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Media release - July 28, 2015

OTTAWA – Excellence in Canadian university research is getting a major boost with the awarding of $350 million to university research projects in the first round of funding from the new Canada First Research Excellence Fund. The initial announcement of $114 million in funding for the University of Toronto’s “Medicine by Design” project in regenerative medicine was made today by Ed Holder, Minister of State (Science and Technology). Additional announcements are expected shortly.

CFREF was the largest budget commitment made in the federal government’s Economic Action Plan 2014.

The fund will inject $1.5 billion over seven years into internationally significant research initiatives that advance Canada as a global leader in research excellence and innovation. From about 40 proposals submitted in this first round, funded projects were selected in an open, competitive and peer-reviewed process.

The applications for this initial funding demonstrate the readiness of Canada’s universities to undertake large-scale research partnerships of global excellence and relevance. A second competition for up to $950 million in funding was launched today, providing increased opportunity for world-leading research teams to design projects that will fuel discovery and innovation.

“CFREF is a new initiative to advance Canadian research capacity and leadership in areas of global significance,” says Paul Davidson, president of Universities Canada. “Canada’s researchers are amongst the world’s best. CFREF will ensure Canadian leadership in groundbreaking work to the benefit of Canadians and the world.  We look forward to the next round of the competition which will offer even more opportunity to engage Canada’s next generation of top researchers in world-leading research programs and networks.”

Universities Canada is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities.

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Media Contact:

Helen Murphy
Assistant director of communications
Universities Canada/ Universités Canada
hmurphy@univcan.ca
613 563-3961 ext. 238 or cell: 613 608-8749

Nadine Robitaille
Communications Officer
Universities Canada/ Universités Canada
nrobitaille@univcan.ca
phone: 613-563-3961 ext. 306

Commentary - April 27, 2015

This op-ed was published on the Canadian Science Policy Centre website on April 25, 2015

By Paul Davidson
President, Universities Canada

The global economic uncertainty of recent years has led countries to focus increasingly on innovation and the commercialization of research. That’s understandable, given the undisputed link between innovation and prosperity. But this shift need not lead to a division – in institutional and funding priorities – between basic and applied research. Applied discoveries begin with basic research, and ensuring discovery research is robust, wide-ranging and unfettered is essential to innovation success.

It is understandable that in this drive to ramp up applied research researchers can get nervous about the plight of basic research. Indeed we see comment of this type emerging in response to last week’s federal budget. But as we examine the budget more fully, we see significant support across the continuum of university research, with an additional investment of more than $1.5 billion for research and innovation.

With $1.33 billion earmarked for the Canada Foundation for Innovation, Budget 2015 marks the largest single announcement of Canadian research infrastructure funding. This is something the community prioritized, given the need for state-of-the-art equipment, labs, digital tools and high-speed technology to conduct, partner and share research results. This renewed commitment to CFI builds on the globally competitive research infrastructure that Canadians have built over the last 15 years and enables our researchers to collaborate with the very best in the world. Its benefits will be seen in universities across the country and across disciplines. Key research infrastructure investments – from digital to major science infrastructure – support the broad spectrum of university research, from theoretical and discovery to pre-competitive and applied.

The$45 million announced for TRIUMF will support the laboratory’s role in accelerating science in Canada, an important investment in discovery research.

We also see important investment in long-term basic research and international research collaboration through a $243.5 million contribution to the Thirty Meter Telescope. When completed, the TMT will give Canadian astronomers access to an instrument with unprecedented power to discover the cosmos.

And a wide spectrum of research will benefit from $105 million in new funding for CANARIE, Canada’s high-speed research and education network.

These new investments are part of the overall picture of current federal research funding. They build on previous commitments now being rolled out, including Budget 2014’s legacy investment of $1.5 billion over 10 years for the Canada First Research Excellence Fund. The first round of CFREF funding, worth $350 million, will be announced in July 2015, with a second round worth $950 million to be announced in spring 2016. This is a significant injection of new funding for discovery research.

During Universities Canada’s international Innovation Policy Dialogue in Ottawa last fall, university leaders and policy advisors from Israel, Germany and Canada agreed that successful innovation systems have several common elements: strong support for basic research; the involvement of students as researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs; support for creativity and risk-taking in research; multidisciplinary collaboration; and strong university-private sector ties. We see these elements supported in Budget 2015 and through CFREF.

Students and young researchers are a crucial part of innovation success. That’s why Budget 2015 expands the scope of Mitacs Accelerate Program, which supports graduate-level industrial research and development internships.

Did our sector get everything it wanted in the new federal budget? Of course not. But as some commentators have pointed out, many other sectors look with envy upon the attention to research and innovation in Budget 2015.

We all know there is still work to be done. Canada’s granting councils are foundational to Canada’s research and innovation system. The dramatic increases of the early 2000s have slowed, and the more modest increases have not kept pace with either inflation or the growth in research activity by a new generation of faculty in full flight.

Looking forward, there is a need to work together to make a more compelling case for sustained investments across the continuum of research to support the impressive work of Canada’s 21st century discoverers.

The university community’s recent budget successes – CFREF and CFI among them – provide clues about to how to achieve extraordinary results: a compelling idea, supported by evidence, developed in partnership and advanced with vigour in a sequenced and prioritized manner. And so with the prospect of a federal election and emerging fiscal capacity, the policy window is open, and the work of preparing for Budget 2016 begins.

Media release - April 21, 2015

OTTAWA – New investments in research and students announced in today’s federal budget will make Canada more innovative and prosperous, say the country’s universities.

The federal government’s funding of $1.33 billion over six years to the Canada Foundation for Innovation ensures that Canada’s globally competitive international research platform will continue to be a world leader for discovery. Today’s investments will help build leading-edge research infrastructure to support top talent – faculty and students at universities across the country.

“Funding for research delivers long-term benefits to Canada’s society and our economy,” says David Barnard, chair of the 97-member strong Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and president of the University of Manitoba. “Investments in the Canada Foundation for Innovation will keep more top Canadian researchers here, attract world-leading international talent, train the next generation of discoverers and innovators, and enable us to pursue promising new areas of research – where Canada can lead.”

Additional investments in research granting councils in 2016-17 are also welcome. Together with new investments in CANARIE, TRIUMF and previously announced funding for the Thirty Meter Telescope, this illustrates how the government of Canada invests across the higher education, research and innovation spectrum.

“Today’s investments in research and innovation will help solve human challenges, boost creativity and innovation and make Canada’s economy more competitive,” Dr. Barnard says.

Today’s federal budget contains significant investments in the next generation of researchers and innovators, adds Paul Davidson, president of AUCC. Funding of $56.4 million for Mitacs’ Accelerate program will support graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, allowing them to apply their specialized expertise and knowledge to business-related challenges. “By expanding experiential learning opportunities, more employers will benefit from the extraordinary talent of young Canadians,” Mr. Davidson says.

Aboriginal students will also gain greater access and support for postsecondary education through $12 million for Indspire, an Indigenous-led organization that delivers postsecondary scholarships and bursaries for First Nations and Inuit students.

Postsecondary students and their families will benefit from important changes to Canada’s student loans program, which will boost young people’s ability to complete a postsecondary education – an important advantage in today’s knowledge-intensive world.

“The university community welcomes these important and far-reaching investments in research, higher education and innovation,” says Dr. Barnard. “They will benefit Canada and Canadians now and for years to come.”

