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L'investissement en recherche et innovation

"La poursuite de l'excellence"

Bref soumis au Comité permanent des finances de la Chambre des communes

septembre 2000

Le Partenariat en faveur des sciences et de la technologie (PFST) regroupe 25 associations canadiennes en sciences et génie. Pour assurer que la recherche scientifique et technique continue de contribuer pleinement à une qualité de vie toujours meilleure pour les canadiens nous recommandons:

  1. De nouvelles initiatives de gestion scientifique pour le plus grand bénéfice du Canada.
  2. De nouvelles mesures pour assurer un accroissement de la recherche en milieu industriel.
  3. Des mesures pour assumer les coûts indirects de la recherche universitaire.

PAGSE is a consortium of 25 Canadian science and engineering societies and a select group of the most R&D-intensive Canadian companies representing all strategic sectors. It was formed four years ago, in response for the need for a collective voice for scientific research in Canada. Our primary objective is to work in partnership with government, to demonstrate the scope and value of Canadian research and innovation, and to assist government in the coordination of Canadian science and engineering research activities (see annex I).

PAGSE has undertaken special studies in cooperation with Industry Canada; it has a University-Industry Committee which addresses issues of considerable importance such as the recently released study "SETTING PRIORITIES FOR RESEARCH IN CANADA"; we convene, in partnership with NSERC, a monthly breakfast meeting on Parliament Hill known as "Bacon with Eggheads", where we showcase Canadian research and the application of science; we hold, in partnership with Industry Canada, presentations on science and technology policy and related issues; and we organize an annual symposium each Fall - Symposium 2000 will be held on October 24 on the topic of "Partnerships for Success". This meeting will focus on the advantages of synergies between university, government and private sector in research.

PAGSE congratulates the Federal Government for the bold initiatives it took in the last three budgets to ensure that Canadians are given the greatest opportunities to be front line players in the KNOWLEDGE BASED ECONOMY. Primary examples include:

  • The Canada Foundation for Innovation: a very innovative program when it was created in 1997 by the Federal Government "to strengthen Canadian capability for research". PAGSE welcomes the extension of the mandate of the CFI to 2005, and the highly significant investment of funds.

  • The Canada Research Chairs: another outstanding program that will not only reinforce research capabilities in Canadian institutions but will also be a strong incentive to young scientists to consider Canada as a promising career choice. The result will be that Canadian research institutions will benefit in the modern "Brain Circulation" environment.

  • The Canadian Institutes of Health Research: an imaginative new concept in advancing research in the broader context of the health system.

All of these programs were designed in such a way that all non government research institutions were eligible thus fairness in the pursuit of excellence was assured.


Innovation and creativity are the driving forces of the new economy. In this knowledge-based economy, the comparative advantages of countries are created not inherited....the advantage goes to those countries that are innovative, highly productive, able to adapt the latest technologies and willing to invest in the skills development of citizens.

Jocelyne Bourgon
Canadian Government Executive
Issue 1, 2000

Research and innovation need to be continually nurtured. It is not sufficient to periodically implement stand-alone programs and expect an on-going impact. PAGSE therefore recommends that three initiatives form the basis for strategic investments, in the 2001 budget, in the area of research and innovation:

  1. New Governance Initiatives to Benefit Canada.
  2. Government measures to enhance research in industry.
  3. Indirect costs of university research.

PAGSE is confident that if these recommendations are adopted they will go a long way towards meeting the following objectives:

  • Ensure that Canada remains a major player in the new economy;
  • Provide Canadians with equal opportunity to succeed; and
  • Create an economic and social environment where Canadians can enjoy the best quality of life and standard of living.

Science and innovation are pivotal to the development of a knowledge-based society in Canada, and to the enhancement of the quality of life of our citizens. Good governance depends on our elected (House of Commons) and appointed (Senate) officials being well-informed on issues of science and innovation, so as to take initiatives to assure Canada's competitiveness on a global basis, to propose legislation, and to respond to matters of immediate concern. Leading nations have Committees on Science as part of their governance portfolio.

