19 February 2014

Government of Canada announces new Canada First Research Excellence Fund

The Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of State for Science and Technology was at UofT today to announce the new Canada First Research Excellence Fund, as outlines in last week's Budget 2014. The fund is open to all post-secondary institutions, and will go a long way to leveraging and amplifying the government's S&T investments made over the years. The CFRE Fund represents a key vehicle for the country's leading basic and applied research organizations to leverage this work into greater productivity - better productivity of our basic research, linked to applied research and to industry and economic development, for improved productivity in the economy as a whole.

There was good discussion by the Minister and other speakers about the importance not only of investing in the entire spectrum of research - from basic to applied - but also of linking this to education and talent. Following successive expert panels and reports, we are finally arriving at a place where all players in the research to innovation ecosystem recognize the need for complementarity, as well as decisions about investments and priorities. In short, this was good news for all involved in the research continuum.

The CFRE Fund will be administered by SSHRC, and SSHRC President Chad Gaffield spoke at the event, outlining the importance of the funding to the research enterprise in Canada. SSHRC puts the business in innovation, reflecting a people-centred innovation approach that SSHRC's President Gaffield has promoted for some time now.

SSHRC's prominence in Budget 2014 includes the College Social Innovation Fund, an approach that Polytechnics Canada has advocated for. Polytechnics Canada CEO Nobina Robinson, in a recent Globe and Mail op-ed, calls these movements a "turn from a purely knowledge-based economy to a know-how economy." That's a good thought for this day as we look to all actors in the Canadian R&D space to collaborate to compete together as a nation. Minister Rickford reminded the crowd that, as we look to the current Olympics, we recall the government's investments in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and the drive to "own the podium." The current funding, and the S&T (and now I) strategy, reflect Canada's capacity to own the Research and Innovation podium.

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