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Media Contact:
Helen Murphy
Assistant director of communications
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
hmurphy@univcan.ca
613 563-3961 ext. 238 or cell: 613 608-8749

Nadine Robitaille
Communications officer
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
nrobitaille@univcan.ca
613 563-3961 ext. 306 or cell: 613 884-8401

Media release - April 6, 2015

OTTAWA – The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada welcomes the federal government’s commitment of $243.5 million in new funding to the Thirty-Metre Telescope (TMT), the largest telescope ever to be built and a major international research collaboration.

Canada has been a founding partner in the international observatory, to be located in Hawaii, and played a critical role in its design. A consortium including twenty Canadian universities is now a full partner in building the telescope facility, along with organizations such as The California Institute of Technology (Caltech), The National Institutes of Natural Sciences (Japan), The National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Science (China) and The Regents of the University of California (UC).

The TMT’s observations will help answer questions about the early universe, the formation of stars, planets and galaxies, the relationship between black holes and galaxy formation, and the frequency and types of extrasolar planets. With the announcement at The University of British Columbia earlier today, Canada has secured access to this world-leading facility for our top researchers in the field.

“This timely investment gives certainty to Canada’s role in this globally important project,” says Paul Davidson, president of AUCC. “In each of its budgets the government has invested in university research and innovation and we look forward to seeing in greater detail how the research and innovation agenda will be advanced in Budget 2015.”

The voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, the association represents the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

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Media Contact:

Helen Murphy
Assistant director of communications
hmurphy@aucc.ca
613 563-3961 ext. 238 or cell: 613 608-8749

Commentary - February 27, 2015

This letter was published in the Moncton Times & Transcript in response  to the editorial “Too many N.B. ‍universities, not enough young people” published on February 25, 2015

By Paul Davidson
President, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Yesterday’s editorial highlights the need for universities to be responsive to demographic and economic changes, and to innovate.

Students today demand choice and New Brunswick’s universities offer tremendous diversity and quality across the disciplines. In focus, languages, geography and size, they offer the choice in programs and experiences that allow students to find their best pathway to a rewarding career – be they from New Brunswick or New Delhi.

In every recession we see shifts as higher education responds to economic changes. The downturn that took hold in 2008 is no exception. Students are also responsive to change, gravitating to disciplines in higher demand. And in all fields, today’s undergraduate experience is more research-intensive, global and experiential than ever. Half of all Canadian university students across all disciplines now complete at least one co-op experience, practicum, and internship or field placement by the time they graduate.

While the population of youth 18 to 21 is projected to decline by a little more than 10 percent in the region between 2015 and 2022, it stabilizes after that point. Small increases in participation rates and attracting more international student and greater interprovincial mobility can erase the impact of that decline. And as we have seen in provinces like Saskatchewan, projected population declines can themselves be reversed if the economy grows.

New Brunswick’s universities today are hubs of innovation, increasingly connecting with partners in the private sector to help companies grow and give students hands-on experiences. They’re working with industry and other partners to develop more sustainable forestry practices, advance research on aging, and learn how ocean ecosystems relate to climate change.

In the face of sharp demographic and economic changes, innovation is vital if our communities are to rebound and thrive. And universities are at the heart of innovation.

Commentary - February 23, 2015

This op-ed was published in the online edition of The Hill Times on February 23, 2015

By Paul Davidson, president, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Unlocking the secrets of innovation – when it happens, how, and what we can do to fuel it – is an ongoing pursuit of governments around the world. That’s because innovation drives prosperity and quality of life. Without it, societies and economies stagnate.

Last fall Canada’s universities convened a meeting of innovation leaders from Israel, Germany and Canada to share insights into their respective national innovation systems, with an eye to strengthening the Canadian system.

The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada chose to invite experts from Israel and Germany because they represent two of the world’s most innovative economies, sharing excellence in research and innovation, strong practices of academic-industry collaboration and prominent high-tech sectors. What really came to the fore during our two days of discussions was the culture of innovation and respect for research that supports this success.

Israel is an incredibly entrepreneurial society willing to take risks in pursuit of success. As Ruth Arnon, president of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities pointed out, “many Israeli start-ups are funded in the recognition that few will succeed.“

Enno Aufderheide, secretary general of Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, says his country “understands that funding research is fundamental for German prosperity.”

While conference participants agreed that the innovation process is complex, and that models cannot simply be imported from one nation to another, they also agreed that successful innovation systems have certain common elements: strong support for basic research; the involvement of students as researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs; support for creativity and risk-taking in research; multidisciplinary collaboration; and strong university-private sector ties. These elements can be seen as the building blocks of a healthy culture of innovation.

And importantly, such a culture sees both basic and applied research as essential to building a strong innovation ecosystem. Our international guests noted that German and Israeli publics understand that their countries are well-off thanks in large measure to investments in research and innovation.

So how can Canada build a culture of innovation that permeates all levels of society?

Students and young researchers are a big part of the solution. Universities and industry are increasingly tapping into students’ potential as agents of technology transfer, knowledge exchange and entrepreneurship. Israeli and German universities offer students wide scope for interaction with industry and industry-experienced faculty members. Such opportunities in Canada are fewer but increasing—for instance, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council’s Collaborative Research and Training Experience Program that offers graduate students and postdoctoral researchers both international and industry experience.

Another key ingredient is risk-taking and support for creativity. Major scientific discoveries cannot be planned. They come from giving creative thinkers the freedom to follow new ideas. This fact, conference participants agreed, underlines the need for research programs and institutional structures that enable innovative approaches and encourage researchers to take risks.

These principles underpin distinctive Israeli and German approaches to research funding. In Israel, a wide range of applied research and commercialization activities are funded in the expectation that some will succeed and many fail—and that failure is itself productive. In Germany, the approach of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation) to research funding prescribes no disciplinary boundaries or quotas and no application deadlines, with the aim of funding the best ideas as they emerge.

Innovation success also requires a multi-disciplinary approach. It emerges not only from the natural sciences and engineering but the social sciences and humanities as well. Canadian universities are creating campus cultures, programs and physical spaces that encourage interdisciplinary collaboration. We need these collaborations to extend beyond the campus into local, regional and international partnerships.

The private sector has a vital role to play. The vibrancy of both Germany’s and Israel’s innovation ecosystems has much to do with the depth of university-private sector collaboration in those countries. Industry mentorship and information-sharing fosters academic researchers’ awareness of applied research needs—and innovative collaborations emerge when areas of shared fit and benefit are identified.

What can Canada learn from these insights? Manuel Trajtenberg, former chair of Israel’s Planning and Budgeting Committee of the Council for Higher Education, acknowledged that policies cannot be simply copied from one country to another. Yet, he urged Canada to “release the entrepreneurial genie” by following Israel’s lead in shaping institutions that let the best and brightest be innovative, are open to change, and empower youth with a ‘can do’ attitude.

Canada doesn’t have to change course to strengthen the success of its innovation system. We do, however, need to bring the right people together, support their creative efforts, be open to risk, and share research and innovation successes with all Canadians.

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Commentary - December 15, 2014

This op-ed was published in the Victoria Times Colonist on December 13, 2014

By Jamie Cassels, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Victoria.

As the season for university applications in British Columbia approaches, there will be lively conversation around the holiday table. Where to go and what to study takes some thought. There are plenty of choices. But whether to pursue a postsecondary education shouldn’t be a question. It’s never been more important to pursue higher education and it is a terrific time to be a student at any one of B.C.’s fine universities.

Just as universities are incubators for the human talent that our society needs in the years and decades ahead, so are they engines for ideas and innovation through their research mission.

