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CIC recommendations to the federal government: PAGSE prepares for the new Martin government by submitting its annual Brief to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance.

Foreword

Through its active participation in both the Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE) and the Canadian Consortium for Research (CCR), the CIC/Constituent Societies communicate key messages to the federal and provincial governments. The CIC/Constituent Society Boards and the CIC National Office are continuously involved in the development and delivery of key chemical science and engineering field related messages to federal MPs, senior government bureaucrats, and other relevant organizations on behalf of its membership. The PAGSE Brief below was delivered on September 25, 2003.

Introduction

The Partnership Group for Science and Engineering (PAGSE) is a cooperative association of more than 20 national organizations in Science and Engineering, formed in June 1995, at the invitation of the Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada. The national organizations that comprise PAGSE include thousands of individuals from industry, academia, and government sectors. PAGSE works together, and in partnership with, government to advance research and innovation for the benefit of Canadians.

Organizations of PAGSE provide core support for its meetings and activities. These include defining the economic benefits of research in Canada and the effects of research budgets, analyzing intellectual property issues and other potential impediments to improving academic-industry symbiosis, showcasing the international dimensions of research projects and associations, and informing decision makers about science and engineering and their importance to Canada.

PAGSE represents an extensive resource that, through contracts and agreements, can hold events and undertake studies and assessments of benefit to government departments and agencies, to non-government organizations, and to the general public. The Royal Society of Canada acts as the agent for PAGSE for any contracts or agreements involving PAGSE projects. PAGSE has the Committee to Advance Research, a university-industry committee, which addresses issues of considerable importance such as the study on "Setting Priorities for Research in Canada." In addition, in partnership with NSERC, a monthly breakfast meeting is held on Parliament Hill known as "Bacon and Eggheads," to inform parliamentarians about recent advances in science and engineering. There are also presentations co-hosted by Industry Canada and PAGSE, on trends in science and technology policy, by key decision makers from different countries. Each fall an event is organized on science and engineering issues--for 2003 it will spotlight our "Leaders of Tomorrow."

General Comments

Research and innovation are of genuine value in enhancing our knowledge-based economy and in assuring Canada's future competitiveness. Research is a continuum from basic to applied, with developmental work raising new issues, which need to be addressed by creative, basic research. The outcomes of these investigations stimulate economic development and health care, thus raising the quality of life for Canadians.

PAGSE applauds the portfolio of Government of Canada programs established in the past six years including, amongst them, the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Canada Research Chairs, Genome Canada, Sustainable Development Technology Fund, Canada Graduate Scholarships, and the significant contributions to the coverage of Indirect Costs. We also appreciate the increased funding that was provided to the Granting Agencies.

Issues and Recommendations

PAGSE considers the following to be important issues meriting consideration by the Government of Canada.

1. PMO Office of Science and Innovation

Within the Prime Minister's or President's Offices of G8 (e.g. U.S., U.K., Japan) and other countries (e.g. Australia) is an office of Science and Innovation (or Technology). Such offices provide a coordinated and cohesive approach to issues relevant to research and innovation. The staff interact on an ongoing basis with Parliament, Diet, or Congress (such as in Canada, this would include the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science, and Technology). The office also takes responsibility for the coordination of "Big Science" projects, amongst other matters. Addressing this gap in governance in Canada would make a major impact on our society, and on increasing our global competitiveness.

2. Setting Priorities for Research

Having created an impressive number of new tools (such as Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Canada Research Chairs (CRC), Indirect Costs, Genome Canada, Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences, Canada Graduate Scholarships, and the Sustainable Development Technology Fund), and supported initiatives established by others (such as MaRS--Medicine and Related Sciences) in the past six years, it is now appropriate to "take stock" and consider how these new instruments fit with existing programs (such as Granting Agencies, NCEs, NRC) in addressing research and innovation in Canada.

In like manner, these organizations, in collaboration with government departments, have launched highly promising new initiatives that require full harmonization with existing support structures.

