Government faith in biotechnology’s ability to deliver in a knowledge-based economy continues unabated. New Statistics Canada data show that federal investments in biotech R&D are accelerating and reached $513 million in FY01-02, while the Quebec government has expanded its menu of support.
At the federal level, the National Research Council, Canadian Institutes of Health Research, Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, Genome Canada and line departments pushed the total up nearly 30% from the year before (see page 4). Biotech clearly comprises an integral part of Ottawa’s overall strategy for the future — a strategy that needs to be spelled out with the release of its Innovation Strategy action paper.
In Quebec, a pre-election Budget supports biotechnology on several fronts. The most prominent item is a new venture capital fund that throws a financial lifeline to many small companies pushed to the brink by a hostile investment climate. Add to that the extension of a loan program and the expansion of the National Optics Institute into biophotonics and the status of biotech as a key component of its science and innovation is assured (see page 1).
There is risk in all of this, of course. The need for investment is growing at a time when the financial community is blowing cold on biotech. And competing nations are also hoping that biotech will play a similarly positive role in their economic development. It’s a high stakes game, but Canada is playing from a position of strength. Targeted public investment to push the sector forward makes for sound science and economic policy.