There are likely more than a few people in the S&T community trying to make sense of the research and innovation initiatives contained in last week's federal Budget. While $1.3 billion in additional funding is welcome, we're left scratching our heads at the rationale behind many funding decisions, especially for new initiatives.
The Centres of Excellence in Commercialization Research Program (CECRP) and Business-Led Networks of Centres of Excellence are the most obvious examples. New programs tend to reflect a policy advance or shift. But with only the slimmest of explanation, the intent of these programs, and their basis in sound policy, remain elusive.
It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Conservative's S&T Strategy was almost certainly slated for release before or with the Budget, as evidenced by the large "S&T Strategy" sign posted in the Budget lock-up. The document presumably would have offered some context for why the government, for example, is picking the first seven centres to be considered under the CECRP.
This government isn't the first to roll out programs before it explains the policy. Ontario announced and funded several of its new S&T programs before the strategy paper caught up with them. Such a procedure only results in obfuscation and squandered publicity, creating an impression that the new initiatives haven't been fully conceived before their launch.
The intent of the new federal programs will become clear in time. But employing such an ass-backwards approach to new programs suggests that innovation isn't being given the attention it deserves.