Alberta invests in foundations of innovation with major funding for education and health

Guest Contributor
March 31, 2006

The apparent lack of specific R&D or innovation measures in the Alberta Budget disguises a host of measures in which research and innovation are inextricably linked. Royalties from surging energy prices have permitted major infusions of funding into the health and education systems that include research components, while many S&T initiatives are taking shape outside of the budgetary process. Add to that the lowest corporate and personal tax rates in the country, and the evidence of an emerging new innovation player is inescapable.

"There's research and innovation buried all over the place," says Dr Bob Fessenden, DM of the Alberta Minister of Innovation and Science (MIS). "I'm very comfortable that the innovation agenda is very high on the radar and is being supported."

That support includes $500 million to establish the Alberta Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund. Budget documents indicate that $25 million will be withdrawn from the Fund annually to finance the development of a virtual cancer research institute to coordinate research and expand the province's cancer screening program.

In education, Budget 06 provides a $353-million increase to the operating budget of the Minister of Advanced Education, with $61 million devoted to creating new spaces and expand apprenticeship training capacity. The government's aim is to create 12,000 new post-secondary spaces by FY08-09. Although it's not clear how much of that funding will flow through to the graduate level, it underscores the commitment to post-secondary education that seems sorely lacking in Quebec (see story below).

The new funding will also allow the government to cover tuition freezes at all public post-secondary institutions at a cost of $87 million, while $61 million will be used to cover higher institutional operating costs.

In the lead-up to the Budget, the government announced several new initiatives. These include a new Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Institute that will interact with the existing institutes of agriculture, forestry and health. The life sciences and energy institutes received $5 million in the budget to support innovation-related projects. The government also used $30 million in year-end money to fund the Innovation Value-Added Corp. It will be incubated by the existing Agriculture Value Added Corp and focus on assisting life sciences and ICT companies.

Technology commercialization received $2 million to foster better interaction between industry and universities, while the Alberta Research Council received an effective $1.3 million increase to its base budget.


Alberta Budget
S&T & innovation Initiatives

$ millions
Cancer Prevention Legacy Fund500.0   
Life Sciences & Energy5.0   
Alberta Research Council2.0   
Technology Commercialization2.0   

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