Global competitiveness is driven by innovation. Countries that demonstrate long-term commitment to science and technology - in good economic times and bad - will be the leaders of the New Economy. Canada has invested billions of dollars over the last decade to create a well-funded and cost-competitive research and development (R&D) environment that supports some of the best science in the world. "Our government is investing $9.7 billion annually in science and technology," says Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear. "Since 2006, we have increased our investments in this area by a total of $2.4 billion."
The knowledge generated by Canadian R&D during the past decade has gained international acclaim. "Several global reports rank Canada sixth in the world in the quantity and quality of its scientific publications, and in its production of the world's most important papers," says Eliot A. Phillipson, CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), a federal organization that funds scientific infrastructure.
As a result, Canada is now viewed as a destination of choice for many outstanding researchers. Since 2000, for example, the installation of the latest scientific equipment funded by CFI has facilitated the appointment of 8,000 new faculty members in Canadian institutions, 40 percent of whom came from other countries - creating a solid foundation for future groundbreaking discoveries.
NRC Leads the Way
The National Research Council (NRC), Canada's premier research organization, has a long history of making important scientific discoveries, such as its recent discovery and commercialization of the meningitis C vaccine by scientist Harry Jennings, Ph.D.
Canada's competitive edge in the global economy has been driven by the strategy and vision of NRC, which has established over 20 research institutes and national programs. Key areas of research are biotechnology, nanotechnology, information and communications technology (ICT), molecular sciences, aerospace, advanced manufacturing, ocean engineering, bioinformatics, alternative energy, and genomics.
NRC is especially effective in creating viable, long-term partnerships and alliances among universities, the private sector, and other countries. NRC works closely with the Canada Foundation of Innovation (CFI) to strengthen the research capacity of Canadian universities, research hospitals, and nonprofit research institutions. Since its creation in 1997, CFI has committed almost $4.5 billion in support of more than 6,000 projects at 129 research institutions.
Other important organizations are the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, which created the Networks of Centers of Excellence (NCE) in 1989 to advance R&D and commercialization of new technologies, products, and services.
"We have created the right environment for business and government investment," says Suzanne Fortier, chair for the NCE Steering Committee. "In an average year, our 19 NCEs leverage additional cash and in-kind contributions of almost $71 million from partners, create eight spinoff companies, file over 100 patents, and obtain nearly 50 licenses. Since 1989, 117 companies have spun off from NCE research."
Mobilizing Science and Technology
In 2007, the Canadian government launched a new national science and technology (S&T) strategy - Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada's Advantage - that focuses on facilitating private research and development and innovative, entrepreneurial thinking. This plan is also expected to increase enrollment in university science and engineering programs. Federal S&T funding is being channeled into several key sectors, including environmental, natural resources, energy, health/life sciences, and ICT.
Environmental technology. Canada's environment industry continues to expand, especially in Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Quebec, Vancouver, and Toronto. Key sectors include waste management and remediation, water and wastewater technologies, and renewable energy systems. Leading Canadian firms are Aker Kvaerner, Chemetics, Ecodyne, and Siemens Water Technology, which just launched a unique oil/water separation unit for the offshore oil and gas industry that incorporates several innovative methods for removing oil from wastewater streams.
Vancouver is also a robust alternative energies cluster where young companies are using solar, geothermal, wave, and biofuel energy sources in creative ways. Firms include DynaMotive Energy Systems, Xantrex Technology, and Ballard Power, a global leader in the design, development, and manufacture of hydrogen fuel cells.
Natural resources. The world depends on Canada's natural resources, especially its forests and mineral deposits. In 2007, mining contributed more than $42 billion to the Canadian GDP and $10 billion in tax revenue. Canada is rich in base and precious metals, uranium, diamonds, coal, mined oil sands, and industrial minerals. Its universities, research organizations, and mining companies are considered the best in the world for geologic, mining, and metallurgical research.
