Developing a Solid Science Policy: Keynote Presentation at the Canadian Science Policy Conference

Here is the full transcript of the of keynote address, presented by the Minister of State (Science and Technology) Gary Goodyear to delegates at the inaugural Canadian Science Policy Conference being held October 28th – 30th in Toronto.

Good morning everybody. Bonjour Mesdames et messieurs.
It’s a great pleasure for me to be here and speak to a diverse group such as this, a range of people that can help in fact explore the relationships between science, government and Canadian society. This is a very exciting day for me to be here, partly because I get to speak to all of you but also it’s the first anniversary of my appointment as Minister of State for Science and Technology. Wow, does a year fly.
I want to use this opportunity if I can to reaffirm how honoured I am to serve in this portfolio. It’s a privilege to represent the interests of people like you who are committed to our country’s scientific research and excellence.
This inaugural Canadian Science Policy Conference represents an important step towards creating a national science policy network. It’s a meeting of people from diverse areas and backgrounds, governments of course, business, academia and the not for profit sector who understand science and technology policy issues.
That means we can all enjoy all sorts and quite a variety of discussions here today about how S&T policy comes together. This is also a groundbreaking event. We are here in part to prepare the road for the next generation of researchers and innovators. We do so in the expectation that they will continue to uphold Canada’s tradition of scientific excellence.
From Sir Sanford Fleming, the father of standard time, to Abraham Gesner, who discovered kerosene and whose finding led to the modern day petroleum industry, Canadians have made discoveries and introduced products that have changed the lives of people around the world.
In fact just 89 years ago Frederick Banting at that time a young Ontario orthopedic surgeon was preparing for a lecture when his attention was drawn to another scientific scholarly article. The findings described in that article would spark Banting’s exceptional mind to co-discover insulin. Canada’s legacy of scientific success continued this year when Dr. Willard Boyle won the Nobel Prize in physics for his groundbreaking work on digital camera sensors. For almost a century and a half now Canadian curiosity based research has resulted in discoveries that have benefited human kind.
Let me just take a moment please to acknowledge that this week in this very city Canada once more took its place on the stage of global medical research with the presentation of the 2009 Gardiner Awards. Biomedical researchers around the world consider the Gardiner Foundation honours to be among the most illustrious achievements in the world. All of us in this room should seize on these examples and do more than merely exchange our views.
We have an important opportunity to identify current Canadian science policies and look to the future. We need to, in fact we need you to work with us to figure out how those issues might involved and contribute to the betterment ofour country. Of course that’s one of the aims of this conference. It was meant not only to start building a national science policy network but to underline the importance of integrating scientific and technological research into the wider Canadian society.
This in fact is the objective behind the Conservative government’s strategy. This is what we’ve been after since the very beginning. In fact back in 2007 Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched our Science and Technology Strategy and we renewed that objective when we published our progress report on that strategy earlier this year.
Let me speak about the strategy for just a second. Since it was launched we have underlined the importance of having Canadians better understand the way science, technology and innovation increasingly drive our economy and improve the quality of life for all Canadians. This strategy asserts the widely held belief that a strong science and technology culture would encourage the next generation to pursue knowledge based careers and business opportunities.
Conferences like this are the integral part of our strategy where there is an opportunity to have meaningful and diverse dialogue between the many players involved in the science and technology system. After all, I see science and science policy making as a two way street. Government helps define the framework and the environment within which scientists and researchers can achieve excellence.
In turn scientists and academics assist in guiding the government in their decisions. This must be a healthy symbiotic relationship. Let’s go over the government’s role a little bit. The Conservative government has always understood the importance of science and technology in the building of an internationally competitive nation. We have implement measures to turn our strategy and innovation into the best country within which to do business and so research.
For example, did you know that federal spending on science and technology has increased every single year? At every opportunity our government has increased S&T funding. In fact in 2007-08 we increased … the number went to $10.2 billion. According to the latest figures only a couple of weeks ago, spending on S&T is expected to reach $10.7 billion in 09/10 fiscal year.
In fact since 2006 the government has allocated more than $7 billion in new money for scientific and technological innovations and initiatives through major ongoing multi year investments. All this while we faced a massive global economic downturn, a downturn that in the past has forced governments to cut science and technology spending
With budget 2009 itself represented the largest single investment in S&T in the history of this nation with over $5 billion in new investment. Now this year’s Economic Action Plan invested heavily in sectors where much research and development takes place. The goal of course was to create jobs in the short term, to stimulate the economy but not be derailed from our strategy.
We introduced the $2 billion infrastructure program for improving the infrastructure at Canadian post secondary educational institutions working directly to deliver the funding. We also put $200 million into the Industrial Research Assistance Program. This was to help businesses become more innovative and small and medium sized enterprises to compete better with the world.
The Action Plan built on strategies laid out by our government’s science and technology commitment. Now besides infrastructure and buildings and business research, in budgets 2006, 2007 and 2008 the federal government significantly increased its financial support of our granting councils, the Canadian Institute of Health Research, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Council.
We increased all of these between 13% and 28%. What’s important is that these increases are cumulative, they’re permanent and they’re ongoing. We didn’t stop there. In fact we went further into our People Advantage which is part of our strategy. In 2008 we created the Vanier Graduate Scholarships Program. This is designed to attract and retain the world’s very best minds, world class doctoral students to come to Canada.
Ladies and gentlemen, we now have way over 7,000 different scholarships, the Canada Research Chairs and it goes on and on. The government also moved to strengthen partnerships – this is very important – partnerships between public, academic and private sectors through initiatives such as the Networks of Centres of Excellence, the Business Led Network of Centres of Excellence and the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research.