Last Thursday, the prime minister launched the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF). It is a transformative investment – $1.5 billion over 10 years – that will enable Canadian universities to excel globally in research areas that create long-term social and economic benefits for Canada. On the same day, the federal government released its updated Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy, which identifies five research priorities that are of strategic importance to Canada.

This new fund – layered on top of existing programs of research support – recognizes the role universities play in the country’s economic well-being. I listened to the prime minister as he articulated the benefits. “This very substantial funding helps our universities attract more top talent in areas identified as national priorities. Then it allows that talent to get to work and undertake the long-term world-class research that will ultimately be the foundation for Canada’s evolving economy,” he said.

B.C.’s universities are well-positioned to make the most of the opportunity and to deliver on it. They are recognized as global leaders in many of the fields identified as priorities, including environment and ocean sciences, clean energy, health and life sciences, information and communications technologies, advanced materials and nanotechnology.

The applications to business in those fields are significant too. The new funding will mean more connections between universities and companies ready to work with new discoveries and compete globally. It’s the type of high-level research that creates vital impact on the lives of Canadians and people around the globe.

The University of Victoria, for example, has experts working on a wide range of sustainable energy systems: from harnessing renewable sources, to managing and mitigating adverse impacts, to inventing and designing entirely new forms of energy.

UVic’s Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) created the world’s first plate-sized ocean observatory – an installation that countries around the world are trying to emulate. It opens the door to global collaboration on everything from earthquakes and tsunamis to climate change and the impact of ambient noise on marine mammals. This contributes to our knowledge and understanding of the world’s oceans as well as global climate systems and stimulates the development of innovative technologies that can be marketed and deployed around the world.

And UVic’s researchers, along with their colleagues at B.C.’s other research universities, are making fundamental contributions to understanding and improving human health.

The new CFREF encourages universities to do more of that ground-breaking research, to create more “Canada Firsts,” promoting discovery and innovation that is the key to individual, social and economic wellbeing for generations of Canadians.

CFREF is based on the principles of open competition and peer review. It supports excellence where it exists across Canada’s universities and it recognizes the need for a long-term commitment. That visionary approach encourages bold and ambitious strategies and allows us to attract and retain top researchers and to foster a new generation of innovation.

Such research intensity benefits our economy and our students. Our researchers already work with business, government, community partners and non-profits looking for better ways to solve and build. We have already seen a dramatic growth in the number of graduate students at our universities; at UVic the number of graduate students has more than doubled since 2000. And all of our students benefit from being educated in a research-intensive environment. After all, they are the innovators, problem solvers and research and business leaders of tomorrow; their creativity will be fundamental to our long-term social and economic prosperity.

When I arrived back on campus last week with the program details in hand, I saw students hard at work finishing assignments and studying for exams, some for the first time. In a few years’ time, with the benefit of this significant new future-focused investment, imagine what they’ll discover.

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Media release - December 4, 2014

$1.5 billion Canada First Research Excellence Fund sets a new marker for federal research investment for universities across Canada

OTTAWA – Today’s launch of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) program will advance Canada as a global leader in research excellence and innovation, fuelling our nation’s top researchers to undertake new global research collaborations that will increase Canada’s competitiveness as businesses benefit from new discoveries.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched the CFREF program today at Toronto’s IBM Canada Software Lab, accompanied by Minister of State for Science and Technology, Ed Holder.  Building on year-over-year investments to date, this unprecedented $1.5 billion investment over 10 years will stimulate Canadian universities to achieve global leadership in specific fields of strength by providing a research excellence destination of choice. The world’s best minds will forge ground-breaking discoveries that will fortify Canada’s global research standing and propel a vibrant economy.

“This bold new program will position Canada as a leader in international research. It will support Canada’s top research talent and build new global links,” says David Barnard, president of the University of Manitoba and chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). “University leaders welcome the tremendous potential of this initiative to engage Canada’s next generation of top young researchers in globally significant research programs and networks.”

AUCC worked in consultation with partners in government and universities across the country as this program was developed, and underscored the importance of an open and peer reviewed competition for CFREF. This initiative is structured to ensure that benefits will be shared by universities, faculty, students and communities across Canada.

“This program demonstrates the government’s understanding that a vibrant, innovative and competitive Canadian economy needs a world-class university research system,” says Paul Davidson, president of AUCC. “It will help our universities to collaborate with global research leaders and better translate knowledge and ideas into the national and international marketplace.”

AUCC also welcomes the release today of Canada’s renewed Science Technology and Innovation strategy, which reviewed Canada’s research and innovation strengths, and supplemented existing priorities with emerging fields including advanced manufacturing and agriculture.

Today’s funding announcement builds on Canada’s solid research position—continually cultivated and strengthened by global initiatives that include AUCC-led missions to India and Brazil, and AUCC-hosted innovation best practice collaborations, most recently bringing together global higher education leaders from Canada, Israel and Germany.

About the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada 

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

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Media Contact:

Nadine Robitaille
Communications Officer
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
nrobitaille@aucc.ca
phone: 613-563-3961 ext. 306
cell: 613-884-8401

Media release - December 4, 2014

Media advisory

OTTAWA – Spokespeople for the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada are available for interviews on the university community’s response to the Government of Canada’s announcement of the implementation of the $1.5 billion Canada First Research Excellence Fund, and how this bold and transformative investment will help universities build new links with global research leaders to strengthen Canada’s position on the world stage and advance a competitive and vibrant Canadian economy.

To schedule an interview, please contact:

Nadine Robitaille
Communications Officer
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
nrobitaille@aucc.ca
phone: 613-563-3961 ext. 306
cell: 613-884-8401

Media release - October 27, 2014

University presidents and innovation leaders from Canada, Israel and Germany share ideas for higher education, research and innovation

OTTAWA – An international gathering of university and research leaders in Ottawa this week will discuss national innovation systems and how they help universities drive the advancements that build prosperity. University presidents and innovation experts from Canada, Israel and Germany gathering Oct. 27 and 28 for an international policy dialogue entitled, Optimizing Canada’s Innovation system: Perspectives from abroad, hosted by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

“Universities are an integral part of the innovation systems that improve quality of life and drive economic growth,” says Professor Peretz Lavie, president of Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. “Sharing successes and lessons learned through this kind of dialogue will help us enhance how our countries support medical breakthroughs, solutions to social challenges and the commercialization of research.”

The two-day conference focuses on three major themes: increasing risk-tolerance in research funding; catalysing international research collaboration; and facilitating new forms of collaboration between universities, the private sector and their surrounding communities.

Enno Aufderheide, secretary general of Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation, an agency that funds international research collaboration,sees the meeting not only as a place to share insights and ideas, but also to build and strengthen partnerships. “Our countries already have successful collaboration in research and innovation, but there’s more we can do. This is a welcome opportunity to reach beyond our own institutions and create the alliances, partnerships and initiatives needed to address the challenges facing our world.”

David Barnard, president of the University of Manitoba and chair of AUCC, says the gathering will help strengthen existing partnerships among Canada, Israel and Germany in the areas of research and innovation, and forge new ones as well. “There is growing international recognition that advanced research must be collaborative, and that achieving research excellence in any field demands drawing together world-wide expertise.”

The policy dialogue is part of AUCC’s continuing series of international conversations about higher education, research and innovation.  It builds on an inaugural policy dialogue held in June 2013, which brought together higher education leaders from around the world to examine the forces shaping universities’ academic and research missions.