Forests make up nearly half of Canada's land mass. Canada is the world's leading producer and exporter of newsprint and wood pulp, with lumber and paper companies investing over $500 million every year in R&D. Research institutes include the Pulp and Paper Research Institute of Canada, which has developed several breakthrough technologies such as felt permeability tester, the fiber quality analyzer, and the BLOX sensor.
Energy. As one of the world's largest producers and exporters of natural gas and oil, Canada has developed an outstanding infrastructure of pipelines and processing systems. The country has 57.9 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves and continues to produce natural gas faster than it depletes its reserves.
Canada's 179 billion barrels of proven oil reserves makes it second only to Saudi Arabia. Over 95 percent of these reserves are in the sprawling oil sands deposits in Alberta, which are more challenging to extract and process than conventional crude oil. Scientists are continuing to research new ways to extract this heavy oil. For example, the Saskatchewan Research Council is constructing a new oil sands research laboratory with a 3-D scaled physical model for oil sands testing that will allow scientists to develop advanced thermal and solvent bitumen-extraction processes.
Canada is also a major producer of uranium, coal, and hydroelectricity. The ecoENERGY Technology Initiative is a $230 million investment in S&T by the federal government to accelerate the development of "green" technology solutions for energy processing. The initiative is part of ecoACTION, Canada's proactive plan for cleaner burning of fossil fuels, biofuels, and next-generation nuclear energy.
Life sciences. Major life science/biotech clusters are in Montréal, Toronto, and Ottawa. Montréal is particularly strong in bioinformatics and genomics development. Genome Canada, a federal organization, has spent more than $840 million in genomic and proteomic research. When combined with funding from other partners, about $1.6 billion has been invested in 131 innovative research projects and platforms.
Toronto's biotech cluster is close to the University of Toronto, research hospitals, and specialized institutions such as the Center for Cellular and Biomolecular Research. Recent discoveries by Toronto scientists include a new compound that halts Alzheimer's disease in mice and has been approved for human trials in the near future - a significant drug development breakthrough with worldwide implications. Ottawa and Toronto researchers also played roles in identifying new genes for colorectal cancer that can be used to predict higher risks of developing colorectal cancer. "This research will have global impact," says Brent Zanke, M.D., Ph.D., one of the researchers. "If people know they have an increased risk of developing colorectal cancer, they can make lifestyle changes and undergo physical screening tests more often and that may save lives."
ICT and Wireless
Nearly half of Canada's ICT production is located in Ontario - especially Waterloo, Greater Toronto, and Ottawa. Other clusters are in Vancouver, Winnipeg, and Montréal. Ottawa is Canada's biggest cluster for telecommunications/wireless and one of the top photonics clusters in the world. Over 100 companies conduct photonics R&D in Ottawa, including Nortel Networks, JDS Uniphase, and the NRC Canadian Photonics Fabrication Center. In January 2009, the federal government committed $22.3 million to building additional public-private partnerships as part of NRC's photonics cluster initiative.
The Waterloo region in Ontario, also known as Canada's Technology Triangle, has become a major player in the wireless industry. Waterloo-based RIM (Research In Motion) invented the Blackberry personal digital assistant, which has become the leading business communications tool around the world.
The world continues to look to Canada for science and technology leadership. Canada is working hard to create long-term, productive partnerships between all levels of government, academic and research organizations, and the private sector to streamline research and development - especially during the current recession.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada (DFAIT) helps to facilitate such partnerships, with 22 Canadian consulates in the United States and many others throughout the world. Its officers work with local Canadian companies and institutions in the sciences and technology to facilitate R&D, manufacturing, and financial partnerships, technology transfer, and institutional relationships. "Innovation and commercialization of Canadian scientific discoveries are vital to staying competitive during this global economic downturn and beyond," says Tony Clement, Canada's Industry Minister.
New federal programs, such as the Centers of Excellence for Commercialization and Research, will expedite the commercialization of new products and technologies to bring them to market faster. Improvements to the Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax credits should also stimulate more R&D in the private sector.
"The ongoing commitment of Canada to its S&T strategy will ensure that the investments in R&D will continue to yield important benefits for Canadians in the years ahead," says Phillipson.