Given the foregoing, it is an ideal time in Canadian history, to determine what the priorities are for research in Canada for the next five to seven years. Such an exercise would be of enormous value to our society. It would demonstrate a reinvigorated, coordinated, and cohesive approach across all sectors (academia, government, industry) of the research and innovation portfolio.

To accomplish these tasks, it is recommended that Government create two panels, one to examine the relationship between the new tools summarized above and longer standing programs for research and innovation support, and a second to deal with priorities. Regarding the latter, the panel should be provided with, amongst other material, the PAGSE study on "Setting Priorities for Research in Canada." These panels could report to the proposed new PMO Office of Science and Innovation.

3. Commercialization of Research

Technology transfer and business enterprise are now important elements of the outcomes of university-based research. Universities need to markedly build capacity for the commercialization of university research, including the training and employment of individuals with skill sets in intellectual property, contracts management, patents and licensing, venture capital negotiation and management.

Likewise, the business sector urgently requires new instruments to assure greater success in transforming new inventions and discoveries into products and processes of substantial commercial value. Start-ups, and SMEs, need a markedly increased supply of venture capital.

PAGSE recommends that the Canadian government allocate new resources to the different elements of the commercialization of university research (e.g. venture capital, early procurement of innovative products). Support could involve the creation of a Commercialization Office/Secretariat either reporting to Industry Canada, or created as a non-government organization. Such an entity would be responsible for working with universities, companies, and government on different elements in the commercialization process. In addition PAGSE highly recommends the creation of a Canadian analog of the U.S. policy directed to minimizing barriers to industry university partnerships.

To accelerate the commercialization of research PAGSE also recommends that:

* Government support research and innovation by graduate students and postdoctoral fellows working in SMEs. These researchers must be paid regular employee wages (not co-op or postdoctoral level stipends);

* NRC's Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) provide support for personnel to SMEs;

* Government increase the eligibility of the SR & ED Tax Credit Program to include funding to companies that have not attained profitability, in addition to those that are profitable.

4. International Dimension

Research is global, and Canadians can profit significantly by collaborating with researchers in other countries. Canada contributes approximately 4 percent to the total global research capacity and thus, by engaging in collaborations, alliances, etc., with those elsewhere, researchers can build upon their own programs for maximum benefit to Canadians. Furthermore, access to facilities not available in Canada can lead to rapid accomplishments in research and innovation.

PAGSE recommends that the Government of Canada create an International Innovation Fund (IIF) of thirty million dollars per year to support research partnerships, involving researchers in academia, industry, or government, in areas of priority to Canada. PAGSE recommends that the Royal Society of Canada (in collaboration with the Canadian Academy of Engineering and the Canadian Institute of Academic Medicine) administer the IIF program, an arrangement similar to that in the U.K. where the Royal Society has been, for many years, responsible for a considerable proportion of government supported international research programs.

5. Granting Agencies and Cluster Development

The three Granting Agencies (NSERC, CIHR, SSHRC) have been the recipients of new investments by the Government of Canada in the last several years. PAGSE congratulates the Government on these investments.

Major challenges exist for the three agencies. These include:

a) The enormous pressure created by the unexpectedly large numbers of new applicants; and

b) The requirement for appreciably higher levels of support, in order that our current trailblazers, and our "leaders of tomorrow," can compete effectively on a global basis.

The agencies, we believe, should have a valuable role, with industry in the lead (such as Chairs of committees) and NRC as a partner, in building new clusters to serve as springboards for economic development.

PAGSE recommends:

* Government create a new industry-driven Triagency Cluster Development program;

* In addition, that Government increase overall support to the three agencies, taking account of the genuine needs of each agency.
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Title Annotation:PAGSE Report; The Partnership Group for Science and Engineering; Chemical Institute of Canada
Author:Andersson, Roland
Publication:Canadian Chemical News
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Jan 1, 2004
Words:1458
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