Monday, October 17, 2011

Federal R&D Recommendations Submitted

As outlined in this blog many times (but stated most succinctly in my February 27th 2011 blog post "Two Billion Dollars for the Canadian Space Agency Part 2: What Our Federal Government Thinks!"), the Canadian government considers the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) to be a small part of the larger subset of research and development agencies to which it already allocates several billion dollars each year.

Minister of State for S&T Gary Goodyear.
These agencies are each governed by the current Industry Canada science & technology strategy as outlined in documents like the Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage (May 2007) and the Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage Progress Report (June 2009) which focus primarily on supporting business innovation.

This current system isn't well respected by Canadian space systems companies as outlined in my March 2nd, 2011 article "Top Space Focused Companies Critical of Federal Research and Development Funding."

But now, according to the October 17th, 2011 press release on the Review of Federal Support to Research and Development website, a comprehensive review of federal programs that support business innovation has called for "a simplified and more focused approach to the $5 billion worth of R&D funding provided by the federal government every year" and formally presented this report to the Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear.

P. Thomas Jenkins.
The report, chaired by P. Thomas Jenkins, the executive chairman and chief strategy officer of Waterloo based Open Text Corporation (and supported by submissions from 228 organizations including multiple space systems companies), makes six major recommendations as follows:
  • The creation of an Industrial Research and Innovation Council (IRIC) to deliver the federal government's business innovation programs. According to the report, "there are currently more than 60 programs across 17 different government departments. The creation of an arm's-length funding and delivery agency – the Industrial Research and Innovation Council – would begin to streamline the process as the development of a common application portal and service to help businesses find the right programs for their needs."
  • Make "business innovation" one of the core objectives of this new organization.
  • Transform the National Research Council (NRC) into a series of large-scale, collaborative centres involving business, universities and the provinces. According to the report "the NRC can play a unique role, linking its large-scale, long-term research activity with the academic and business communities. The panel recommends evolving NRC institutes, consistent with the current strategic direction, into not-for-profit centres run with stakeholders, and incorporating its public policy research into other departments."
  • Assist high-growth innovative firms to access the risk capital they need through the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC). According to the report "innovative Canadian companies face real challenges in getting start-up funding and late stage risk capital financing. In many cases, the gap is filled by foreign investors, which means that too many commercial benefits and intellectual property end up leaving the country. Directing the BDC to work with angel investor groups and develop late-stage risk capital/growth equity funds will pay dividends."
  • Establish a clear federal voice for innovation and work with the provinces to improve coordination. According to the report "The Prime Minister should assign responsibility for innovation to a single minister, supported by a whole-of-government Innovation Advisory Committee, evolved from the current Science Technology and Innovation Council (STIC), composed of external stakeholders, who would then work with the provincial and territorial governments to initiate a collaborative dialogue to improve coordination and impact."
The full report, titled "Innovation Canada: A Call to Action – Expert Panel Report" is available on the Review of Federal Support to Research and Development website.

Assuming that the Federal government response to this report is positive, it looks like the Canadian space systems industry is finally going to end up having research and development concerns addressed.

Stay tuned.

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