Sunday, July 03, 2016

Summer Innovation, Aerospace and Space Lobbyists

          By Brian Orlotti

As summer rolls around, bringing with it the cyclical lulls in government, industry and academia, various organizations are hard at work to get the Liberal government's attention in a variety of areas related to innovation, space and aerospace.

As outlined in the June 20th, 2016 Ripon Advance post "Comstock hearing explores impact of Small Business Innovation Research Act, Small Business Technology Transfer programs," the US SBIR and its legislative partner, the Small Business Technology Transfer (SBTTR) programs were designed to boost innovation and small business participation in federal research and development efforts when first implemented under the Reagan administration in 1982. As outlined originally in the July 9th, 2009 post "Canadian Space Agency Provides "No Dedicated Programs" to Support Small Aerospace Firms," commentators have previously noted both the lack of Canadian programs of this nature and their ongoing usefulness to those countries which have legislated them. Screenshot c/o Ripon Advance

One example of this is the recent call by the Canadian Advanced Technology Alliance (CATA)
for the federal government to adopt a Canadian version of the US' Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program.

As outlined in the June 21st CATA press release, "Making the Case for a Canadian SBIR (CSBIR): Will Canada’s New Innovation Minister Take the Lead?," such a program could bridge the innovation gap between Canada and other industrialized nations.

Overseen by the Small Business Administration (SBA), a US government agency that provides support for entrepreneurs and small businesses, the SBIR program supports research and development at small firms via grants and contracts. SBIR contracts come in three types:
  • Phase 1 - Proof of concept stage ($250,000 USD for six months).
  • Phase 2 - Development of a commercial prototype (up to $1Mln USD for two years).
  • Phase 3 - SBIR assistance with fundraising while the company pursues commercialization (no direct funding).
Established in 1982, the program today has over $2.2Bln USD ($2.84Bln CDN) allocated to it. The SBIR program has served as a model for similar programs in Australia, Finland, Japan, the Netherlands, South Korea, Sweden and the UK.

A loony for your thoughts. As outlined in the website of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, the committee "has launched its pre-budget consultations in advance of the 2017 budget. Written submissions of no more than 2,000 words, including an executive summary, can be submitted to the Committee until Friday, August 5th." Screenshot c/o House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance

Another example of such summertime lobbying is the pre-budget consultations currently being held by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance. Running from June 3rd to August 5th, the consultations are an opportunity for various groups and individuals across the country to submit proposals and potentially influence the budget process.

As outlined in the June 29th, 2016 post, "The Canadian Space Community Has an Opportunity to Influence the 2017 Federal Budget," this methodology has been embraced by at least one member of the Canadian space community.

For the full report, click on the graphic above. Graphic c/o AIAC
A third instance of summertime maneuvering is the June 30th release of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada's (AIAC) 2016 State of the Canadian Aerospace Industry report.

In contrast to the deep concern shown by many groups over Canada's declining innovation and prestige vis-a-vis other industrialized nations, the AIAC's report takes a more upbeat tone.

Among The AIAC report's key findings:
  • Canada’s aerospace industry contributed more than $28 billion CDN to GDP and 211,000 jobs to the Canadian economy in 2015.
  • Canadian aerospace manufacturing was the number one R&D investor across manufacturing industries, was over five times as R&D intensive as the manufacturing sector average and accounted for close to 30% of total manufacturing’s R&D investments.
  • Innovation-relevant occupations accounted for over 30% of the aerospace industry’s direct employment; annual compensation per employee in aerospace manufacturing was 60% above the manufacturing sector average.
Of course, there's still the comprehensive review of Canadian science. As outlined in the June 13th, 2016 post "Government Announces Comprehensive Review of Canadian Science," this specific review is also expected to continue through the summer and report before the end of the year.

Brian Orlotti.
Taken together, these initiatives provide a glimpse into the aims of the various players in space and aerospace as well as provide food for thought while hanging at the beach sipping a nice cold drink.

Brian Orlotti is a network operations centre analyst at Shomi, a Canadian provider of on-demand internet streaming media and a regular contributor to the Commercial Space blog.

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