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

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For media inquiries, please contact:

Helen Murphy
Assistant Director, Communications
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
hmurphy@aucc.ca
613-563-3961 ext. 238
Cell: 613-608-8749

Nadine Robitaille
AUCC Communications Officer
nrobitaille@aucc.ca
613-563-3961 ext. 306

Commentary - October 27, 2014

The following op-ed was published in the Globe and Mail October 27, 2014

By Rivka Carmi, president, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Martha Crago, vice president, Research, Dalhousie University

The economic uncertainty that continues to plague countries around the globe has contributed to an increased focus on innovation and the commercialization of research – and rightly so. Innovation drives prosperity. Unfortunately this focus can lead to the questioning of the value of basic foundational research. That debate, however, presents a false choice—and only by understanding why, will universities’ contributions to the world be fully realized.

In fact, there is no choice to be made between basic research, driven by researchers’ desire and curiosity to explore the unknown, and applied research, inspired by usefulness and driven by need. Foundational research is how applied scientific discoveries get started, and universities cannot encourage innovation without fostering excellent basic research.

To see this in action, consider what happened when, in the 1970s, a Japanese researcher named Osamu Shimomura got curious about a jellyfish species and discovered the protein that makes it glow in colour. A decade later, American biologist Martin Chalfie realized that this glowing protein could help map the cellular structures of living organisms. Subsequently, another scientist, Roger Tsien, discovered how to make multi-colour fluorescent molecules that have technical applications, including mapping the human brain. That work—which developed over 40 years from basic research to fundamental and then advanced applications—won the three men a joint Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008. It also illustrates that the path from basic research to innovation is rarely straight. Instead it builds upon both successes and failures along the way.

To say that foundational research is indispensable for scientific breakthroughs is fully compatible with promoting innovation in a variety of ways. Both in Canada and in Israel, universities are helping students and faculty better understand needs in both the public and private sectors, and are supporting their efforts to translate basic knowledge into applied breakthroughs.

Some of the most exciting steps on this front involve training students to become the next generation of innovators. At Dalhousie, for instance, the ‘Starting Lean’ program encourages entrepreneurial thinking in undergraduates—and now some of its graduates are joining the Canada-wide ‘Next 36’ program, which is aimed at turning  top students into the country’s most successful future business leaders and innovators.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s annual innovation day brings together engineering students displaying their final year projects, business school students, industry leaders, governmental figures and private  investors for a full day of innovative scientific, technological (and social) project presentations, discussions, debates and business meetings. This way, students are exposed to the scrutiny as well as to the options of the world outside of academia and industries can look for opportunities to take academic research to the next level of application.

Universities also foster innovation by operating technology transfer offices that help faculty and students commercialize their research applications, develop research partnerships with local and global companies and forge links with nearby science and technology parks.

Another dimension of today’s constrained university budgets and the increasingly international scope of research is the need to collaborate with other institutions on mutual strategic research goals in order to maximize resources.  Because both Dalhousie and a group of Israeli universities, including Ben-Gurion University, have maritime campuses on the Atlantic and the Red Sea respectively, it made sense for us to partner in the development of a world-class marine science site in Eilat, Israel. This is expected to become an internationally recognized Ocean Studies Centre that will attract and educate marine scientists around the world, and will generate basic, applied and industry-partnered scientific advances.

Governments in both Canada and Israel, supported by philanthropists and industries, encourage such connections through the funding of collaborations that help researchers and their students pursue multi-sectorial, multi-country research initiatives.  The need to understand massive, rapidly accelerating societal, technological, and environmental change is why advanced countries need to invest together in basic research and higher education.  That investment will lead to the discovery of where the future opportunities for industry and innovation lie.

As countries, we can learn from each other. We welcome the gathering of university leaders and innovation experts from Canada, Israel and Germany this week in Ottawa to share successes and lessons learned from various nations’ innovation systems and higher education institutions. This policy dialogue, hosted by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, will give participants new insights into the strengths of each country’s research and innovation system and facilitate a sharing of promising practices for collaboration.

Underlying all of our discussions, we hope, will be a shared recognition that new discoveries and applications, whether small or revolutionary, begin with excellent basic research. From curiosity about glowing jellyfish to new tools for brain mapping: that’s what the path of innovation looks like. And that is why universities and our partners in government, industry and community must continue to support and nurture the essence of foundational research that is at the very beginning of the innovation continuum.

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Presentation - September 25, 2014

Speech
Economic Club of Canada – Ottawa

Paul Davidson
President, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Check against delivery

[Greetings]

Thank you David, and thank you to the Economic Club.

It is great to see so many friends of higher education, research and innovation here.

En français, one speaks of this time of year as “La Rentrée” – the return – back-to-school, back-to-Parliament, back-to-work. It is good to be back. The work we are all doing together is important to Canada.

One iconic image of “La Rentrée” is the yellow school bus picking up students and taking them to school. It is a reminder that Canada’s public education system, publicly funded, publicly delivered, and open to all is one of Canada’s great competitive advantages. And one of our greatest achievements.

And I want to speak both of achievement and ambition today.

Let me start with a question this afternoon. How many of you have just seen a child off to university or college? It’s a peculiar mix of pride and panic, isn’t it?

Paul Davidson President of AUCC Economic Club Speech September 25 2014

Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

You probably had some advice for your new student. I have three sons — one in university and two completing high school. I know the temptation. Your advice was probably based on your own experience.

I’m in a bit of a unique position as head of AUCC. I’ve visited over 80 campuses across the country. I’ve met with students, professors and administrators and I’ve walked through their labs, sat in their lecture halls and, yes, eaten the on-campus food.

I’ve heard about their successes and where they need help. Even in just five years at the helm of AUCC, I have seen tremendous change and growth on university campuses across the country.

It’s all with an unwavering focus: to equip students with the critical thinking and knowledge-based skills they will need to launch their careers and contribute to this great country.

As for the advice we’re giving our children, I’ll let you in on a secret. If you have a kid old enough to be in university, your own university experience will not resemble theirs in any way.

Let’s go back to the 1980s.

Ferris Bueller and his friends were heading off to university. They were using landlines, electric typewriters or maybe a Commodore 64.

Research was done almost exclusively in the library or lab.

As for me, I had left my family home in Toronto landing down the highway at Trent University in Peterborough. While it felt like a different world, let’s be honest. The language, food and basic culture really didn’t demand that much of an adjustment.

Times have changed. To help illustrate that, we are fortunate to have with us this afternoon a group of high school students and teachers from the Ottawa area. A special welcome to you.

Yes, we are all looking at you now, and, again, as a dad, I know how awkward that is. But I do want to provide a picture of where you might be headed. You are probably thinking about what to do after high school. If university is on your mind, you may be worried about exams, marks, and competition to get into the program you want.

You may also be struggling with making a choice. Do you stay close to home or do you cross the country? Humanities or science? On or off campus? Co-op or concurrent?

Let me help you out with your decision. The answer to all of those questions is yes.

Il n’y a pas de mauvais choix. Les universités canadiennes offrent plus de souplesse et d’options que jamais. Elles n’ont jamais été plus visionnaires qu’aujourd’hui.

À l’université, vous allez fréquenter d’autres étudiants et des professeurs du monde entier. Plus de la moitié d’entre vous pourrez faire des stages ou vivre des expériences à l’étranger, qui vous prépareront à votre carrière. Vous allez développer votre esprit critique, vos capacités à rédiger et à raisonner. Vous allez participer à des activités de recherche, qui vous seront utiles sur le marché du travail et qu’on n’aurait jamais pu imaginer.

Our kids may create businesses or work in fields that don’t yet exist. As they move forward, they’ll need labour market data from reliable and reputable sources to help make future career and course decisions. Decisions that are based on facts.