You can see the government’s commitment to science and research did not begin this year and it will not end this year, nor is it just one thing. It is a multi faceted, multi year plan. It’s buildings, it’s equipment for those buildings, it’s people to work on that equipment; it’s new discoveries. We have no idea what they will be. It is in fact products, new markets, jobs and a better quality of life.
Our 2009 Science and Tech Strategy Report made it very clear that significant investments in science, technology and basic discovery oriented research will continue and must continue. Within the realities of the global and national economy Canada is and will remain among the very best countries in the world for scientists and researchers to pursue their discoveries.
At the same time we are improving our capacity to make their innovations available to the markets here at home and around the world. A business environment that encourages innovation starts with an economic framework that supports investments, rewards success and reduces unnecessary red tape that can actually frustrate the business initiatives.
Of course that is exactly why we have reduced taxes for businesses and people. It’s why we have the shred credits and the capital cost allowances for businesses, all of this to enhance and encourage businesses to do more in science and technology research and development. By encouraging entrepreneurs, ladies and gentlemen, businesses to innovate and to market their products to the world, the government can maximize benefits from its investments in science, technology, skills and research.
What I have told you up until now covers a significant part of the S&T picture as I see it but that’s not all. At this point I want to go just a little bit beyond our fiscal steps that the government has taken to bolster the country’s S&T infrastructure. I want to look at the environment for science based work, the attitudes and practices put in play by academics, by scientists and business people to achieve the goals of better research and development.
I want to talk to you about how I see the government’s role in improving Canada’s capacity for innovation. There is no getting around the fact that this Economic Action Plan in 2009 did in fact focus on economic stimulus. The government had to respond to the needs of Canadians at a time of global economic recession and crisis. We did that without being derailed from the very important goal in the science and technology strategy.
I hope you will agree that the steps that we have taken and that I have described are by any stretch of the imagination very encouraging moves. Let me address some findings in two recent articles as they relate to S&T in Canada, These findings suggest innovation is lagging in Canada and especially in Candia’s business sector.
This is not new. I read the reports this year, last year and 13, 15 years ago. This is a decades old problem. That by itself should sound a wake up call for all of us, not only politicians, but researchers, academics, business people, anyone concerned with science and technology in this country.
I want to briefly share with you the results of those reports put into context and tell you how the government sees things. One report was produced this year by a panel from the Council of Canadian Academics. It was called “Innovation in Business Strategy: Why Canada Falls Short”. The Council’s report asserted that the future of Canadian productivity is tied directly to the capacity of this community to innovate and to use innovation as a competitive strategy.
The report concluded that more must be done on the innovation front. This is what the report said. “Canada has a serious productivity growth problem.” It called the statistical evidence to support that claim unambiguous, that’s a quote, and said Canadians should be concerned about competition from abroad.
As your government we are seized with this message. This is of great concern to us. Perhaps the most significant trend the CCA report identified looked at global competition, especially from rapidly emerging economies, in countries such as Brazil, India and China. Such competition is creating growing challenges for countries like Canada.
What this report tells me and it should tell you as well that all sectors of the science and technology within Canada’s economy must be at their very best. They must be at the top of their game, capitalizing on our research, commercial and development and of course wealth creation. This has become a gold medal game.
Reports such as the CCA make it very easy to understand that science and technology research and development plays a major role, in fact is a necessary precursor to innovation and better competitiveness ratios. That truth, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly the backbone of the government’s Science and Technology Strategy. Through our S&T Strategy we are working with the private sector to increase the amount of innovation put into play.
There’s a second report I’d like to reference and this is from the Science, Technology and Innovation Council or STIC. The STIC State of the Nation Report looked at Canada’s performance as an innovative nation on the basis of more than 50 international and domestic standards of excellence.
Those standards included research intensity, commercialization rates, quality of research and workforce skills. The report actually indicated that we’re doing well. In fact it indicated and I’m pleased to say that we’re improving. The problem is other countries are improving as well and in many cases at a faster rate. While Canada has an existing foundation of scientific and technological excellence, the STIC report concluded Canadian companies must do better by investing more in research and development.
The reports are challenging. They’re challenging all of us to set our ambitions higher and to build on a solid reputation that we already have. In that spirit we continue to implement many initiatives under the S&T Strategy and we will continue to do our part. Businesses, universities, provincial governments are also investing in Canada’s future through S&T development but let’s be frank. The private sector must do research, they must do more development and they must be more innovative.
We are either becoming more competitive or we won’t be competitive. I say this while at the same time acknowledging that there is work underway to curb this country’s innovation shortfall. From a government perspective we want to continue the dialogue about how to improve our collective economic outlook, how we can work with you, how we can help you, how you can help us help you.
I want each and every stakeholder in the development of the national science and policy network to know that they have, that you have, that we all have a very important seat at this table. The federal government already provides many organizations access to Ministers and senior department officials. For the most part I’m available almost all of the time. I may not return your phone call that exact day but I promise I will get back to you.
The need to engage with stakeholders, ladies and gentlemen, not only all of you in this room but many Canadians all across this country remains absolutely paramount for this government. It is an important aspect that we do in consulting with you so that we can put in place the policies, the initiatives, the frameworks that will help you.
As the world emerges from this latest economic recession countries that can create knowledge based economies and innovate accordingly will succeed. Innovation emanating from science and technology will increasingly supply the jobs of the future. Attracting such jobs will require a long term vision from governments, from businesses, from business leaders, from academics, from universities and colleges alike.
That is why we are here this week, to collaborate in developing a solid Science and Technology policy framework, a vision if you will for Canada that we can all understand, all embrace and all rally around. Thank you very much for having me today. It’s been a great pleasure being here.

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