Research and innovation remain at the forefront of the Federal 2013 Budget
Posted: April 6, 2013
CSMB Board Members' Response to the Federal Budget
The 2013 Federal Budget made it clear that Research and Innovation remains a key priority for the government and that they have positive impact on Canada’s economy. Importantly, while other sectors are being impacted by austerity measures and budget cuts, overall federal support for research and development was increased. The Canadian Society of Molecular Biosciences (CSMB) applauds the government’s continued commitment to build a world-class research and innovation culture that is essential for Canada’s long-term prosperity. However, the CSMB is concerned that the emphasis on applied research may erode Canada’s capacity for discovery-based research and as a consequence, its applications in future.
The CSMB was pleased to see that there was an additional $165 million for Genome Canada to support new competitions. Further, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) has been granted access to accrued interest on the foundations endowment which will allow them to invest $225 million into advanced research infrastructure. This is especially welcome news for academic researchers in light of the fact that equipment grants were terminated at the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) and that the size of the program was reduced at NSERC.
Importantly, the overall funding of the Tri-council granting agencies remained unchanged and did not experience substantial budget cuts seen for other agencies. Though there was an announced increase of $37 million, this compensates for planned cuts of the same amount and these newly announced funds are targeted to specific priorities. In the case of the $15 million per year new funding for NSERC, $12 million of that will be targeted to the College and Community Innovation Program. The $15 million received by CIHR are slated for the Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research. There was no increase for core research grants or trainee scholarships.
The biggest gains for research in the 2013 Economic Action Plan were for applied research and business innovation. This included $121 million over two years to align the research of the National Research Council with key business sectors; $20 million over three years to aid small and medium sized business with access to research and business development services at post-secondary institutions and significant changes to Canada’s Venture Capital system to promote innovation.
Though it is important for the Canadian economy that business-related Research and Development (R&D) is supported and that Canada creates an innovation-based entrepreneurial business environment that funds R&D, the CSMB is concerned that this is occurring at the expense of basic discovery research. “Blue-sky” research and training have a value as such in a knowledge-based society like ours, even though it may not appear to have immediate commercialization possibilities. In addition, “Blue-sky” research is known to provide the foundation for entire industries and to be the basis of novel therapeutics. Sufficient and stable funding of unfettered discovery research is therefore essential for Canada to maintain a healthy research enterprise, as well as sustain its longer-term competitiveness and future prosperity, and also to train the next generation of innovators.
The CSMB is committed to continue advocating for increased funding for discovery based research for Canadian researchers through both our own initiatives and our continued involvement with Research Canada.
What you can do? CSMB members are encouraged to write to the Prime Minister, their Member of Parliament and/or Cabinet Ministers to thank them for their support of the research enterprise in Canada with a short personal success story (discovery, invention, start-up company, successful trainee, etc.) showing the benefits of the continued investment in discovery research.