Yesterday UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak announced the creation of four new departments including the new Department for Science, Innovation and Technology. Should Canada follow suit?
In the press release announcing the new UK Department for Science, Innovation and Technology the government stated that the new department “will drive the innovation that will deliver improved public services, create new and better-paid jobs and grow the economy. Having a single department focussed on turning scientific and technical innovations into practical, applicable solutions to the challenges we face will help make sure the UK is the most innovative economy in the world.”
Along with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology, the UK announced a “combined” Department for Business and Trade, a “re-focused” Department for Culture, Media and Sport and the creation of the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero.
Relevant to the creation of the new departments is the break up of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy and the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.
In the Canadian context, the UK shuffle would be in part akin to breaking up parts of the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED). That department currently has four ministers including François-Philippe Champagne as the minister for whole of the department along with; Mary Ng, Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development; Randy Boissonnault, Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance; and Gudie Hutchings, Minister of Rural Economic Development.
Over the decades, ISED has been primarily known as the “industry department,” and has morphed into a massive portfolio that has four ministers attached to it, but still with one head. In the UK, the now former Department for Business and Trade had been known as the “super-ministry.”
With the change, the UK has acknowledged it was time to break-up the “super-ministry” and also acknowledged the critical importance of science.
So the question is, should Canada follow the UK lead? Should we break-up ISED and create a separate science, innovation and technology department?
One UK space company sent SpaceQ their thoughts on the change. Nadeem Gabbani, Founder of Exobotics said “The UK has suffered several setbacks to begin the year with the unfortunate Virgin Orbit launch mission and the closure of tech incubator Tech Nation, so it is good to see the government forming a new science and innovation department in an attempt to keep the UK on the front foot. The reshuffle could have a positive long-term impact on high potential industries such as space, with the UK’s budding space ecosystem ever-growing. Streamlined innovation support can help drive regional growth to areas such as Cornwall which are leading the charge for the UK’s space efforts, supported by local businesses and education institutions.”