NSERC urges caution in creation of eMPOWR Canada

Guest Contributor
September 15, 2000

The eMPOWR Canada proposal is being received with a certain degree of ambivalence by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). The granting agency has historically been the sole funder of university-based research of disciplines underpinning the ICT sector, and it is concerned that a new organization will create new financial pressures for the organization and may place undue burden on researchers already scrambling to keep up with increasing amounts of paperwork.

"I'm sure our friends in the private sector wouldn't dream of creating duplication," says NSERC president Dr Tom Brzustowski, referring to eMPOWR's private sector backers. "If the initiative is ultimately funded and puts increased demands on NSERC, we'll need extra funding."

NSERC has estimated that just the microelectronics research component of the eMPOWR proposal, if funded, would create the need for an additional $65 million annually in NSERC funding. That amount has been included in its proposal to government to double its budget over the next four years to more than $1 billion.

Dr Doug Barber, co-chair of the eMPOWR task force, says the proposal doesn't totally fit with NSERC's vision of research funding, but he adds that all parties are working towards a workable compromise. "We have to ensure that the approach we take with government is to sing from the same song sheet," he says. "There are a huge number of players - 38 universities and 10 provinces - and they all have to deliver on this. Finding common ground takes time."

(NSERC's proposal to double its funding will be the subject of a future RE$EARCH MONEY article).


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