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Major investments in research and innovation

Highlights from the 2014 federal budget

- February 13, 2014

A Plant Sciences lab in Dal's Faculty of Agriculture (Danny Abriel photo)
A Plant Sciences lab in Dal's Faculty of Agriculture (Danny Abriel photo)

University leaders across Canada are enthusiastic about some major investments announced in the 2014 federal budget, which was tabled in the House of Commons late Tuesday afternoon.

Dal’s Martha Crago, vice-president research, is among them.

“Education was a big winner in this budget: university research funding was the second-largest area of new funding, and the largest investment was in Aboriginal education,” she explains.

Referring to the research funding in particular, Dr. Crago says it “represents the sort of long-term investment universities have been looking for to help us attract and develop top researchers and grad students, empowering them to discover, to innovate and to make real gains — both for Canada and for knowledge and understanding on the global stage.”

A new major research fund

The big-ticket item for university research in the budget is the proposal for a new Canada First Research Excellence Fund, which over the next 10 years will add $1.5 billion to Canada’s research economy.

As explained by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty in his budget speech, the fund is designed to “support the strategic research priorities of Canada's post-secondary institutions and help them excel globally in research areas that create long-term economic advantages for Canada.”

While the full details of the fund are still forthcoming, it will launch with an investment of $50 million in 2015-16, a number that will increase by $50 million each year until 2018-19, after which it maintain a steady-state level of $200 million in annual funding.

Dr. Crago says the new resource will help Canadian researchers increase the global reach and collaboration opportunities for their work while also building a stronger research ecosystem at home.

“We’re eager to learn more in the coming weeks about how the fund will operate so we can best support our faculty researchers in making the most of this exciting new opportunity,” she says.

Increases to tri-council funding

In addition to the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, the budget proposes an additional $46 million in annual funding to Canada’s granting councils starting in 2014-15. This represents the largest annual increase in funding for research through the granting councils in more than a decade.

The $46 million includes increases of $15 million for the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), $15 million for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), $7 million for the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and $9 million to the Indirect Costs of Research program.

Both the U15 — the association of Canada’s top research universities, of which Dalhousie is a member — and the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) praised the new investments. The two organizations had worked together to propose to the federal government a research fund along the lines of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.

David Barnard, AUCC chair, called the new funding “far-sighted and strategic” in a media release, with U15 chair Amit Chakma saying that the funding “will enable us to make new discoveries we will mobilize for the benefit of all Canadians, strengthen regional and national economies and increase our country’s innovative capacity.”


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