IDEA Lab: launch grants


As a leader in open and online education, Athabasca University is transforming the future of digital-first university research through IDEA Lab. IDEA Lab—an award-winning strategic and signature digital research asset at Athabasca University—is a cloud-based virtual research domain.

Through AU’s secure research cloud, IDEA Lab researchers have access to a full range of cloud-based tools that can be used for virtual computing power, storage, servers, databases, analytics, and more. This also includes RONIN, a tool designed specifically for researchers to allow researchers to use cloud-based tools more easily. By leveraging these assets, IDEA Lab helps researchers go further faster through collaborative development, delivery, and dissemination of research.

IDEA Lab supports research from all disciplines and is positioned to support researchers regardless of digital literacy or familiarity with cloud computing.

Success stories and use cases

Examples of some Amazon Web Services (AWS) products researchers have been using through IDEA Lab to date include:

While AU has a strategic partnership with AWS (Amazon Web Services), which can be easily leveraged through IDEA Lab research projects, IDEA Lab researchers aren’t required to use AWS products for their research projects. Beyond AWS, IDEA Lab researchers also have Athabasca University's REDCap instance to meet their survey and database needs and have used 3D/VR tools.

These examples only highlight new ground covered to date—exciting other ways to trailblaze in research through IDEA Lab include, to name a few possibilities:

  • Managed database services (e.g. Relational, MySQL, PostgreSQL, NoSQL, etc.) using AWS Aurora, AWS DynamoDB, or AWS RDS.
  • Machine learning-powered image and video analysis through AWS Rekognition
  • Quantum computing through AWS Braket
  • High-performance computing through AWS HPC

Beyond Athabasca University, other sample case studies of starting points, emerging trends, and successful uses demonstrate additional research potential across disciplines and experience levels.

Support for IDEA Lab researchers

Researchers accepted into IDEA Lab are provided with the following forms of support:

  • Coverage of eligible direct costs to use digital tools for a specific research project
  • IDEA Lab research assistants (RA) to help you use digital tools*
  • Joint monthly workshops with other IDEA Lab researchers
  • Research data management and data management planning support
  • Knowledge mobilization support
  • Grant development support
  • Consultation with AU Information Technology, as well as partners at AWS and RONIN
  • Support for activities or initiatives involving research partnership opportunities

IDEA Lab research assistants are trained on cloud technologies and tools in a sector-leading approach to work-integrated learning. This forward-thinking training encompasses various AWS products; the use of RONIN; project management for research; equity, diversity, and inclusion in research; research data management; knowledge mobilization, and cybersecurity. The program culminates with research assistants becoming Certified AWS Cloud Practitioners.


Application process, deadline, and eligibility

Interested AU researchers can apply to join IDEA Lab through 1 of 3 streams: Elevate, Accelerate, or Explore.

This intake into IDEA Lab is for tenure-track Athabasca University faculty researchers who will leverage their intended IDEA Lab research project successes in:

  • at least 1 external grant application within the next 12 months; or
  • an identified partnership opportunity within the next 12 months (including, but not limited to, through a partnered research funding application, e.g., SSHRC Partnership Engage, NSERC Alliance grants, etc.).

How to apply

Application forms are available in the AU Research Portal.

Submit an application

Deadline: TBA

If unsure as to which stream to apply for, or if you have any other questions about IDEA Lab, contact Paul Daniels, Manager, Digital Research Initiatives.

How to apply

Application forms are available in the Research Portal.

Updated March 14, 2023 by Digital & Web Operations (