2012 Federal Budget provides welcome support to academic-private sector partnerships, scales back on discovery research investments

Ottawa – The federal budget announced today advances innovation and provides a plethora of incentives for private sector investments in R&D as a major step towards the nation’s economic growth and prosperity.  While Research Canada praises the federal government’s support for creating value-added jobs through these investments, it cautions that the success of Canada’s innovation system over the long-term is highly dependent on the investments made today in discovery research in health sciences.
“The best news in this Budget is the government’s commitment to a new approach to supporting innovation that focuses resources on private sector needs; namely the $400 million to help increase private sector investments in early-stage risk capital. The creation of large scale venture capital funds led by the private sector is also welcome,” said Mr. Jacques Hendlisz, Research Canada’s Chair and Director of Operations at the Goodman Cancer Research Centre, McGill University.
Research Canada is also pleased with the investment of $15 million per year to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) for its Strategy for Patient-Oriented Research (SPOR). “Canadians will see direct benefits from investments in SPOR because it proposes a national and multi-sectoral partnership (the provinces, the private sector, the academic sector, health charities and health professionals) aimed at moving research advances into the real world of health care and the economy,” added Mr. Hendlisz. On the same theme, Research Canada is very pleased for one of its highly valued member organizations—McMaster University—which  will receive $6.5 million over three years for a health research project focused on evaluating ways to achieve better health outcomes for patients while also making the health care system more cost effective through greater implementation of medical teams.
Research Canada also applauds the support to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council [$15 million per year] for its Strategy for Partnerships and Innovation; to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council [$7 million per year] for its industry-academic partnership initiatives; to Genome Canada [$60 million] and for mental health research. All of these investments promise improvement to the lives of Canadians.
At the same time, Budget 2012 provides no relief for the thinly stretched Tri-Council funding for discovery research. “It is the strength of Canada’s discovery research enterprise that has and will continue to attract the private sector,” said Dr. Michael Julius, Research Canada’s Past Chair and Vice-President of Research at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. “Research Canada underscores the need for the federal government to support the entire cycle of R&D, from discovery, through to product development and commercialization, to the market place and into health-care settings. Especially in times of fiscal constraint we need to be ever vigilant that investments are made in a balanced fashion across the continuum of these activities. If we jeopardize the discovery engine, the innovation system is at risk,” he added.
Research Canada supports Economic Action Plan 2012’s proposal for $500 million over five years to support advanced research infrastructure through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) which is essential to a vibrant research enterprise in Canada.  “At the same time, Research Canada remains cautious because we have to be able to afford supporting that infrastructure once it is built,” said Ms. Deborah Gordon-El-Bihbety, President and CEO of Research Canada.  “Budget 2012 does not contemplate the full costs of research, which is essential for sustaining our research infrastructure.”