22 April 2015

Budget 2015 support Business Innovation

Yesterday's federal budget contains some significant advances for the R&D capacity of the country. More specifically, Budget 2015 is one that promotes business innovation, something that has long been lacking in Canada. By business innovation we can include a host of measures, from promoting industry-academic partnerships for R&D right through to skills development and labour market information.

Budget 2015 R&D funding will further support research in our universities, colleges and polytechnics. The granting councils have been given modest increases focused on enhancing R&D from basic to applied research right through to experimental development. This includes $1.33B over six years for the CFI, $15M to NSERC - $5M of which will increase the College and Community Innovation Program (CCIP) starting in 2016-17, and $7M to SSHRC to increase partnerships between the public and private sector. As the budget notes Canada is at the top of the G7 in Higher Education R&D (HERD) spending (see page 93). Promoting greater capacity to engage in public-private R&D partnerships (P3RD) will help Canada leverage our world-leading basic research capacity and our polytechnic and college applied research strengths in support of experimental development and business innovation.

Most significant is the introduction of a key recommendation of the Jenkins Panel - a consolidation of industry facing R&D programs. This is a very positive move that will enable the full exercising of the public R&D system (universities, colleges and polytechnics) and orient these to industry partnerships when and where applicable. As I noted in my last post this was raised by industry participants in the NSERC Strategy Town Hall George Brown College hosted last week. The effort by NSERC is to align with the NRC's Concierge service, a nascent effort by the NRC to provide a portal into the secondary R&D supports. The Concierge service is right-headed, but adding NSERC to the mix will enable it to better serve the needs of industry by matching need to specific innovation support offered by universities, polytechnics and colleges. NSERC is well positioned to access the public R&D system.

The real value here is in the sector-agnostic approach to linking industry to innovation ecosystem supports:"While maintaining existing support for research activities at colleges and universities, this integration of similar programming will offer companies a single window through which they can undertake research collaborations with a university, a college, or both depending on project needs" (111). I would submit that this is one of the more forward-thinking initiatives to come to the R&D sector, in that we are finally moving forward on providing a seamless bridge for public-private R&D support, free of the angst of funding direction (as in: who gets the money - universities or colleges). This is positive evolution.

There are other elements of the budget that are of significance - new labour market information (much needed in Canada) through to programs that will focus on "'soft' skills, such as the ability to communicate clearly, think strategically and work in teams" (149). This is the essence of innovation literacy, and promoting Blue Seal certification for example (a key recommendation from Polytechnics Canada), as well as youth employment, aboriginal employment and entrepreneurship and support for persons with disabilities will help ensure Canada has the right skills - including STEM skills - that a modern innovation economy requires. We can add to this experiential learning - a core facet of George Brown College's Strategy 2020 - as key to ensuring graduates of post secondary education have the skills employers need. Here we have another very positive development that acknowledges the specific strengths of the college and polytechnic sector.
Economic Action Plan 2015 proposes to provide a one-time investment of $65 million over four years, starting in 2016–17, to business and industry associations to support partnerships between employers and willing educational institutions. Through these partnerships, groups of employers and industry organizations will work with willing post-secondary institutions to develop curricula and programs that are aligned with the specific skills needs of the labour market.
It is worth noting that the Ontario Colleges of Applied Arts and Technology Act, 2002, compels Colleges in Ontario "to offer a comprehensive program of career-oriented, post-secondary education and training to assist individuals in finding and keeping employment, to meet the needs of employers and the changing work environment and to support the economic and social development of their local and diverse communities." Colleges are specifically set up to serve the labour market needs with our educational programming, and this applies to our focus on applied research. Budget 2015 supports the further refinement and development of how best our educational systems can respond to labour market needs for skills development and the orientation of R&D capacity - for technology transfer out of our leading basic research institutions and firm-friendly conduits into the applied research capacity. Canada is on the cusp of becoming world class in our orientation to the innovation economy.

One highlight is the funding of the Canadian Centre for Aging and Brain Health Innovation (CC-ABHI), which is led by Baycrest Hospital, and includes a host of private and public sector partners working together to create "a national hub and network dedicated to the development, validation, commercialization, dissemination and adoption of brain health and seniors care products and services." George Brown College is very pleased to be a founding academic partner in CC-ABHI. Our Advanced Prototyping Lab will be supporting product development, in addition to clinical simulation and testing.

Read the Colleges and Institutes Canada press release and the Polytechnics Canada press release on Budget 2015.

No comments: