Budget 2014 may represent a paradigm shift for Canada’s research and innovation: time will tell


innovation1

I am both encouraged by and skeptical of these subtle changes to research funding, and glaring problems remain. As the writer, UBC Mathematics Professor, Nassif Ghoussoub, himself points out,  the largest portion of government research & innovation funding is “business as usual.”  The $500 Million earmarked as an Automotive Innovation Fund, is a laughable attempt to disguise a government subsidy as “funding for innovation.”  Distinct changes in policy and procedure are reported, as recommended by UBC President Stephen Toope, and MITACS CEO, Arvind Gupta. But with this federal government, only time will tell what will actually emerge. It will take at least 10 years of this new direction and funding to reverse Canada’s poor OECD standing in innovation and productivity. Some are skeptical of the lack of detail and with good reason, as recent government announcements of venture capital funding and new government backed loans for entrepreneurial ventures have yet to materialize, as has been reported in the Globe & Mail.

Piece of Mind

The substantial investment in university research that the Canadian government announced today is not the only story in Budget 2014. A bigger story may be the pivotal moment and the policy shift that it represents for this government on a research and innovation front, where it had been on the defensive. The $500 million to enhance the Automotive Innovation Fund may eventually end up being a subsidy for the Chrysler plant in Windsor, and the $222 million over 5 years for TRIUMF may be business as usual. The $37-million annual increase to the three research councils (NSERC, SSHERC and CIHR) could be seen as a positive change, even if in real dollars, CIHR’s budget has fallen 6.4% since 2009, NSERC’s has dropped by 5.7%, and SSHRC’s by 6.8%. However, the clear hint in the budget document that these new funds should be directed towards basic research, is already a big shift. But…

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