Whether we are welcoming advanced technology into our homes, driving vehicles with more sophisticated safety and communications features, or taking advantage of new online services, innovation is an increasingly important measure of how well our modern economy is faring.
In this light, we have reason to be very excited about the latest federal budget, which has set the stage for further innovative success by devoting more than $2 billion to advancing research and innovation in Canada.
The $1.5 billion investment in the new Canada First Research Excellence Fund will provide the country’s post-secondary institutions with the resources they need to attract and develop top talent and compete with the best in the world. In a future that will be driven by emerging new technologies and opportunities, access to highly trained and creative thinkers will help to ensure that Canada remains at the top in terms of quality of life.
Beyond the monumental investment in the research excellence fund, the emphasis on the importance of advanced research and training could be seen throughout the budget, including new investments in the tri-agencies (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council [NSERC], Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research), TRIUMF, the Institute for Quantum Computing, social innovation and open data.
From the perspective of NSERC, these substantial commitments by the government build on and reinforce our strong base of support for discovery research, support that has remained steady, even during economically challenging times. Over the past decade, NSERC has seen its budget rise by $250 million. This increase reflects a solid commitment to enhancing all aspects of innovation, starting with the invaluable core role of discovery research.
NSERC has paved the way for members of the Canadian research community to play an increasingly key role in building the economy of the future through initiatives such as the College and Community Innovation Program that are enabling Canadian colleges to increase their capacity to work with local companies. Through the Strategy for Partnerships and Innovation, NSERC has become more flexible and responsive to the needs of business, supporting more than 5,400 projects over the last four years, accelerating dozens of new technologies into the marketplace, and encouraging more than 800 companies to work with an academic researcher for the first time.
The strategy also increased the opportunities for Canadian researchers to participate in international projects, while bringing together federal, provincial, and municipal agencies on a wide range of activities.
By integrating the three core elements of NSERC support together – discovery, people, and innovation – we maximize the benefits to Canadians of the impacts of our investments in postsecondary research and training. These investments help to prepare our economy and our society for the long-term by ensuring that we have the knowledge, talent and skills required to shape the future.
If that sounds like a tall order, it is one that is regularly fulfilled. Canada is home to extraordinary institutions that attract some of the best researchers from around the world. Their discoveries, and their expertise, provide the raw material that can meet the needs of waiting markets and become new products. In other words, discovery research provides the foundation for our future success.