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SUBMISSION TO HOUSE OF COMMONS STANDING COMMITTEE ON FINANCE

2013 PRE-BUDGET CONSULTATION


The Partnership Group for Science and Engineering
282 Somerset Street West, Ottawa

August 5, 2013

Recommendation 1.

Increased & Targeted Funding towards employment opportunities for recent PhD graduates and Post-Doctoral fellows

To increase targeted funding for both postgraduate and postdoctoral fellowships in the areas of health, natural sciences and engineering, ensuring that more Canadians are equipped to meet future labour market needs and gain experience in industrially relevant research, development and commercialization towards their transition into the workforce. The funding will assist in developing the most highly qualified talent.

Expected cost: $10 million – $99.9 million

Time Frame: Immediately

Federal funding: In Budget 2010, the federal government provided $45 million over five years to establish a post-doctoral fellowship program to help attract the research leaders of tomorrow to Canada. The government can further enhance and expand this program, amongst others, into industry and government (federal, provincial, municipal) sectors with a strong research mandate and capacity. The cost of such measures could be covered by equivalent reductions in the level of tax credits for corporate research for a zero-net cost modification of the current incentive system.

Intended beneficiaries: Implementation of this recommendation would benefit recent graduates from doctoral programs by providing increased financial support, development and networking opportunities. Canadian firms also benefit by increased familiarization with skills and abilities of PhDs with potential value to their research and development activities. This is particularly important to small and medium companies that may lack the resources to hire at this level as well as new innovative companies that have an aggressive R&D agenda.

General impacts: A talented and adaptable workforce is at the heart of innovative economies. Every part of the economy therefore has a stake in educating, training and effectively integrating highly qualifed and skilled Canadians into the workforce, and in attracting and retaining talented individuals to Canada. This follows the logic of a knowledge economy where increasing the number of people with advanced degrees leads to more innovation and thus more economic development.

Recommendation 2.

National Institute on Big Data and Advanced Analytics

The need for data analytics is no longer a case that has to be made. Automated data analysis methods are required to cope with the large volume of information we generate and record. Businesses and nations that do not adapt to this information-driven reality will face difficulty surviving. Data analytics offers synergies between industry, government and academia - both in terms of the "basic science" of analytics and its application. Canada would therefore benefit from a unified national institute on "big data" and advanced analytics.

Expected cost: $30 million – $99.9 million

Time frame: Immediately

Federal funding: In Budget 2011, the government provided more than $240 million towards the digital economy strategy. Funds in that program could be re-allocated towards supporting a new national institute for data science that could accelerate the development and application of data analytics in Canada. This would leverage existing, but distributed and disconnected, Canadian excellence in analytics into national leadership in this critical area. The mandate of such an institute might range from funding industrial and academic research and development, to acting as a collaborative hub for stakeholders.

Intended beneficiaries: Implementation of this recommendation would benefit Canadian industry (from traditional analytics-heavy industries like oil and gas exploration to industries where this is still relatively new); federal, provincial and local government.

General impacts: Targeted funding could create a national "Data Analytics Ecosystem", flowing in a cycle between industry, government and the academy. Beyond the direct impacts of applying cutting-edge analytics approaches in Canadian industry and government, such an ecosystem has the potential to produce a large pool of highly qualified personnel capable of truly pushing data analytics into the everyday workplace.

Recommendation 3. Increased Support for Basic Research

Invest $15M to fund basic research at universities particularly through the Discovery Grants Program. This investment will reaffirm budget 2012’s goal of preserving programming in support of basic research and begin to compensate for reductions in basic research at the NRC over the past two years and inflationary erosion in NSERC’s Discovery Grants (DG) program over the past decade. Sustained investments in basic research at universities create knowledge and trains highly qualified personnel, both of which are foundational for long-term economic and social prosperity.

Expected cost: $10 million – $99.9 million

Time Frame: Immediately

Federal funding:
Budget 2013 pledged a return to balanced budgets through fiscal restraint, allowing for modest spending growth in strategic areas, including investments in world-class research and innovation. This recommendation aligns with the spirit of that pledge and is consistent with previous budgetary allocations made towards strengthening research partnerships between post-secondary institutions and industry. This scale of new funding is possible in the current fiscal environment particularly by dispersing funds through the NSERC DG program, an already established and effective distribution system.

Intended beneficiaries: Implementation of this recommendation would directly benefit both researchers and students in science and engineering programs at universities across Canada. With increased funding, researchers can address gaps in basic scientific knowledge and, in the process, train the next generation of Canadian research talent.

General impacts: The knowledge advantage provided through research cannot be overstated. Canada must have the intellectual, organizational and institutional resources to generate new knowledge, identify and act on opportunities, develop strategic alliances and advance developments in new areas. Basic scientific research is essential in this regard. Investments in basic research and the people who do it are crucial to ensuring a steady supply of ideas for the innovation pipeline.

Summary of Recommendations:
The Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE), is an association of more than 25 professional and scientific organizations. It reflects a diversity of science and technology interests in Canada, ranging from a focus on research, innovation and industrial capacity to stimulating science in academia and government, to monitoring S&T requirements for policy development. PAGSE is not a lobby group; rather it works in partnership with government to advance research and innovation for the benefit of Canadians.

The recommendations from PAGSE in this pre-budget submission offer practical solutions to addressing three of the Government’s top priorities: support for research, education and training; innovation and the digital economy.

By investing in expanded post-doctoral training opportunities, the Government of Canada can support the further participation of people with advanced degrees in the knowledge economy thereby contributing to more innovation and economic development.

By supporting a data analytics ecosystem, the Government of Canada can contribute to an effective digital infrastructure, specifically impacting data flow, storage, access and translation into knowledge and useful applications.

Finally, by supporting basic research, the Government of Canada contributes to ensuring a steady supply of ideas in the innovation pipeline and long-term economic and social prosperity.