How a research foundation turned WeaveSphere into an award-winning technology conference

Dr. Vio Onut (Photo courtesy of WeaveSphere)

It was a moment he will never forget.

Dr. Vio Onut, senior research and development strategist at IBM Canada Advanced Studies (CAS), listened to a team of product architects share the details of a challenge that had paralyzed the room. Also present were 20 university professors who listened to their presentation to see if they could come up with a solution.

Then the “wow” moment happened.

“Hey, listen,” Onut recalls hearing one of the teachers say. “It’s not a new problem. In fact, it was solved in the 1970s, and that’s what you need to do.

The professor then described the solution, as well as adding new ideas based on more recent research.

“Without that kind of interaction, we might have been stuck on something that had already been resolved,” Onut says. “Teachers know what’s going on all the time, so they bring their expertise. On the other hand, industry professionals can determine what is practical to do and implement. »

This interaction was a once-in-a-lifetime moment, but Onut says it became a common occurrence at the WeaveSphere technology conference where researchers, developers, tech leaders, founders and investors “weave” ideas and research in reality.

Industry and academia are “weaving” the future of technology

When you are passionate about multidisciplinary collaboration, it is natural that you are a person who wears many hats. In addition to overseeing R&D for CAS – where there are currently 63 research and development projects underway – Onut is also an adjunct professor at the University of Ottawa and co-director of the uOttawa – IBM Cyber ​​Range which is in development at the University of Ottawa. university.

He is also chairman of the WeaveSphere conference, which he attended for 12 years before becoming an organizer five years ago.

WeaveSphere — a collaboration between IBM’s Academic and Research Technology Conference (CASCON) and Evoke’s industry-focused developer conference — has become one of the largest technology conferences in Canada.

This year, the event will take place November 15-17 at the Metro Toronto Convention Center in Toronto and is expected to attract over 5,000 attendees, 200 speakers and 150 startups.

At its core, WeaveSphere weaves together academia and industry to create “innovation that matters”. This convergence, says Onut, is the key to the success of the conference.

“When there is communication between these worlds, amazing things happen,” says Onut. “If you only have professors, or you only have industry, you don’t have this ripple effect of ideas. When you put these brilliant minds in a room and they start talking to each other, we see improvements and products we couldn’t even dream of on our own. This is the key to success for us.

Three decades of “innovation that matters”

WeaveSphere, now in its 32nd year, has gone through a unique evolution.

It all started with a group of researchers who came together in 1990 to work and share ideas. In 1991, the first CASCON event was held at the IBM Toronto Lab in Markham, Ontario in Canada. And over the next three decades, it grew into the nation’s premier computer science and software engineering conference.

In 2006, the IBM Center for Advanced Study team won the prestigious NSERC Leo Derikx Synergy Award for Innovation, a prestigious award to recognize research and development (R&D) partnerships in the natural sciences and engineering between universities and Canadian industry.

A decade later, the same team at IBM’s Center for Advanced Study won the prestigious Distinguished Synergy Award from the IEEE, the world’s largest technical professional organization. The award was in recognition of the event’s collaborative model as influential to both Canadian software research and the industry landscape, adopted in many CAS centers around the world.

“In Canada, there hasn’t been a university conference like ours for a number of years — let alone 30 years,” says Onut. “This demonstrates our group’s commitment to the Canadian IT and software engineering ecosystem.

And today? With its “weave” of universities and industries, it remains the only event of its kind.

How WeaveSphere creates opportunities for students

As part of the community building that is at the heart of the conference, WeaveSphere is also seeing strong participation from undergraduate and graduate students. As a component of the conference since its inception, you will see Masters and PhD students in the event exhibit hall talking to industry attendees about their research.

This year, two new initiatives will also be part of WeaveSphere.

Education Day will take place on the first day of the conference, with over 300 students participating in solving various real-world problems using design thinking methodology and teamwork.

On the last day of the conference, WeaveSphere will be offering a STEM day, a version of “take your child to work” day, where attendees will have the opportunity to bring their high school or college child to the event for the daytime. A full program is in the works, including a workshop on leadership and a panel discussion on careers and educational pathways in STEM.

Keeping the bar high for content and speakers

While WeaveSphere has actively sought out more industry people over the past five years, the conference has never lost its history and original purpose as a forum for active, real-life R&D projects.

When asked what he loves about WeaveSphere, Onut explained that it’s the balance of the event dedicated to world-class research, as well as commercialization opportunities for the industry that he appreciates the most.

“I think when you’re talking about a pure industry conference, it’s more driven by sponsorship and…paying to be a speaker,” he says bluntly. “At our conference, we have committees that evaluate the benefit of having a particular presentation at the conference — does it fit or not? What is the reputation of the speaker? What are they trying to do in this particular conversation? »

He goes on to add that “for our academic content, we use the double-blind review process where reviewers do not know the authors’ names and affiliation and evaluate the work based on its pure merit. Evaluation is carried out by a program committee made up of more than 60 professors and industry experts.

Ultimately, as Onut says, “At our conference, technology prevails.

DigitalJournal/DX Journal is an official media partner of WeaveSphere. We’ll be sharing updates ahead of the event and we’ll be live onsite November 15-17, 2022. Join us and buy your tickets on

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