23 March 2012

Let's make of Canadian R&D "a thriving innovation engine"

Innovation and productivity are top of the agenda for the upcoming federal budget. Business innovation in particular is a key area of focus, as indicated in this article featuring Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear. Minister Goodyear struck the Jenkins panel (Polytechnics Canada CEO Nobina Robinson was a member of that panel) last year to review private sector R&D spending, and they came up with many good recommendations to get the country in line with our international counterparts. This complements the two panels recently struck by the Council of Canadian Academies on behalf of the Minister of Industry. A renewed focus on innovation and productivity is the right thing for Canada as we work toward the articulation of a new Science and Technology Strategy.

The Globe article quotes Liberal critic Ted Hsu as saying that we should not let industry drive research in government labs. This is wrong thinking. Government labs should be working to link both discovery-based research emerging from university labs and industry needs - think the US National Laboratories, which focus on strategic priorities and the needs of the country. The National Labs bridge the gap between basic and applied research, addressing pressing needs of today. University labs address the needs of tomorrow. Polytechnic and college applied research is another bridge between basic and applied research, academia and industry. As a country we must stop thinking of industry partnered research as a bad thing; we continue this at our own peril.

Let's embrace the possibilities inherent in realizing the gains of our own discoveries, and link together the universities, polytechnics, colleges, government research facilities in an innovation chain that sees industry as a partner in our own national efforts of "a thriving innovation engine."

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