Basic research drives REAL innovation and job growth.
Under the former federal government, Canada’s science and technology strategy undermined our ability to meet our full potential.
Universities and colleges were made to collaborate with industry on scientific research on the unproven assumption such partnerships would:
- increase business investment in R&D
- promote commercial innovation
- increase economic growth and jobs
- This approach FAILED.
Data from Statistics Canada reveal:
- Business investment in R&D decreased drastically, from $17 to $14 billion between 2006 and 2013 (-17.7%), after inflation
- Total investment in R&D in Canada was $27.7 billion in 2013 while they were $30 billion in 2006 (-7.7%), after inflation
- Investments made by the federal government in government research was down by 6.1% since 2007, after inflation
- About 4,000 government scientists were let go due to cuts made under the previous government
- Canada's gross domestic expenditures on research and development (GERD) fell from $34.5 billion in 2014 to $33.9 billion in 2015. Intentions for 2016 show that gross domestic expenditures are anticipated to remain virtually unchanged from 2015 estimates.
The success rate for NSERC’s Discovery Grants fell from 71% in 2008 to 65% in 2015. The success rate for SSHRC’s standard research grant, now called the Insight Grant, dropped from 40% in 2006 to just 23% in 2014. For CIHR, the percentage of successful applicants was 18% in 2014, down from 31% in 2009.
What do we want?
We know how to reverse this decline and bring Canada back as a leader in fundamental science and research!
The final report of the Advisory Panel on Federal Support for Fundamental Science was released last April. It explains clearly how we can Get Science Right once again:
- Increase annual spending by $1.3 billion in 4 years for investigator-led research and science
- Allocate new funds across the granting councils in a more balanced way to ensure more opportunities for scholars in the social sciences and humanities
- Support Indigenous researchers and improve equity and diversity in federal research programs
- Create a new National Advisory Council on Research and Innovation (NACRI) to provide broad oversight of federal research programs, and to develop and harmonize funding strategies across the agencies
- Improve oversight and governance of the granting agencies.
As the report notes: Canadian gross domestic expenditure on R&D from all sources relative to GDP (GERD intensity) has been declining slowly over the last 15 years, as contrasted with our G7 peers and key east Asian nations.
We’ve seen the impact of over a decade of underfunding.
The narrowing focus on commercialization removed the creativity and unexpected results key to discovery-driven research and innovation, and distorted the focus of scientific investigation.
Last year, a UBC survey of more than 400 Canadian health scientists revealed that 70 per cent were scaling back their research, and more than a third of scientists at various stages of their careers were considering leaving research altogether.
Discovery-driven research was the source of many key unanticipated innovations such as X-rays, nylon, Teflon, GPS technology, informatics, superconductivity and medical imaging.
Restoring robust funding for basic, non-targeted research is imperative so Canada can regain its competitive edge. Strong public investment in discovery-driven research coupled with private investments in market-driven innovations will create social, economic and environmental outcomes that benefit everyone.