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Athabasca University’s virtual research lab wins prestigious award

IDEA Lab, in cooperation with AWS, recognized for innovation in digital transformation by the Canadian Association of University Business Officers

Edmonton, Alberta (May 11, 2023)—IDEA Lab, Athabasca University’s (AU) ground-breaking virtual space that uses cloud computing to power research, has won a national award for digital transformation.

IDEA Lab won a National Prize at the Canadian Association of University Business Officers (CAUBO) 2023 Quality and Productivity Awards. The prize recognizes IDEA Lab as a “strong enabler of excellence in digital transformation.

“Athabasca University is open and digital in everything we do—and that includes our transformative approach to research and tackling important global challenges, said Dr. Andrew Perrin, associate vice-president of research at AU. “Technology is the catalyst that allows IDEA Lab to harness the power of people, processes, and cloud infrastructure so that our researchers can work in new and innovative ways.

AU’s Research Office and Information Technology department joined forces with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to launch IDEA Lab as an innovative approach to digital-first research in Canadian higher education. As a completely virtual space, the lab allows researchers to leverage the power of cloud computing, including innovative artificial intelligence and machine learning tools, to advance their research further and faster.

“Whether it’s analyzing petabytes of data for the next groundbreaking scientific discovery or combing historical texts to better understand the world around us, researchers need access to tools that enable innovation to advance their work, said Coral Kennett, AWS Canada Education Lead. “Leveraging AWS’s infrastructure and over 200 services ensures IDEA Lab researchers have advanced, scalable and secure tools to accelerate innovation.

The National Prize was presented to the Research Office team of Dr. Andrew Perrin, MacKinley Darlington (knowledge mobilization specialist), Dr. Paul Daniels (manager, digital research initiatives), Stacey Leavitt (research grants development coordinator), Dr. Matthew Prineas (provost and vice-president academic) and Jennifer Schaeffer (vice-president of information technology and chief information officer).

The 2023 Quality and Productivity Awards were awarded on May 10 at CAUBO’s annual conference in Toronto. CAUBO members include chief administrative and financial officers from more than 100 universities and affiliated colleges in Canada.

Awards signal successful cooperation

The Quality and Productivity National Prize is the latest in a series of successes for IDEA Lab and AU’s cooperation with AWS since the virtual lab launched in fall 2021.

Three members of the university’s Research Office—Daniels, Darlington, and Leavitt—also won a 2023 Innovation Award from the Canadian Association of Research Administrators. The award recognizes their “leadership, creativity, and impact” through their work on IDEA Lab.

The IDEA Lab team, including IT, also won the Regional Innovation Award at the 2022 ASTech Awards. The awards recognize the best in science, technology, and innovation in Alberta.

AU has worked with AWS since 2018, when it became the first Canadian post-secondary to join forces with the global leader in cloud computing solutions. The initial cooperation leveraged cloud computing to modernize the university’s IT infrastructure as part of AU’s Digital Transformation Strategy.

Learn more about IDEA Lab

About Athabasca University (AU)

Athabasca University (AU) is one of the world’s foremost and fastest-growing online and open education institutions, serving over 40,000 students across 87 countries. AU is the second-largest university in Alberta. AU offers online Bachelors, Masters, and PhD programs alongside online courses for both personal learning and professional development. It is uniquely founded on the principles of flexibility and openness, giving students control over their studies so they can learn whenever and wherever it is right for them. For more information, please visit:

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Bryan Alary Manager,
Content and Media Relations
Athabasca University

Updated June 20, 2024 by Digital & Web Operations (