1.   New Governance Initiatives to Benefit Canada:

(a).   Need for Parliamentary Standing Committee on Science and Technology

Let us consider the United States and the United Kingdom as examples. The U.S. Congressional Committee on Science has existed since the Sputnik era. As described in a history of the committee: "The Science Committee has a long tradition of alerting the Congress and the nation to new scientific and technological opportunities that have potential to create dramatic economic or societal change". The U.K. Parliament (M.P.'s/Lords) has a Science and Technology Committee which has long played a central role in policy development, new initiatives, etc.

PAGSE recommends that a Standing Committee on Science and Innovation be established in the Parliament in Canada. Two options are suggested: a House of Commons committee, or a Joint House-Senate committee. In addition to the responsibilities described above, the Committee on Science and Innovation could: address science and innovation in terms of economic development; foster cross-agency interactions among science-based government departments; nurture research in industry; promote partnerships, where merited, among university/industry/government sectors; make international comparisons with other countries at the forefront of research, innovation, and economic development; and engage in foresight activities so as to carve out niches where Canada can be a beacon to the world. The creation of a Standing Committee on Science and Innovation would be an important milestone in the evolution of governance in Canada. This committee would make a significant impact on Canada's ability to seize opportunities which, with confidence and determination, will result in the 21st century belonging to Canada.

(b).   Office of Science and Technology

In accord with practices in most G8 countries (e.g. U.S., U.K., Japan) PAGSE recommends that an Office of Science and Technology be created, and located in the Prime Minister's Office. This Office would, amongst other responsibilities, interface with the Standing Committee on Science and Innovation. It could also, for example, study and make recommendations on big science facilities proposed for Canada which, up to now, have been considered on an ad hoc basis. The Office would consist of a Director and Staff. Such an Office will play a major role in advancing our knowledge-based economy and in raising the profile of science, technology and innovation within the government.

(c).   The National Academies of Canada

PAGSE highly recommends that the joint proposal by The Royal Society of Canada and The Canadian Academy of Engineering to create the National Academies of Canada (NAC) be financially supported by the government in its forthcoming budget. The NAC would, for example, contribute in an effective and objective manner to providing expert advice to government and the public. It would provide independent advice so essential to a society which is increasingly knowledge-based as well as oriented towards science and technology. In addition, the NAC will enable Canada to, finally, participate in new initiatives with academies of other countries, and profit by the benefits accruing from such involvement. Currently, this has not been possible for the constituent academies because of lack of financial resources. Indeed, Canada is unique among the leading industrial nations (e.g. U.S., U.K., France, Netherlands, Japan) in not having nationally funded academies. An investment in the new National Academies of Canada will add genuine value to Canada.

While it is evident that industry has been increasing its investment in research and development very substantially in recent years, these increases have occurred mainly in the information technology, pharmaceutical and aerospace sectors. The fact remains that the majority of manufacturing firms do not even have an engineer on staff, much less an R&D capability. The small firms (SME's) are the ones that need some tangible assistance.

2.   Government measures to enhance research in industry:

There are 2 needs to be filled concurrently:

  1. Ensure that Canada becomes an important player in new promising technology areas such as IT, medical research, space, biotechnology, and communications;
  2. Ensure that Canada stays ahead in traditional areas such as agriculture, petrochemicals, forestry, autos, metals, and mining.

In proposing specific programs, it is important to underline that PAGSE recognizes that any government program or involvement can not be construed as a subsidy. It is also essential to understand that there are differences of view as to what constitutes research and that there exists a need to build better bridges that overcome these different perceptions.

With these factors in mind, PAGSE recommends that placement programs be established in which the salaries, or portions of salaries, of new PhD and M.Sc. graduate students can be covered for a defined period of time with firms that do not have that expertise on site, and do not have the means to fully assume the costs. This would involve additional resources and a broadening of the mandate for NSERC's Industrial Research Fellowship Program (IRF) and/or of the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) of the National Research Council of Canada.

