Is Canada about to jump on to the advanced manufacturing band wagon? It appears so, although the nature of the announcement and lack of detail raise speculation that it could be more pre-election politics than smart policy. In a widely covered event last week, prime minister Stephen Harper visited a National Research Council laboratory in London before swinging over to Western Univ to announce a new Factory of the Future program.
The program is to be funded from a $380-million portion of a new tranche of infrastructure funding and NRC is going to be heavily involved. Beyond that, the Prime Minister's Office is promising a detailed breakdown of the program in the weeks ahead.
Regardless of the announcement's timing and the paucity of details, the new program is most welcome, and long overdue. The US has been an aggressive and early advocate for advanced manufacturing to maintain that country's technological and innovation supremacy.
In Canada, the term only began to filter into the national S&T lexicon this year and recognition of its importance by the PM serves as a call to action on many fronts – from research labs to the offices of policy and decision makers.
As a mechanism for coordinating and leveraging Canada's research base, advanced manufacturing is a powerful catch-all term for exploiting science for economic gain. Developing a manufacturing base utilizing cutting-edge S&T is a critical advance in realizing the productivity gains and competitiveness Canada sorely needs as globalization heats up.