Budget 2018 Provides $3.2 Billion for Science, No Specific Funds for New Space Projects

Budget 2018. Credit: Government of Canada.

Surprising most people, the government unveiled $21.5 billion in new spending, more than anticipated for Budget 2018. This includes and significantly, $3.2 billion for science funding and a total of $6.4 billion for what the chapter in the budget calls Progress.

To answer the question many will have, is there funding for the space program? Yes and no.

There were two specific mentions of projects that relate to space. They are;

  1. Budget 2018 proposes funding of $100 million over five years for the Strategic Innovation Fund, with a particular focus on supporting projects that relate to LEO satellites and next generation rural broadband. One beneficiary of this funding could be Telesat.
  2. SNOLAB which conducts research in a wide variety of areas including fundamental science questions related to the universe, will see increased funding though the Canada Foundation for Innovation Major Science Initiatives Fund. That fund will see an increase of $160 million.

If you were expecting funding for major new space projects, you’re out of luck. That does not mean that in the coming months, when Canada’s new space strategy is expected to be announced, there won’t be any funding.

The budget has $6.4 billion allocated to the chapter called Progress which includes;

  • 2.1 Investing in Canadian Scientists and Researchers ($3.234B)
  • 2.2 Stronger and More Collaborative Federal Science ($627M)
  • 2.3 Innovation and Skills Plan—A More Client-Focused Federal Partner for Business ($2.574B)

Some of those funds will be spent on the space program. In particular, as previously announced, in order to improve the procurement process, the government created Innovative Solutions Canada last year. According to the government that “initiative modelled on the very successful U.S. Small Business Innovation Research program.”

Note that the government is planning on consolidating the Build in Canada Innovation Program and Innovative Solutions Canada into one program, Innovative Solutions Canada, and will establish a new electronic procurement platform.

At the recent Canadian SmallSat Symposium, Robert Smith, executive director of Innovative Solutions Canada spoke of the program. An RFP was also unveiled that week and includes challenges sponsored by the Canadian Space Agency for the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and big data analytics.

Another initiative short on details is a plan to modernize the Canada’s regulatory frameworks. “Budget 2018 proposes to provide $11.5 million over three years, starting in 2018–19, for the Government to pursue a regulatory reform agenda focused on supporting innovation and business investment.” Included for a review in the next three years is “transportation and infrastructure, including emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles.” There was no mention of the Remote Sensing Space Systems Act which should not come as surprise as Global Affairs Canada is still conducting a review of the independent study.

The government is also proposing a new Intellectual Property Strategy and is proposing allocating $30 million in 2019–20 to pilot a Patent Collective. A Patent Collective “is a way for firms to share, generate, and license or purchase intellectual property. The collective approach is intended to help Canadian firms ensure a global ‘freedom to operate’, mitigate the risk of infringing a patent, and aid in the defence of a patent infringement suit.”

Lastly there is $14 million allocated for Innovation Canada – Accelerated Growth Service over the next five years.

Here are some of the Progress chapter highlights;

  • $354.7 million over five years ($90.1 million per year ongoing) to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).
  • Budget 2018 proposes a new investment of $210 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, with $50 million per year ongoing, for the Canada Research Chairs Program.
  • $763 million over five years, starting in 2018–19, to provide the tools researchers need. This includes $160 million for increased support to Canada’s nationally important research facilities through the Foundation’s Major Science Initiatives Fund. The Government also proposes to establish permanent funding at an ongoing level of $462 million per year by 2023–24 for research tools and infrastructure supported through the Canada Foundation for Innovation.
  • The Government proposes to provide $572.5 million over five years, with $52 million per year ongoing, to implement a Digital Research Infrastructure Strategy that will deliver more open and equitable access to advanced computing and big data resources to researchers across Canada.
  • The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council will consolidate the Engage Grants, Industrial Research Chairs, Connect Grants, Strategic Partnership Grants for Networks and Projects, and Experience Awards Grants into a single Collaborative Research and Development Grant program.
  • Institute for Quantum Computing: This world-leading Canadian research facility focuses on the development of new quantum technologies. The Government proposes to provide the Institute with renewed funding of $15 million over three years, starting in 2019–20, to continue to undertake high-calibre quantum research.
  • To catalyze transformative, high-risk, high-reward research with the potential for game-changing scientific discoveries and technological breakthroughs, the Government proposes to provide $150 million over five years with $30 million per year ongoing, to the National Research Council to fund its scientists to work with innovators from post-secondary institutions and businesses on multi-party research and development programs. This research will be modelled on the highly successful Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in the United States.
  • To allow for better long-term research planning and delivery, the Government will convert the National Research Council’s longstanding temporary funding into ongoing permanent funding by providing $298 million over five years and $59.6 million per year ongoing. Total funding proposed under Budget 2018 will raise the National Research Council’s total annual budget to $1.1 billion.
  • Budget 2018 proposes to provide $105 million over five years to the regional development agencies to support investments in women-led businesses, helping them scale and grow, as well as to support regional innovation ecosystems, including incubators and accelerators, and other third-party programs supporting mentorship, networking and skills development.
Science funding in Budget 2018
Science funding in Budget 2018. Credit: Government of Canada.

Budget Conclusion

If you’re a scientist, the government apparently was listening, as this budget is big on science. For the space community looking for new space programs, you’ll have to be patient a while longer to see if Minister Bains will Champion the Space Program this year.

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

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