Canada lagging behind other countries when it comes to science and technology

By Paul Scully

At a recent presentation to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance (FINA) the case was presented that Canada’s competitiveness in terms of research and development in science and technology has declined markedly over the past 15 years[1]

Dr. Garth Huber, Executive Director of the Institute of Nuclear Physics; representing 116 active researchers across Canada, highlighted a few of the more salient points contained in the Naylor Report (Canada’s Fundamental Science Review)[2]

He pointed out that over the past decade and a half Canada’s research funding as a percentage of GDP has declined from 2% to 1.6% while that percentage has grown among all other major nations. Having fallen out of the top 30 countries in research spending, Canada is now well below the OECD average of 2.38%.

In addition, the emphasis with Canada in particular, has been a veering away from investigator – led research resulting in a 35% drop in available resources to researchers.

Dr. Huber focused upon a recommendation of the Naylor Report that he believed was crucial: namely that the Government of Canada should target increasing the investment into investigator-led research.

The report recommended an infusion of $400 million spread over a four year time frame to remedy this deficiency.

He went on to point out that, if Canada as a nation, fails to adequately fund and make ongoing investments in science and technology, it runs the risk of falling even further behind while at the same time losing extremely highly qualified and innovative researchers upon whom all of the scientific infrastructure is predicated.

Paul Davidson, President of Universities Canada, offered similar observations but from a different perspective. While stressing the importance universities play in the lives of Canadians; from enhancing Canadian productivity to preparing students for a knowledge economy.

Mr. Davidson pointed out that universities promote innovation, partnership and entrepreneurship strategies in order to better facilitate partnerships within the business and research communities.

He further expanded upon the advantages of the spin-offs that happen when investigator-led research is allowed to occur through proper funding. Citing such examples as the development of artificial intelligence as well as other advances made in agriculture, health and other fields; Mr. Davidson continued with his observations of unintended, but positive consequences of university investigator-led research spinoffs.

Both presenters stressed unequivocally that in order for science and technology to regain a solid recovery in Canada that the recommendations – especially with respect to funding – in the comprehensive Naylor Report be implemented without delay.

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