I didn’t ask our students in the room if you are worried about jobs. I’ll bet your parents have thought about that.

Some people would have you believe that there are no jobs for university grads. That you’ll be painfully underemployed. It’s a myth. It’s a corrosive myth.

Over the last six years, more than twice as many net new jobs were created for university grads than for college and trades grads combined. During their careers, university graduates will earn $1.3 million more than graduates of high school. And yes, a high income advantage is shared by arts grads.

That’s not to say that Canada doesn’t need all kinds of postsecondary graduates to build our economy and society – apprentices, colleges and polytechnics, and university.

In fact, I’m pleased to say that in just a few days, Canada’s university and college leaders will sign a new agreement to strengthen the collaboration, partnerships and pathways among our institutions.

Because we need to harness the talent of all Canadians to be successful in the 21st century.

How else have universities changed since the 1980’s? Far more students are gaining experience through co-ops. Right now, there are more than 1,000 co-op programs at 59 Canadian universities.

Today’s students recognize that co-ops and internships are one of the best paths to the labour market. Enrolment in those programs has jumped by 25 percent in recent years from 53,000 to more than 65,000 students.

Some of these students will do several co-ops or internships. Vanessa Stofer, a BA writing graduate of the University of Victoria, tells us she discovered what she did not want to do through one of her first co-op placements. That’s a valuable lesson. Her next placement hit the mark. She was hired by the employer, and is now doing what she loves, telling the stories of an organization she believes in.

We know that a significant percentage of co-op students are offered employment by their placement host. Employers have had a chance to “test drive” a potential hire. They know the skill set and have already invested in training the candidate on the corporate culture and job requirements.

You’ll also have access to research internships that benefit not just students and employers, but whole communities.

Megan MacGillivray is a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia. She has a wealth of experience in the lab, but was looking for some practical applications.

Mitacs is a not-for-profit research outfit that connects organizations with student interns.

Through Mitacs, Megan worked with SideStix Ventures Inc.. It’s a very small B.C. company that makes forearm crutches. They’re commonly used by people who have had an amputation that won’t accommodate a prosthetic leg.

SideStix had developed a new crutch that has built-in shock absorbers – similar to a mountain bike. But the company had limited funds for research. That’s pretty common for a small venture.

Through Mitacs, SideStix had access to Megan’s expertise and Megan learned real world applications.

Megan’s research showed that the crutch helped users to walk farther with less pain.

The project had benefits for all sides. Sales went up. More importantly, users of forearm crutches gained from an advance in technology.

Megan’s story is just one example of student, university and community collaboration that makes a difference for all of us.

What else is new? Canada’s universities conduct nearly $1 billion of contract research for the private sector each year. They also conduct more than $1 billion of research a year with community and non-profit groups, particularly in the area of health.

We all benefit from the results, whether it’s a new procedure for joint replacements, a more accurate means of testing water quality or a clearer interpretation of our history. Canada’s universities are not isolated in some distant, ivory tower. They are in your community finding solutions every day.

It takes a series of investments in discovery and research, graduate student support and infrastructure to make that happen. Canada’s granting councils are essential to our success. Having state-of-the-art equipment and tools makes a difference. Those tools include laboratories, databases, computer hardware and software, and facilities.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation was created by the Government of Canada to build the country’s capacity for world-class research and technology development. Its support has helped advance leading- edge research in everything from skin-sensitive sunscreen to earthquake-resistant retaining walls.

Ongoing, sustainable funding for research and research infrastructure will ensure that Canada’s researchers excel, our students develop the research skills they need, and that Canada continues to attract top researchers from around the world.

Un financement soutenu et prévisible de la recherche, contribuera à préserver la dynamique existante, à créer davantage d’emplois de grande qualité, à renforcer la position du Canada dans l’économie actuelle du savoir. Il contribuera à doter les étudiants des compétences en recherche dont ils auront besoin tout au long de leur carrière.

L’expérience acquise aujourd’hui par les étudiants les prépare à intégrer le marché mondial de l’emploi. Les universités canadiennes créent des partenariats dans le monde entier qui permettent aux étudiants d’aller à l’étranger.

As a country, we have moved forward in increasing the number of international students coming to Canada. We’ve seen the benefits. They generate well over $8 billion a year to Canada’s economy and they bring us a glimpse of different cultures, languages, traditions and economies. It leads to a fresh perspective on our campuses and in our communities.

Those international students are getting a clearer view of the world. Canadian students need that too.
Currently, just 12 percent of Canadian university graduates have a study-abroad experience. That’s about 25,000 students a year. We can do better.

Many in this room shared our excitement when the late Jim Flaherty and Ed Fast established an expert panel to create an international education strategy for Canada.

avid Barnard AUCC Board of Directors Chair and University of Manitoba President Economic Club Speech September 25 2014

David Barnard, board chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and president of University of Manitoba introduces Paul Davidson.

Led by Amit Chakma, President of Western University, the panel of business and postsecondary leaders called for the creation of 50,000 opportunities per year for Canadian students to go abroad for study and cultural exchanges.

We know there are barriers, cost being among the largest.

The panel also called for a partnership among governments, academic institutions and the private sector in helping fund Canadian students to become global citizens.

Listen to what Mark Wiseman said to graduates at Queen’s University in the spring. You’ll know Mark as president and CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Here’s what he had to say in a convocation address:

“It used to be that immigrants to this country were at a disadvantage. Today, those who aren’t bicultural or multicultural need to get up the global curve and fast. At CPPIB we look to hire people who have global experience. If you grew up in north Toronto, went to [a Toronto university] then worked at a downtown bank and your view is that the Far East is Oshawa, you need not apply… A student in China can, just as easily as you, apply to a job posting for a company in your own backyard. Figure out how to get a job in their backyard.”

By the way, in just one month, 1,700 people from 20 countries visited the Pension Plan Investment Board’s career page.
Now that doesn’t mean we forget about Canada. Let’s come back to that younger me. Even Toronto to Peterborough was farther than most students travel for their postsecondary education.

In a country that covers 9.9 million square kilometres, most students receive all of their education from kindergarten to university within 50 kilometres of the place they call home. Just one in 10 crosses a provincial border to study in another province. It’s understandable. Comfort, familiarity, important bonds with family and cost are all factors.

Now imagine adding a wider Canadian perspective to impressive graduation credentials. That too would benefit us all. Wouldn’t it be better to have an urban planner who understood small communities and large cities? A teacher who had lived and worked and learned in an Aboriginal community? An engineer who has seen what’s happening in another part of Canada?

Finding a creative and collaborative means of resourcing new opportunities for domestic mobility could reshape what it means to be a Canadian.

As plans are under way for Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017, universities are looking beyond.

How will Canadians define ourselves? Will we be open to a much bigger concept of home and community? Will we be ready to go where the jobs are, to where our skills are really needed?

We also need to ask: Will we ensure that every Canadian has an opportunity to achieve?

Fewer than 10 percent of Aboriginals between the ages of 24 to 64 have a university degree. That’s one-third the rate of non-Aboriginals.

Nous savons qu’une formation universitaire rapporte au Canada et aux Canadiens. Actuellement, le faible taux d’accès des Autochtones à l’université les empêche de participer pleinement à notre économie et à notre société. Il nuit à la cohésion sociale et prolonge les inégalités historiques.

Les universités canadiennes ont établi de nombreux partenariats avec les Premières nations, les Inuits et les Métis. Elles offrent aussi des cours, des activités de sensibilisation, et de l’aide financière. Les étudiants des Premières nations, inuits et métis peuvent obtenir des conseils et du soutien, et maintenir les liens avec leur culture.

