A decade ago, it would have been unfathomable that Saskatoon would become home to a state-of-the-art synchrotron; that Chicoutimi would become a world leader in developing de-icing technology for airplanes and hydro wires; that British Columbia would be at the forefront of improving lives for those with spinal cord injuries; or that Nova Scotia would be leading an 82-nation project to track the diversity, distribution and abundance of life in the world’s oceans.
But today, these and thousands of other research projects in Canada have become a reality – in large part due to investments made by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI).
Created by the Government of Canada in 1997, the CFI invests in state-of-the-art infrastructure in universities, colleges, research hospitals and non-profit research institutions across the country. Since then, it has become an integral part of Canada’s innovation equation.
“The infrastructure funded by the CFI allows researchers in this country to remain at the forefront of their fields,” says Gilles Patry, the president and CEO of the CFI. “They use the cutting-edge labs, equipment and databases we fund not only to help solve issues that matter to Canadians, but also to tackle some of the most pressing research challenges facing the global community.”
The CFI exists thanks to sustained commitments by the Government of Canada, which believes that research and innovation underpins the competitiveness of our industries and can transform our economy. “As one of my predecessors once said,” says Patry, “the challenge of building a more innovative economy is about more than a slab of concrete or a piece of equipment – it’s about people. It’s about supporting the best and the brightest by providing them with the environment they need to conduct world-class research.” This, says Patry, is the other critical piece of the innovation equation.
Since its inception, the CFI has supported more than 7,000 projects at 132 research institutions across Canada. These investments have helped turn Canada into a magnet for the world’s top research talent. But the next generation of researchers is also being trained on CFI-funded equipment and is transferring their skills and knowledge into the marketplace, where they support private sector innovation and hold the potential to become Canada’s next leaders.
With a solid foundation of research infrastructure in place – and the human capital to use it – Canada’s capacity for research and innovation is being enhanced and translated into social, economic and environmental benefits for this country and others around the world.
Elizabeth Shilts has been senior writer/editor with the Canada Foundation for Innovation since 2008.