Is the 2010 Financial Budget Adequate for the Canadian Life Science Industry?

March 16, 2010 at 11:22 am 1 comment

Last week finance minister Jim Flaherty announced that the Canadian government will invest almost $1.9B in post-secondary education infrastructure, research, technology innovation and environmental protection as part of its $19B stimulus plan for 2010.

The specific perks for life scientists include:

  • Providing $45 million over five years to establish a post-doctoral fellowship program which will provide $70,000/yr for 2 years to 140 post-doctoral fellows.
  • Increasing the combined annual budgets of Canada’s research granting councils by an additional $32 million per year ($16M to CIHR and $13M to NSERC), plus an additional $5 million per year to foster closer research collaborations between academic institutions and the private sector through NSERC’s Strategy for Partnerships and Innovation the Indirect Costs of Research Program.
  • Providing Genome Canada with an additional $75 million for genomics research.
  • Providing $135 million over two years to the National Research Council Canada’s regional innovation clusters program.
  • Providing $48 million over two years for research, development and application of medical isotopes.
  • Launching a new Small and Medium-sized Enterprise Innovation Commercialization Program with $40 million over two years.
  • Renewing and making ongoing $49 million in annual funding for the regional development agencies to support innovation across Canada.

According to Rebecca Trager of the Royal Society of Chemistry the budget has drawn a mixed reaction from Canada’s academic research community. Trager reports that Paul Davidson of The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada gave the budget an overall positive review while The Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and The Canadian Consortium for Research both claim that the current budget doesn’t make up for the shortfall of previous years and further financial stimulus is required to maintain Canada’s competitive research edge.

On the commercialization front, Dr. Philip Schwab, Vice President, BIOTECanada also expressed disappointment with Flaherty’s announcement. Dr. Schwab writes that despite the government’s commitment to basic research, it must build a “commercialization eco-system” where public and private partners are empowered to build linkages and bring products to market. He cites a figure from the Industrial Journal of biotechnology that biotech contributes $78.3 billion dollars to Canada’s GDP PER YEAR and laments that unfortunately, commercialization of scientific research was not a strong focus of the government’s current budget.

While the majority of professional opinions presented here tend to paint a negative picture of the recent stimulus plan, it would be interesting to solicit the gut reaction from the “guys at the bench.” Quite often these types of announcements seem far removed from our everyday experience and its impact is only felt during the next grant funding season or when looking for a post-doc position following graduation.

Have you given any thought to how the current budget will affect your research? Have previous government announcements influenced the way you do research (like producing more “home brews” rather than purchasing off the shelf kits in order to save money)?

Entry filed under: Of Interest. Tags: , , , .

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