Many also run successful outreach programs in Aboriginal communities, providing support and mentoring to students as early as elementary school.

James Harper, for example, was a high achiever and scholarship recipient. He didn’t imagine he’d need support at university but something was missing. He felt out of place. A friend at the University of Manitoba sent him to the Engineering Access Program. It’s a community of support for students of Aboriginal ancestry. It offers a lounge, a lab, and tutoring for students working to qualify for the engineering program.

James liked the atmosphere immediately. He tells us:

“It was very easy to relate to people because many of us have stories of similarity, stories that I want to hear, stories that I want to build off of like going from reserve life and adjusting, getting over the culture shock barrier and graduating.”

That program has graduated the most Aboriginal engineers in Canada — 99 at last count, and growing.

We need more of that. And Canada’s universities can contribute to better outcomes for Aboriginal people.

Canada’s universities are making extraordinary contributions to this country. The one million Canadians who are working towards their first degree will most likely be in the workforce when Canada reaches our bicentennial in 2067.

That’s why I ask you to join us in our call to increase opportunities for young people, commit to sustainable funding research and research infrastructure, and to support the full participation of Aboriginal communities in higher education. To create smart skills, for a smarter Canada.

These actions will ensure that the young people with us here today and their cohort across the country will benefit for decades to come. It’s not just that they will benefit. In fact we will all benefit.

Thank you.

Media release - September 8, 2014

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – A delegation of Canadian university leaders is in Mexico this week to bolster research and institutional partnerships and to encourage greater student mobility between the two countries.

From September 8 to 12, presidents and senior representatives from 14 universities will meet with institutional partners, government officials and Mexican and Canadian private sector stakeholders. Organized by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada with strong support from the Canadian Embassy in Mexico, the delegation includes representatives from Mitacs, a Canadian organization that provides research internships and fellowships to university students, and Languages Canada.

This mission builds on February’s North American Leaders’ Summit, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto agreed to boost academic exchange and student mobility within North America. During this meeting, Mexico committed to increase the number of students it sends to the U.S. each year by 100,000; targets for Canada have not yet been established.

“Canadian and Mexican universities have a lot in common,” says Christine Tausig Ford, vice-president of AUCC, who is leading the delegation. “This visit will strengthen our ties. We’ll be focusing on forging new research and innovation partnerships, and encouraging students to learn more about – and study in – each other’s countries. Stronger higher education links drive increased trade between our countries,” Tausig Ford adds.

During the visit, AUCC will solidify linkages by renewing an agreement with its counterpart organization in Mexico, the National Association of Universities and Institutions (ANUIES), which brings together 180 Mexican universities.

The agenda also includes meetings with senior Mexican government officials, Canadian and Mexican business leaders and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Mexico. The delegation will have a significant presence at ANUIES 20th annual meeting for international education leaders at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas. Canada features prominently on the agenda, including a presidential discussion on Canada-Mexico Aboriginal higher education, and a number of sessions designed to enhance international partnerships.

Media invitation:
Members of the media are invited to attend the AUCC-ANUIES MOU signing event September 9, 4:00−4:30 p.m. at the Mexico Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores (Plaza Juárez 20, Cuauhtémoc, Centro, 06010 Ciudad de México) where Canadian university leaders will also make announcements on new programs and scholarships and sign new institutional agreements with Mexican partners.

Interview opportunities are available with Christine Tausig Ford, vice-president of AUCC, Brian Stevenson, president of Lakehead University, and Mike Mahon, president of the University of Lethbridge, as well as other members of the delegation.

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

Spanish version of media release

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Media contacts:

Helen Murphy,
Assistant director, communications
hmurphy@aucc.ca
613 563-3961 ext. 238

Nadine Robitaille
Communications officer
nrobitaille@aucc.ca
613 563-3961 ext. 306

Media release - June 20, 2014

OTTAWA – Business incubators and accelerators at a number of Canadian universities are poised to expand their reach after being selected for increased funding through the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program (CAIP). Today Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the organizations chosen to advance in the selection process for $100 million in new funding at Communitech, Waterloo Region’s hub for the commercialization of innovative technologies.

“We are pleased to see this significant investment in university business accelerators and incubators and to see this element of Canada’s Economic Action Plan advanced,” says Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. “Canada’s universities are vital partners in building prosperity through entrepreneurship. AUCC has advocated for investment in such collaborative approaches to nurturing entrepreneurship and bringing fresh new ideas to market faster.” Mr. Davidson joined the Prime Minister and Minister of State for Science and Technology Ed Holder in Waterloo for the announcement.

In 2013, the government allocated $60 million over five years, with an additional $40 million in 2014, to help outstanding incubator and accelerator organizations expand their services to deserving entrepreneurs.

Universities across Canada play a leading role in fostering entrepreneurial success. In addition to operating top incubators and accelerators, 45 universities have developed entrepreneurship degree programs and provide workshops, facilities, mentoring and other supports to students and researchers to help them commercialize product and service ideas. University students are building careers and their innovative ideas are creating jobs in the industries of tomorrow.

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

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Media Contact:

Helen Murphy
assistant director of communications
hmurphy@aucc.ca
613 563-3961 ext. 238 or cell: 613 608-8749

Media release - March 18, 2014

OTTAWA – Canada’s universities applaud the launch of a federal program that will improve small- and medium-sized enterprises’ access to cutting-edge research and innovation.

The Business Innovation Access Program, announced today by the Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of State (Science and Technology,) provides innovative SMEs with straightforward, upfront funding through the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program that will help pay for research, technology and business development services at universities, colleges and other research institutions of their choice.

“Innovative initiatives like the Business Innovation Access Program will help turn the R&D knowledge of university researchers into improved products, goods and services,” says Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

“Business already counts on Canada’s universities for more than $1 billion in research every year,” adds Mr. Davidson. “This mechanism will boost university-industry links even further, as more small- and medium-sized business owners will be able to put the expertise of universities to work leading to the creation of new jobs, improved products and greater prosperity.”

The Business Innovation Access Program is consistent with a recommendation made by AUCC to the 2011 Independent Panel on Federal Support to Research and Development, which was chaired by Open Text chairman and chief strategy officer Tom Jenkins and included David Naylor, former president of the University of Toronto and Arvind Gupta, CEO and scientific director of Mitacs and recently named as president of the University of British Columbia beginning July 1, 2014.

Announced in Budget 2013, the two-year, $20 million program will enable hundreds of SMEs to use the skills, talents and knowledge of Canada’s universities to help commercialize their products or services more quickly and effectively. These companies frequently lack the resources to conduct their own research, employ recent graduates or take on student interns who would drive productivity gains.

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

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Media Contact:

Nadine Robitaille
Communications officer, AUCC
613-563-3961 x 306
nrobitaille@aucc.ca

Commentary - February 24, 2014

This op-ed was published in Research Money on February 24, 2014

By Paul Davidson
President, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Budget 2014 sent up a flare to the world: we are on our way with a bold new research and innovation initiative that will advance Canada internationally. To the community within our borders, it signals a new narrative, one that focusses on opportunity.

The newly-announced Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), coupled with the largest support of the country’s research granting councils in nearly a decade, represents a catalytic investment.

First, the budget recognizes the nature of research. Government budgets traditionally have projected no more than two years forward. This commitment of $1.5-billion over 10 years to the research excellence fund — and enhanced ongoing funding for the granting councils and indirect costs of research provides certainty, sustainability and predictability. Planning well into the future is now a possibility, allowing for a continuum of discovery, building on previous or soon-to-come knowledge.

