The Ontario S&T community had better brace itself for some major changes to the publicly funded mechanisms it has grown to rely upon. The recent provincial Budget follows the federal lead by essentially holding off on any major new initiatives while it examines the portfolio of programs it inherited from the previous administration.
Two modest commercialization programs were introduced to provide some indication of how Dalton McGuinty’s Liberals plan to proceed. In the meantime, a thorough review is underway and all eyes are on the flagship Ontario R&D Challenge Fund (CF). Once justifiably promoted as a key driver of provincial research and innovation, the CF fell from view once it was outsourced to a private management firm. Then came the provincial auditor’s report which blasted its administration for lack of accountability and reporting (R$, December 11/03).
An early casualty of the change in government is a major $1-million award for research excellence (see page 3). Many consider the move ill-advised, as its termination appears to be politically motivated. The Liberal regime should ensure that changes to innovation policy and programs are based on solid, verifiable facts and strong policy.
Anyone seeking an example of how NOT to change provincial innovation policy need look no further than British Columbia (see page 4). Its Liberal government cut first then sought to rebuild. It is now finding the task much more daunting than it counted on, as many experienced employees have left the system. Ontario should take heed and act accordingly.