March 5, 2010
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Reaction in the biotech and innovation community to the 2010 budget was generally positive, since they (we) got something in a year when most groups got nothing. As Rob Annan put it over at Researcher Forum:
“What a difference a year makes… Funding increases, though relatively small, are made more significant by the context of spending restraint evidenced elsewhere in the budget.”
There was also much celebration of the demise of Section 116, including from BIOTECanada (pdf), and the CVCA, both of which had recommended the change, and from Communitech, the organization that represents Waterloo Region tech companies. Mark McQueen over at Wellington Capital blasphemously refuses to hail the event as Our Salvation, pointing out that (1) there has been a lot of investment by U.S. VCs even with 116 in place, (2) U.S. VCs aren’t having a great year either, and (3) those that are may not be as excited as we hope about early-stage Canadian deals.
Directly funded organizations wrote prompt thank-you notes:
- TRIUMF, slated to receive $222 million over the next 5 years for its work on particle and nuclear physics, described the budget as a “firm commitment to science & technology.”
- The Canadian Youth Business Foundation (CYBF), seeing its $10 million in funding, characterized the move as an “investment in young entrepreneurs.”
Others, perhaps encouraged by this year’s $75 million allocated to Genome Canada following last year’s kerfuffle, have been quick to point out other flaws they perceive in the budget as well:
March 8, 2009
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A meeting this week between the Canadian Association of University Teachers and Gary Goodyear, Canada’s Minister of Science and Technology descended into a shouting match over cuts to research funding announced in Canada’s 2009 federal budget.
Interestingly, the Minister focused on a point I made last week – that the Canadian approach lately has centered on commercialization:
Mr. Goodyear, a chiropractor from Cambridge, Ont., said the government has been steadily investing in science and technology since 2006, with a new emphasis on commercialization…
I think commercialization is a worthwhile investment; but funding commercialization at the expense of Canadian research is a major blunder, for the following reasons:
- There is no commercialization without research. Researchers from Boston or San Francisco or Edinburgh will not suddenly move here to start their companies because of extra NRC-IRAP funding. If the developments aren’t made here, the companies won’t be formed here either.
- Research is an area in which Canada punches above its weight. Check out our Friday Science Reviews and you will see international headlines and top tier journal articles. However, a lot of hard reputational work is undone by the kind of international reaction generated by the 2009 budget.
- The timing is bad. The increased research funding provided by the U.S. budget and stimulus makes for a terrible comparison. Plus, Obama is poised to lift the U.S. federal funding ban on stem cell research tomorrow (Monday); and this is an area where we have benefited from an extra structural advantage that is about to be erased (as observers in the UK have already noted).
So, Mr. Goodyear, by all means focus on commercialization. We can (and will) quibble about that implementation another time. But in the meantime, restore the research funding that makes us a world-class producer of scientific innovation.