SUBMISSION TO THE STANDING COMMITTEE ON INDUSTRY, SCIENCE
Presented by the Partnership Group for Science
Science is a strategic resource for Canada and underpins its
economic and social well-being. Research and development are
performed in the public, private and academic sectors, each
of which addresses different needs: strength and balance is
required across all of the sectors. The new federal strategy
for science and technology provides a framework for research
and innovation; it also recognizes the importance of measures
to encourage industrial and private sector R&D, of international
leadership, of a dynamic research environment and of a repository
of expertise to serve the needs of the economy. Canada must
be responsive to changing priorities and relentlessly pursue
scientific and technological excellence; its research establishment
must be productive, innovative and adaptable.
Research in remote regions is costly but essential to environmental
stewardship, sovereignty, security and knowledge of the resources
and conditions of these regions. Big science initiatives represent
‘flagship’ programs and facilities, and require
a sustained financial commitment. Strategic international
research alliances allow Canada to position itself in the
international community. They provide profile, credibility,
international leadership opportunities and access to methodologies,
expertise, facilities and data, that might not otherwise be
There is a need to encourage an integrated ‘systems’
approach to our science and technology endeavours that will
result in value-added outcomes for our investments. We also
require strong data management, analysis, and archiving capacity,
in order effectively to monitor and assess changing conditions,
and to stimulate the development of new technologies.
We offer the following recommendations to sustain and advance
Canada’s economic health and international stature.
1. Strengthen mechanisms for independent scientific
advice to Government;
2. Reinvest in federal research infrastructure and science
for the public good;
3. Encourage the archiving of scientific data, as a legacy
for comparative purposes and analysis and as a base for future
4. Adopt a strategic approach to investments in big science
initiatives and international science partnerships.
The context of R&D
The country’s economic health depends heavily on its
human, natural and environmental resources - and on a legislative
environment that allows effective use of these resources.
Studies have shown a positive correlation between general
education levels and Gross National Product. Countries with
high academic enrolments have greater skill levels, employment
levels, income, productivity and growth. The acceleration
of technological progress in the global economy requires ongoing
education and upgrading of skills. Canada’s universities
and colleges continue to fulfill this role.
The nature of scientific research has changed over the past
several years, becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, collaborative,
international - and oriented to research outcomes. Recruitment
and retention of skilled research personnel remains a challenge
as Canada competes with other countries for these resources.
Canada Research Chairs have attracted outstanding scientists
to Canadian institutions; a stimulating research environment
and competitive grant support is the key to retaining them.
This should include support to optimize the use of new research
facilities and infrastructure.
Research performing sectors have different, though complementary,
• public sector research for standards
and regulation, public services, policy development, national
security issues and national databases;
• academic research to advance knowledge in fundamental and
applied areas, to educate and train, and to provide information
for standard setting and policy strategies;
• industrial research for developing new products, adapting
to changing resource conditions, advancing commercial development
and market share.
Strength and balance is required across all sectors.
Science advice to government
Canada must constantly look ahead to the ‘over the horizon’
opportunities and challenges: funding of a solid research
base should be accompanied by resources for accelerated research
in focused areas of national priority. The identification
of research gaps, priorities and future trends requires mechanisms
for independent advice to policymakers.
• Strengthen mechanisms for independent scientific
advice to Government
Commercialization, venture capital and intellectual
Information and insights from fundamental research feed entrepreneurial
energy by providing opportunities for technological progress
and market advantage. Fiscal and tax incentives encourage
industrial investment in R&D, but Canada still faces challenges
in stimulating industrial research and development. An outstanding
science and technology infrastructure is an important factor
in attracting foreign companies to invest in research here.
Tax incentives can help ensure that laboratories are top of
the line, well maintained and staffed by the required technical
support. A strategy aimed at increasing industrial research
thus must include measures to strengthen the scientific basis
for innovation and new technology, as well as the uptake and
use of results. Legislation can help ensure Canadian companies
have ‘first to market’ advantage.
Federally funded research performed in government
and higher education
Private sector companies are increasingly collaborating with
the public and academic sectors through strategic alliances,
research networks and partnerships. Faculty members also collaborate
extensively with federal counterparts. This facilitates knowledge
and technology transfer, and has numerous benefits –
to students, to the universities, to the researchers and to
policy and decision makers.
One of the most urgent issues our society must confront is
how natural systems will respond to changing conditions. A
substantial investment in fundamental research will allow
better prediction of, and response to these changes.
International Polar Year has focused world attention on the
need for proper archiving of, and access to scientific data,
but this applies to other sectors as well: it is essential,
for example, that Canada have ongoing records of environmental
conditions in order to monitor the speed and extent of change
and to stimulate the development of new technologies. The
retention of records also provides a lasting legacy for comparative
purposes and analysis.
• Reinvest in federal research infrastructure and science
for the public good;
• Encourage the archiving of scientific data, as a legacy
for comparative purposes and analysis and as a base for future
Big science projects and Canada’s position
in global science and technology
Federal facilities require the technologies appropriate to
a G-8 country, including state of the art equipment. For example,
some research in engineering, pharmaceuticals, quantum chemistry,
the financial sector, ocean and atmospheric studies and climate
prediction requires supercomputing facilities. Canada currently
lacks the processing speed and capacity available to its competitors
Canada must position itself to reap the benefits of globalization,
in science as in other areas. The goal of world recognition
and strategic international alliances is well served by supporting
Canadian participation in international science programs,
and encouraging Canadians to pursue leadership positions on
their boards and scientific advisory bodies. Federal departments
as well as the National Research Council support a number
of international subscriptions, partnerships and bilateral
agreements: PAGSE recommends a review of the support available,
to ensure it is adequate to meet the international objectives
of the S&T strategy.
The federal government has announced a major research facility
in Canada’s north. The Arctic is vast: physical, biological,
social and industrial conditions vary widely. PAGSE suggests
a central hub to connect major existing and future research
facilities in different regions of the north, thereby coordinating
and providing administrative and other functions.
Big science facilities and collaborations are complex, costly,
international in scope, have high visibility – and often
serve multiple funding partners from different sectors. Sustained
support will ensure optimal results from Canada’s big
science research investments.
• Adopt a strategic approach to investments in big science
initiatives and support for international science partnerships.
The Partnership Group on Science and Engineering (PAGSE) is
an association of over 25 professional and scientific organizations
representing 50,000 members from academia, industry and government
sectors. It represents the Canadian science and engineering
community to the Government and to advance research and innovation
for the benefit of Canadians. PAGSE is not a lobby group,
but a cooperative partnership that addresses broad issues
of science and engineering policy at the national level.