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CICan barnstorms innovation and science consultations, releases economic impact study

This article was first published in the October 27, 2016  issue of Research Money.
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Colleges and their graduates are estimated to have contributed more than $190 billion in added income to the Canadian economy in FY14-15 or 12.7% of GDP and are seeking additional support for their research and innovation activities to boost contributions even further. Colleges and Institutes Canada made their case in submissions to both the Innovation Agenda and Fundamental Science Review panels.

CICan is advocating for a streamlined mechanism for federal funding to colleges and polytechnics, ramped up support for applied research to $300 million over five years, the creation of Innovation Service Hubs on campuses, and greater access to specialized research centres for firms and partners.

The flurry of lobbying activity is in response to the widespread consultations being undertaken by the Liberal government as it prepares for the next Budget and beyond, says Christine Trauttmansdorff, CICan’s VP government relations and Canadian partnerships.

“There are more than 100 different consultations and initial reports and products are now coming out. It’s all good. We’re putting our stuff out there front and centre,” says Trauttmansdorff. “It’s all about talent talent talent … There are huge opportunities for the college sector to step up (but) there are still some surprises in what colleges do these days, like sector- or industry-specific learning or post-graduate certificates.”



For its submission to the Innovation Agenda consultations, CICan took its inspiration from the six pillars outlined in the background document (see chart), with extra emphasis on talent, research, innovation and commercialization and entrepreneurship via incubators and accelerators.

“Entrepreneurship is a natural outgrowth of what colleges are doing (and) the need for all Canadians to be equipped in the innovation economy,” says Trauttmansdorff. “We respond to the needs of the labour market and that influences curriculum and enrolment models.”

In the future, Trauttmansdorff sees college graduates and people working on skills that complement the technological changes that are rapidly becoming mainstream.

“We need to be able to work alongside artificial intelligence and robotics. We need sophisticated workers. The federal government recognizes what the issues are,” she says. “Even people with masters and PhD degrees need job training. Everyone knows someone who is retraining at colleges.”



CICan’s most specific recommendations are contained in its letter to Dr David Naylor, chair of Canada’s Fundamental Science Review. Trauttmansdorff says that although colleges and polytechnics don’t conduct fundamental science, the majority of applied research funding for colleges flows through the granting councils.

Currently 70% of federal funding for colleges comes through eight tri-council college programs administered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, two funding streams through the Canada Foundation for Innovation and a pilot program recently launched by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council. CICan wants this collection of programs “simplified and streamlined” to be more responsive to its members and research partners.

The Naylor letter also requests increased support for specialized research centres, new funding to equip colleges, eligibility for international partners collaborating with Canadian firms and increased support for faculty participation and student employment on applied research projects.