Governments should increase their investment in university research. They should also resolve, on an urgent basis, situations where universities have difficulties conducting research when federal funding is provided, but when limited provincial support is available for the associated indirect costs. Public Investments in University Research: Reaping the Benefits
ACST report May 4, 1999

3.   Indirect costs of university research:

Recently the Advisory Council on Science and Technology has been given the responsibility of providing advice and recommendations on "the role that the federal government might play in supporting the cost of university research". This is an issue that is of great importance for research and, therefore, for maintaining the economic well being of Canadians.

PAGSE strongly recommends that the federal government accepts an increased role in supporting research in Canadian universities by assuming a fair share of indirect costs as is done in other industrialized countries.

With the creation of the Canada Foundation for Innovation the federal government took an essential step in the necessary upgrade of research infrastructure. Now is the time to address the corollary and equally important issues of efficient operation and maintenance of research facilities.

In several other countries indirect costs amount to 50% or more of research grants. PAGSE believes that, although this figure might be ideal, it is too big a step to initially implement. Until administrative and management issues are sorted out we strongly recommend that indirect costs of research be valued at a minimum of 20% of research grants from federal government sources, i.e: NSERC, SSHRC, CIHR, and research grants from other government agencies and departments. PAGSE further recommends that, initially, the management of this fund along with additional resources be assigned to the granting councils and relevant government agencies.

Submitted for PAGSE/PFST

Denis A. St-Onge, O.C.

The three mission components of Canadian Research in Science and Innovation:

* Discovery

** Policy

*** Innovation

"Firms focus more in the 'development' component of R&D while universities target 'research'. Federal government laboratories are involved in directed research"

Setting Priorities for Research in Canada
Partnership Group for Science and Engineering, April 2000

Research can be divided into three mission components: Discovery, Policy and Innovation.

"...about 60% of decisions taken at all levels of governments involve science and technology. In a democracy like ours, well informed voters are necessary to take informed decisions."

E.R.W. Neale

The purpose of Discovery research is to push the frontiers of knowledge, to seek new understanding of the laws of nature. Its fundamental drive is scientific curiosity which expands our knowledge base but may or may not lead to new products being developed. Astronomy is a good current example of this type of research. The advancement of knowledge is the principal purview of university based research and is an essential component in the training of highly qualified scientists.

-- support for decision making, policy development and regulations
-- development and management standards
-- support for public health, safety, environmental and/or defence needs
-- enabling economic and social development

Building Excellence in Science and Technology,
Best Report, Dec. 16, 1999

Policy driven research is motivated by the public good. Its purpose is to provide the scientific information needed for sound policies which are enacted by governments for the benefits of citizens. It is directed research which is defined by the "need to know" required by regulatory activities and by a broad array of public institutions. This research carried out primarily in Government institutions and laboratories provides "unbiased" scientific information required for enlightened decisions by politicians and other decision makers. Current research in Environmental issues such as Climate Change, Geological Hazards and Genetically Modified Organisms illustrate these concerns.

"...the Canadian R & D expenditures of Nortel Networks exceeds those of all Canadian pharmaceutical firms combined."

Setting Priorities for Research in Canada
Partnership for Research and Engineering,
April 2000

Innovation research is motivated primarily by the need to get useful and marketable products and processes developed with the view that such products will generate profits for the companies involved. This is where society in general sees the most immediate and tangible benefits of research.

Knowledge generated as result of research, regardless of its origin, benefits all: it is the basis on which further research is pursued, it is used to define policy needs and it is the essential basis for innovation. Thus knowledge is a web which not only links but nourishes all aspects of research from basic to applied.

Adequately funding research is, primarily, the responsibility of governments: " of the misunderstandings that I think is out there, that setting up biotech companies is going to bring substantial sums of money into universities. It doesn't." Dr. Michael Smith, Nobel Laureate, Peter Wall Distinguished Professor of Biotechnology, UBC.