pages a reality. Our door is open. Our eyes are on the future. We are ready to move Forward with Purpose.

Aminah Robinson Fayek
Vice-President (Research and Innovation)