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Gary Goodyear: Canadian Government Is Committed to Science, Aims to Increase Industrial R&D

There has been a net migration of talented researchers into Canada in recent years, and the nation’s commitment to science and technology (S&T) has resulted in a number of highly regarded research facilities, Canada’s Minister responsible for S&T told a AAAS audience.

Gary Goodyear, the Minister of State for S&T, highlighted some of Canada’s research achievements and noted that “S&T are the foundation of the quality of life” that Canadians enjoy.

But he also acknowledged that some Canadian firms lag those in other advanced nations in the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in their investment in research and development.

“We see the need to improve business expenditures on research and development,” Goodyear said. “In several key industrial sectors, Canada has lower R&D intensity than the OECD average.” Businesses must do more to invest in machinery and equipment, he said, and adopt new technologies.

Goodyear said the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, responding to a government-commissioned report, has been taking steps to increase industrial R&D. He said the government is doubling the amount of money that goes to the Industrial Research and Assistance Program, has put more emphasis on business-oriented research needs in initiatives funded by the National Research Council, has increased investment for “incubator” organizations that support early-stage start-ups and entrepreneurs, and has been using federal procurement programs to get new technologies into small businesses.

Goodyear spoke on 2 May at the 38th annual AAAS Forum on Science & Technology Policy at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington, D.C. More than 400 people attended the Forum, the premier venue for discussion of issues at the intersection of science and technology with public policy.

Goodyear, who was appointed to his post in October 2008, practiced chiropractic medicine and worked as an adviser to investment firms in the biomedical industry, prior to entering federal politics with his election to Canada’s House of Commons in 2004. In his luncheon remarks, Goodyear stressed the importance of science to the long-term economic vitality of his nation. Governments can foster knowledge through direct investment in research and indirect means such as tax incentives, he said.

While his talk dealt largely with the value of research and development in spurring innovation and moving ideas “out of the laboratories and into the living rooms and hospitals of the world,” Goodyear applauded the underlying importance of what he called “Blue Sky” science—research pursued without regard for its immediate benefits—and the peer review process for deciding who should receive grant money.

“Research matters,” Goodyear said. “Perhaps I’m a little biased, but there are many days I think the only thing that does matter is research.”

Goodyear also stressed the importance of research partnerships, both within Canada and beyond. “Today, more than ever, successful innovations come from researchers and companies involved in partnership arrangements,” Goodyear said. He cited the long-standing ties between Canada and the United States. “I’m here to celebrate Canada-U.S. relationships,” Goodyear said, noting that the two nations currently have more than 20 high-profile collaborative efforts, including a dialogue on clean energy, a cooperative program on measurement standards for nanotechnology, and collaborations with the U.S. National Institutes of Health on infectious disease research, neuroscience and other areas.

“I see our partnerships with other countries growing,” Goodyear said. Once areas of potential collaboration are identified, he said, “I get on a plane.” He meets frequently with ministerial counterparts in other nations to pursue research arrangements of mutual interest and to help avoid duplication of effort.

“We take great pride in building partnerships that sharpen our work and improve the lives of our citizens,” Goodyear said.

Read a Toronto Star Op-Ed by AAAS CEO Alan Leshner, about the importance of basic research in Canada and the U.S.


Earl Lane