COVID-19 has reshaped our world, accelerating many economic and social trends. Canadian public policy must respond to reflect new realities. It is investments in people and ideas that will enable Canada to tackle the challenges before us, create inclusive economic growth, and facilitate a fair and just social recovery from the pandemic.
Canada’s tremendous healthcare response and the effort of first responders and essential workers have both been supported by leading-edge research and researchers, and by the talent developed at Canada’s universities over the decades. While the COVID-19 vaccines were developed in 10 months, they were the product of 30 years of discovery research, including research at Canadian universities. This punctuates the need for sustained investment in the Canadian research ecosystem to tackle today’s challenges and the unknown challenges of the next 30 years.
Canada’s universities have served as anchor institutions for their communities throughout the pandemic. They have grown student enrollment, delivered on their educational missions, provided safe learning environments for students and helped to stabilize the economy of their local communities. Put simply, Canada’s universities have delivered for Canadians and are now poised to accelerate Canada’s economic and social recovery.
The pandemic has created new headwinds to Canadian competitiveness. Many G7 countries have responded by massively reinvesting in their research ecosystems, including discovery research and knowledge mobilization. For instance, the United States’ Innovation and Competition Act proposes a $250 billion investment in discovery science, advanced research and commercialization. We need comparable vision to ensure Canada’s economic growth, and to make our country more sustainable, more inclusive and better prepared for future emergencies.
Through investments in people and ideas, universities can be a key partner in addressing these challenges—in their communities, nationally and internationally.
Invest in diverse talent, both undergraduate and graduate, domestic and international, to respond to an increasingly competitive global environment.
Expand investments in Canadian research to globally competitive levels, including support for fundamental research through federal granting agencies, knowledge mobilization and international research collaboration.
Invest in green, digital, accessible and cyber infrastructure to build safe, digitally enabled and environmentally sustainable university campuses and learning environments.