Release of new science and technology strategy unlikely before early 2007

Guest Contributor
October 4, 2006

Delay buys government more time

The Harper government's eagerly anticipated S&T strategy likely won't be completed until early in 2007, dashing hopes that it would be unveiled and acted upon in the coming weeks. A September 13th Industry Canada discussion paper obtained by RE$EARCH MONEY indicates that consultations are planned "over the coming months" before specific proposals are developed for inclusion in the 2007 Budget. The current plan is to consult on the S&T content outlined in the Economic and Fiscal Update, scheduled for early November.

Since the S&T review and strategy was announced in the April/06 Budget, strong signals were sent out that the strategy would be fast-tracked for release this fall. However, Industry Canada has confirmed that it has the flexibility to take one year to formulate the strategy, as indicated in the 2006 Budget Plan document, Focusing on Priorities.

The department also acknowledged that the S&T strategy will be a component of a larger economic package, reportedly aimed at enhancing productivity and prosperity. In an email exchange with RE$EARCH MONEY, Iain Stewart, DG, policy, science and innovation sector at Industry Canada, said the objectives of the strategy are to improve business investment in R&D, maintain Canada's leading edge in the global competition for ideas and talent and maximize the return on federal investments in S&T.

"At present, we are considering an outline of the general policy direction for S&T in the context of the government's broader economic agenda," says Stewart.

An examination of the S&T Discussion Paper reveals that Industry Canada has yet to reveal any specific policy or programmatic decisions on S&T. The strategy is a collaborative effort between the Industry and Finance departments. Insiders say there are outstanding issues between the two departments that could explain the decision to move back the strategy's release

Rather than make recommendations, the discussion paper ends each section with a question, presumably to stimulate discussion amongst stakeholders. The document is organized around the themes of talent, knowledge and application of knowledge (see chart) and contains plenty of fodder for those prone to reading the tea leaves.

The paper reinforces a declaration in the last Budget that arm's length agencies such as the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) are important policy instruments. It singles out the CFI as an organization with an "excellent track record" and highlights CANARIE's CAnet 4 research network. The latter is described as am agency that enables Canadian researchers to develop next-generation products and services and participate on the world stage and notes that both the CFI and CANARIE "face immediate funding pressures". Perhaps not coincidentally, the CFI and CANARIE have memoranda to Cabinet containing funding requests of $2 billion and $120 million respectively.

The input of several organizations is also noted, in particular the recently released report on Canada's S&T capacity and areas of opportunity by the Council of Canadian Academies. Contributions from the Advisory Council on S&T, Council of S&T Advisors, Telecommunications Policy Review Panel, Conference Board of Canada and Expert Panel on Commercialization (the Rotman Report) are also acknowledged.

Given the extensive exercise undertaken by the previous government that led to the incomplete innovation agenda, there isn't much that is new in the current discussion paper. Yet there are some indications that major changes are in the offing. In addition to the discussions paper's role in guiding future S&T investment and policy choices, the paper states that the government "will revitalize and strengthen its external advisory bodies". The intent is to "ensure that leaders from the business and academic sectors have meaningful, ongoing opportunities to work with government in charting the way ahead". While the paper is mute on what actions may be taken, there are echoes of a key recommendation made by the Rotman report. It urged the government to establish an industry-dominated Commercialization Partnership Board to eliminate the disconnect between those who make commercialization happen and government efforts to encourage it (R$, April 27 & June 22/06).


The absence of concrete measures in the discussion paper is not surprising. But the degree to which the Harper government is controlling the flow of information regarding its intentions for S&T and innovation is unprecedented. Many S&T organizations and agencies are unable to clarify their future funding prospects, even though their mandates are about to expire.

Whether that reflects dissension amongst the bureaucracy is the focus of considerable debate and recent changes within Industry Canada's science and innovation sector have added fuel to the fire. On September 18th, Mary Carman, ADM for science and innovation, was shifted to the operations sector, while Guy Bujold was relocated from operations to head up science and innovation. Some insiders say the move was prompted by dissatisfaction with Carman's performance. But a shuffle at a critical stage in the budgetary process has been disconcerting for those who were in advanced discussions with the department.

In addition, Iain Stewart was handed enhanced responsibilities, moving from DG innovation policy to DG policy, science and innovation sector. Stewart is considered the lead person on the S&T review and strategy, and his promotion solidifies that role.

The science and innovation sector has also been bolstered with the arrival of Carmen Charette, a CFI veteran executive. Charette assumes the position of executive director external relations (see page 7 for details).




  • Challenge is to increase demand for talent
  • Coordinate efforts to promote culture of S&T and entrepreneurship
  • Time to coordinate S&T initiatives and clarify their objectives


  • Place research infrastructure funding on a sustainable footing
  • Canada Foundation for Innovation and Canarie's CAnet4 face "immediate funding pressures"

Application of Knowledge

  • Sectors that contribute a large share of GDP (Resource extraction, services, automotive, etc) underinvest in R&D and are "the primary cause of concern"
  • Venture capital industry wants removal of tax-related barriers it says limit inbound investment
  • Absence of dedicated funding vehicle for major science investments hamper government's ability to support partnerships
  • Increasing pace and complexity of S&T means governments must work in concert with other players to deliver on their mandates
  • Strengthen SR&ED tax incentive program to encourage incremental business R&D investment

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