Canada Foundation for Innovation to examine revamping of mandate following $900 million grant for Phase II

Guest Contributor
March 17, 2000

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CF) is about to embark on a thorough re-examination of its program delivery to determine how it can best contribute to Canada's branding as an internationally competitive player in the science and technology arena. The decision to consult broadly on how it can improve on programming, criteria and collaboration comes in the wake of last month's Budget announcement of $900 million in additional funding to permit a second phase of the national research infrastructure program until 2005.

The Budget followedS MTHE past practice of funding the CFI with year-end money, allowing for three more major competitions following the final Phase I competition slated for 2001. Phase I funding was secured with year-end money in the 1997 and 1999 Budgets with grants of $800 million and $200 million respectively, bringing the total funding of the organization to $1.9 billion. Once the CFI's 1:2.5 leverage muscle and interest on its investment instruments is factored in, it will have an impact of $5.5 billion over the life of both phases.

Year-end funding was a striking feature of this year's Budget, with Genome Canada (see page 3), the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences and the Sustainable Technology Development Fund also benefiting from the federal surplus. The latter two endowments will be examined in the next issue of RE$EARCH MONEY.

"If we're going to spend another $900 million, we need to re-think our overall programs and whether they are really branding Canada as internationally competitive with recognition like Silicon Valley and Route 128," says Dr David Strangway, the CFI's president and former president of the Univ of British Columbia). "We need to brand Canada as an S&T player globally (and) one of our criteria is our contribution to Canada."

The Phase II funding also comes with a new component to allow for funding of research infrastructure associated with the Canada Research Chairs (CRC) program (see page 6). Approximately $200 million will be set aside for this purpose. In the meantime, approximately $60 million from Phase I funding reserves will be allocated through the CFI's New Opportunities Program, which supports new faculty with equipment and other necessary infrastructure. A new funding agreement for Phase II between the CFI and the government is pending.

"This provides an opportunity to apply for the capital component when applying for the research chairs program," says Strangway, adding that the CRC is still not well understood and likely won't be until the Cabinet approves the final terms and conditions. "The tie-in with the research chairs has been quite explicit in our dialogue with government."

Another $100 million from Phase II will be applied to international joint ventures to construct facilities in Canada and elsewhere. Collaboration with Hong Kong in the area of information technology and biotechnology with the UK are cited as two possible examples, but it will take at least six months of consultation with the Canadian S&T community before a clear picture of the program emerges.

The CFI is also formulating policy on how to deal with recurring needs associated with the research infrastructure it has already put in place. The fast pace of obsolescence means much of the infrastructure must be replaced if Canada's increased research capacity is to be maintained.

Another issue requiring extensive examination is the impact of CFI support on operating costs associated with research. While not within the CFI mandate, operating costs are escalating as a result of its activity, placing pressure on provincial governments to boost their support or face a massive shortfall in skilled personnel.


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