The R&D expert panel and the $7-billion that won’t buy much

A Government R&D review expert panel is working on figuring out why Canada lags behind many of its peers in capitalizing on research advances despite Ottawa’s $7-billion innovation budget. They are asking for input. Front line researchers are urged to come forward and not allow the shopkeepers and their privileged customers to monopolize the consultation process.

The background: On October 14, 2010,  Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, announced the formation of the research and development review expert panel, which will scrutinize Canada’s innovation and commercialization strategy. Actually, everyone seem to be already aware that it is nothing short of a failure. This was also confirmed recently by reviews of Canada’s innovation performance undertaken by the Council of Canadian Academies and the Science, Technology and Innovation Council. Both “point to a serious issue facing Canada in terms of our country’s lagging ability to capitalize on the knowledge we produce to create economic value”.

The panel is now interested in receiving your views, and has  initiated a consultation process. Here is a link to view guidelines for making a submission.

Now the number of programs that the government supports, and which are under review is simply mind boggling.

First, you have the largest piece of the puzzle, the $4-billion “Scientific Research and Experimental Develoment tax credit program” (SR&ED), which seems to be the big elephant in the room. I hardly know anything about this program, besides the fact that it is a federal tax incentive program, administered by the Canada Revenue Agency, that encourages Canadian businesses of all sizes, and in all sectors to conduct research and development in Canada. Former VP of the NRC and former President of Alberta Ingenuity, Peter Hackett, has lots to say about this. Also on youtube.

But you don’t need to be an expert to imagine the line-up of CEOs waiting to testify as to how important these tax incentives are to the country? “Paris vaut bien une messe” and a billion or four are surely worth testifying for.

Next, just take a look (below) at this illustrative list of more directly funded federal programs. Why “illustrative”?, because there is many more!

Do you really think that anyone of the heads/directors/presidents (the shopkeepers!) of these programs (the shops!) are going to testify that their programs are deficient and need less funding? What about those individuals that are getting serious funding from these programs (the clients!)?

I bet you the panel is going to hear a thousand success stories, and their assignment of sorting all this out  will be almost impossible … unless they hear from independent voices.

Here is a very partial and illustrative list of federally supported programs that are supposed to enhance Canada’s innovation and commercialization strategy. 

Total bill: $3-billion.

Doesn’t this list make it painful and hard to comprehend NSERC President’s position on “what to do”? Will the non-peer reviewed, non industry-matched, non IP-friendly $6-million “Engage” program really fix what $7-billion dollars worth of programs couldn’t?

1. Atlantic Innovation Fund – ACOA

2. Automotive Innovation Fund – IC

3. Business and Regional Growth Program – CEDQ

4. Business Development Program – ACOA

5. Collaborative Health Research Projects – NSERC

6. Idea to Innovation Program – NSERC

7. Industrial Research Assistance Program – NRC

8. NRC Institutes and Laboratories:

  • Biotechnology Research Institute
  • Canadian Hydraulics Centre
  • Centre for Surface Transportation Technology
  • Industrial Materials Institute
  • Institute for Aerospace Research
  • Institute for Biodiagnostics
  • Institute for Biological Sciences
  • Institute for Chemical Process and Environmental Technology
  • Institute for Fuel Cell Innovation
  • Institute for Information Technology
  • Institute for Marine Biosciences
  • Institute for Microstructural Science
  • Institute for Nanotechnology
  • Institute for Ocean Technology
  • Institute for Research in Construction
  • Plant Biotechnology Institute
  • Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences

9. Next Gen Biofuels Fund – SDTC

10. Northern Ontario Development Program – IC/FedNor

11. Proof of Principle Program – CIHR

12. Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program – FIN/CRA

13. Space Technologies Development Program – CSA

14. Southern Ontario Development Program – FedDev ON

15. Strategic Aerospace and Defence Initiative – IC

16. Technology Development Program – DND

17. Western Diversification Program – WD

18. Industrial Postgraduate Scholarships – NSERC

19. Industrial R&D Fellowships – NSERC

20. Industrial R&D Internship Program – Tri-Council

21. Industrial Undergraduate Student Research Awards – NSERC

22. BDC Venture Capital – BDC

23. Agricultural Bioproducts Innovation Program – AAFC

24. Applied Research and Commercialization Initiative – FedDev ON

25. Automotive Partnership Canada – IC portfolio

26. Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence – Tri-Council

27. Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research –     Tri-Council

28. Collaborative Research and Development Grants – NSERC

29. College and Community Innovation Program – NSERC

30. Contributions to FPInnovations – NRCan

31. Engage Grants – NSERC

32. Growing Forward – Canadian Agri-Science Clusters – AAFC

33. Growing Forward – Science to Support Commercialization of New Agri-Based Products –AAFC

34. Growing Forward – Supporting the Innovative Capacity of Farmers – AAFC

35. Industrial Research Chairs – NSERC

36. Industry-Partnered Collaborative Research Program – CIHR

37. Interaction Grants – NSERC

38. Networks of Centres of Excellence – Tri-Council

39. SD Tech Fund – SDTC

40. Strategic Network Grants – NSERC

41. Strategic Project Grants – NSERC

42. Strategic Workshops – NSERC

43. Technology Clusters Program – NRC

44. Technology Development Program – FedDev ON

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11 Responses to The R&D expert panel and the $7-billion that won’t buy much

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