The CFREF also recognizes that research excellence takes place at universities of all sizes and in all regions of the country. University presidents called for an open, competitive and peer-reviewed program. This initiative will reflect that. So any university can compete, no matter its size or location. What will matter is the level of excellence, knowledge and talent being brought to the research and innovation table. The benefits will be shared by faculty, students and communities across Canada.

And on a third level, the research excellence fund speaks to the importance of international collaboration. It acknowledges that a world-class research system is a critical element of a vibrant, innovative and competitive economy. We can compete. But in today’s global village, collaboration is what moves us forward. As we bring up our game, we can look forward to a continued building and leveraging of global partnerships that are already under way.

The newest generation of Canadian university faculty members has laid the groundwork. They have studied abroad and are connected with colleagues around the world. They think in global terms. They are twice as likely as researchers elsewhere to produce jointly-authored international work, which makes them among the most collaborative in the world. In fact, top-cited international researchers recognize their Canadian peers as leaders in terms of the originality, impact and rigour in their field of research.

The new fund will allow Canada to continue expanding that. We know the opportunities are there. Last year, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and the Association of University Heads, Israel agreed to collaborate to promote the internationalization of higher education and to work towards increased research links with Israeli universities.

International outreach

An unprecedented AUCC-led mission of university presidents to Brazil—a nation spurring prosperity by investing heavily in research and innovation—resulted in more than 75 new university partnerships and scholarship programs. A similar AUCC-led mission of presidents to India in November 2010 raised Canada’s higher education profile in that country, and forged connections that continue to enhance academic and research collaboration.

Those connections are being further deepened during Governor General David Johnson’s current state visit to India. I will be accompanying the Governor General as we visit universities, talk to innovators and entrepreneurs, and discuss how best to address global challenges during an innovation roundtable in New Delhi.

Canada was early out of the gate in establishing international linkages, and our universities are building on these. Canada protected investments in research during the economic downturn. Our universities have been able to stem the historical brain drain and attract outstanding faculty, undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. New investments will allow us to pick up speed and hold on to our advantage.

As this program rolls out, universities will have the resources to build their performance in key areas: global excellence, talent and knowledge translation. Funding from the CFREF will build Canada’s reputation as a destination and a home for innovators, research talent and cutting-edge discovery. Universities receiving support will have the flexibility and nimbleness they’ll need to respond quickly to dramatic advancements or valuable partnerships in select areas. The potential for clusters of research excellence in concentrated fields is tremendous.

This new investment goes beyond spurring academic successes. The research excellence fund will heighten Canada’s capacity to attract and retain the best talent from Canada and around the world to remedy emerging shortages of highly skilled labour. We’ll be better able to stimulate the rate of ground-breaking discoveries. We’ll see increased opportunities to establish Canadian universities as preferred partners for the best international research institutions. Universities will also be able to enhance their efforts to reach out to businesses that are ready to adapt and exploit discoveries. And that will help Canadian businesses become more globally competitive.

Our universities are making those connections. They already conduct nearly $1-billion of research funded by the private sector in Canada each year, providing the “intellectual raw material” that drives innovation and builds prosperity.

An even larger share of research, more than $1-billion, is conducted by universities with funding from community and non-profit groups, particularly in the area of health. With secure, reliable and predictable support behind them, just imagine what they can achieve.

We all benefit from the results, and so for Canada, this is a pivotal moment.

We couldn’t be more ready for this bold investment. Half of the faculty members working at Canadian universities have been hired in the last decade. Together with more senior colleagues, they are making large contributions and are ready to do more. We’ve also seen dramatic growth in the number of graduate students at our universities of almost 90% since 2000.

That bench strength, combined with this new certainty, gives Canada’s universities the flexibility to pursue their priorities and missions and perform at their best. Driven by quality research and innovation, Canada will do the same. 

Commentary - February 13, 2014

This op-ed was posted on The Globe and Mail’s website on February 13, 2014

By Dr. David T. Barnard

In the highly competitive international field of research and innovation, Canada has just made an exceptional commitment to owning the podium.

The Canada First Research Excellence Fund announced in Budget 2014, coupled with the largest investment in Canada’s research granting councils in a decade, represents a catalytic investment. With a commitment of $1.5 billion over 10 years to the research excellence fund, this budget is a tangible recognition that a world-class research system is a critical element of a vibrant, innovative and competitive economy.

Just as we’ve seen with our Olympic athletes, skill, tenacity and desire are not enough. Those attributes have to be matched by reliable funding for training, facilities, staff and the right equipment.

Canada’s universities have what it takes and are in the game. We have a head start. Our past achievements are already an advantage.  The federal government’s commitment to Canadian research and innovation has resulted in a suite of programs – fellowships, scholarships and research chairs.  Through the economic downturn, Canada has protected these investments. This has been critical to the success of Canada’s universities and has had a strong and direct impact on the prosperity and quality of life of Canadians.  In addition, universities have been able to stem an historical brain drain and to attract and retain outstanding faculty, undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. 

Even with all that, our world advantage has been tenuous. So this ambitious new research excellence fund, coupled with the commitment of enhanced funding in discovery research through the federal granting councils, is significant. Other countries are working at doing more, ramping up to gain an edge. Canada faces growing international competition as more nations invest in research and innovation, and reap the benefits of those investments in the development of more skilled and creative workforces, as well as new and dynamic knowledge-based industries. In short, they are matching our record and are working to better it.                                  

The Canada First Research Excellence Fund is an exceptional investment in moving Canada forward. We have the potential to be among the leaders. And even while this new program will help Canadian universities compete on the world stage, it will also allow us to collaborate with leading researchers around the world.  Research results increasingly come from global networks of discovery and creativity.  

The new funding signals to others that Canada intends to compete with the best in terms of support for research excellence and attracting top innovators to our universities. The strategy recognizes that research excellence takes place at universities of all sizes and in all regions of the country. So the benefits will be shared by communities, students and faculties across Canada.

Canada’s universities conduct nearly $1 billion of research for the private sector in Canada each year. They also conduct more than $1 billion of research a year with community and non-profit groups, particularly in the area of health. We all benefit from the results, whether it’s a new procedure for joint replacements, a more accurate means of testing water quality or a clearer interpretation of our history.  For all of us, this is a pivotal moment.  

And we are ready. Half of the faculty members teaching at Canadian universities have been hired in the last decade. Together with more senior colleagues they are making large contributions and are ready to do more. We’ve also seen huge growth in the number of graduate students at our universities of almost 90 per cent since 2000.  They are also ready to go. 

Last fall’s Speech from the Throne called on us to seize the moment, to make our mark, to build on our ingenuity and natural wealth. It asked Canadians to be daring, to secure prosperity, for Canadians now, and for the generations to follow. With this funding, we will do that.

David T. Barnard is President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manitoba and Chair of AUCC.

Media release - February 11, 2014

OTTAWA – Substantial and exceptional investments in university research announced today in Budget 2014 will allow universities to achieve global leadership in knowledge and innovation for Canada, say leaders of Canada’s universities.

“This is a pivotal moment for research excellence and innovation in Canada,” says David Barnard, president of the University of Manitoba and chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. “The establishment of an ambitious new research excellence fund, coupled with the commitment of enhanced funding in discovery research through the federal granting councils, represent a catalytic investment. This shows that the government is taking a strategic approach to creating prosperity in Canada, and recognizes that a vibrant, innovative and competitive Canadian economy needs a world-class research system.”

Budget 2014 established the Canada First Research Excellence Fund with a $1.5 billion investment over 10 years, beginning in 2015-16. With this fund, the government has committed to a long-term, strategic vision for research and innovation in Canada. This investment in the next generation of researchers will intensify the momentum for Canada’s universities and their partners in advancing economic growth and quality of life for all Canadians.

The budget contains a series of investments in advanced research and innovation that are “far-sighted and strategic,” says Dr. Barnard. Canada’s university researchers are at the prime of their careers; more than 50 per cent of university faculty have been hired in the last 10 years. Graduate student enrolment has increased by almost 90 per cent since 2000. The government has seized this moment with investments that will propel Canada’s research and innovation performance.

Canada’s universities came together over the past year to advocate for a strategic investment in excellence – an ambitious new research fund that would be open, competitive and supplementary to research support from the federal granting councils and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

As proposed by AUCC during pre-budget consultations, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund is an ambitious plan to position Canada as a world leader in research and innovation. Canada’s universities welcome the government’s recognition of university research as a significant driver of prosperity, and its vision and action in making this bold investment in Canada’s future.

“Today Canada is signalling to the leading research nations of the world that it intends to compete with the best in terms of support for research excellence and attracting top innovators to our universities,” says Paul Davidson, AUCC president. “This new strategy recognizes that research excellence takes place at universities of all sizes and in all regions of the country; the benefits will be shared by communities, students and faculty across Canada.”

University leaders also applaud the government’s ongoing recognition of the value of university research, including discovery research and indirect costs, by substantially increasing funding for Canada’s research granting councils. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – will receive an additional $37 million a year for advanced research and $9 million for indirect costs on an ongoing basis.

The federal government has increased funding for research and innovation in each year since 2006.

The government’s focus on ensuring the next generation of innovators has the skills and experience they need for the labour force is also welcome, AUCC says. Investments in Mitacs, a not-for-profit agency that offers internships and fellowships for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, will give a boost to their careers. “The funding announced today will expand opportunities and benefit postdocs and employers alike,” says Mr. Davidson. AUCC has been working in partnership with Mitacs for a number of years to enhance programs that connect university graduates to work experiences.

Universities also welcome new investments in internships that will provide even more funding to connect postsecondary graduates with real-life work experiences. “More than half of today’s university students already take part in a co-op experience, internship or field placement during their undergraduate studies,” says Mr. Davidson.

Canada’s universities welcome Budget 2014’s investment of $1.25 billion in support of a new landmark agreement with the Assembly of First Nations to overhaul Aboriginal education at the K-12 level. The agreement was announced Feb. 7 at the Kainai High School in Stand Off, Alberta. AUCC is a strategic partner of the AFN in improving accessibility and success for Aboriginal students in higher education. In consultation and partnership with Indigenous communities, Canada’s universities have made enhancements in academic programming, services and curricula to better meet the needs of Aboriginal students. This includes community outreach and mentorship activities for young Aboriginals starting as early as their elementary grades to help them succeed at school and see a brighter future through education. A substantially improved K-12 system will help many more students achieve their goal of higher education.

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

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Media Contacts:

Helen Murphy
Assistant Director of Communications
hmurphy@aucc.ca
613 563-3961 ext. 238 or cell: 613 608-8749

Nadine Robitaille
Communications Officer
nrobitaille@aucc.ca
613 563-1236 ext. 306 or cell: 613 884-8401

Media release - November 27, 2013

OTTAWA – Canada’s universities welcome the federal government’s launch of a renewed foreign policy and trade plan which highlights education and the promotion of Canada’s research and innovation advantage abroad among its top priorities.

The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, announced the launch of the report entitled the Global Markets Action Plan: The Blueprint for Creating Jobs and Opportunities for Canadians Through Trade today in Ottawa.

Canada’s universities are pleased with the report’s identification of international education as a priority sector that will strengthen Canada’s trade, investment and people-to-people ties in priority markets.  Canadian universities are recognized as world-class institutions that provide excellent education and research opportunities to Canadian and international students and are a key resource in attracting the world’s best and brightest to Canada.  The Action Plan also highlighted the value of Canadian universities in fostering research linkages.

The university sector looks forward to the government’s forthcoming launch of an international education strategy to build Canada’s brand of excellence in education and research.  Advisory panel recommendations to the government included doubling the number of international students coming to Canada, establishing a new mechanism for supporting international research collaboration at scale, and creating a new program to send 50,000 Canadian students abroad annually by 2022. 

“International education is one of the few sectors to have grown constantly through the recession, to a value of $8 billion per year in communities large and small across the country,” said AUCC president, Paul Davidson.  “The federal government clearly recognizes the benefits that international students bring to Canadian university campuses and their communities, and the economic and trade advantages they bring to the country as a whole.”

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

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Media Contact:

Nadine Robitaille
Communications Officer
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
nrobitaille@aucc.ca
613-563-3961 ext. 306

Media release - November 26, 2013


OTTAWA — A new Canadian-European initiative aims to raise awareness of the growing partnership opportunities for Canadian and European researchers and innovators. The ERA-Can Plus project will promote science, technology and innovation collaboration between Canada and the European Union through policy dialogues, research exchanges and information sharing about funding opportunities.

The initiative, launched in early October, begins just as the EU is set to start its Eighth Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, also referred to as Horizon 2020, with an expected budget of more than €70 billion (CAD $92 billion) between 2014-2020. The signing of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement in the same month also underscores the important economic and research ties between Canada and the EU, and the role of science and technology for promoting innovation-based economic growth.

“Canada is a valued partner for the European Union in a wide range of cooperation areas and our partnership in research and innovation is particularly strong,” said European Union Ambassador Marie-Anne Coninsx. “ERA-Can Plus will further contribute to deepen the already existing strong ties. In particular, this joint initiative will be instrumental in facilitating enhanced cooperation in the new mutually agreed priority areas of arctic and marine research.”

ERA-Can Plus will raise awareness of the multiple research and innovation program opportunities for Canadians in Horizon 2020 and for Europeans in Canada’s research programs. The project will tackle societal challenges by helping bridge the gap between research and the market and will also enrich the Canada-EU policy dialogue by identifying research areas of mutual interest. It builds on two previous ERA-Can projects that have made significant inroads in expanding Canadian and European research collaboration and improving bilateral relations between Canada and the EU.

 “Building on the recently announced agreement-in-principle on an historic Canada-European Union trade agreement, ERA-Can Plus is yet another bridge that will help us take our 21st century relationship to the next level,” said the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade. “Enhancing the science, technology and innovation collaboration between Canada and the European Union, key features of our landmark trade agreement, will contribute to new jobs and new opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic.”

“The ERA-CAN Plus project objectives and its Canadian and European partnership correspond to the new international cooperation strategy for research and innovation of the European Union,” said Maria Cristina Russo, Director in DG RTD for International Cooperation in the European Commission. “It will support the implementation of our policy dialogue for example as follow up of the Galway Statement signed by Canada and the EU.“

The consortium brings together seven leading associations and organizations for research, innovation and public policy discussions from across Canada and Europe. The Canadian partners are the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, and the Public Policy Forum. The European partners are the Agenzia per la Promozione della Ricerca Europea in Italy, the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique in France, the Project Management Agency at DLR in Germany, and the Zentrum für Soziale Innovation in Austria. The Italian partner will act as the coordinator for the project.

The project is largely funded by the European Commission. 

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For more information:
Martina de Sole 
Coordinator APRE   
info@era-can.net


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