Proposed 2017 Federal Budget allocates little new spending for science for the coming year

Introduction

The following is a brief analysis of science-related highlights from the proposed 2017 Federal Budget, entitled “Building A Strong Middle Class”. Throughout the year, CAP will continue to monitor government policy that could affect physics in Canada.

This brief is intended to capture those highlights most relevant to members of CAP, and does not include all aspects of the investments made to research and post-secondary education.

The full budget can be found at http://www.budget.gc.ca/2017/docs/plan/toc-tdm-en.html in English and http://www.budget.gc.ca/2017/docs/plan/toc-tdm-fr.html in French.

Overall, Budget 2017 described policies and implementation strategies from last year’s budget. Many of the financial statements made were confirmations of money that was allocated last year and showed very little new spending in science for the coming year.

Summary

Budget 2017 “…proposes new funding to help Canadians prepare for the economy of tomorrow by promoting the development of science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills and digital literacy, particularly for women, girls and underrepresented groups”. However, not a lot of new money was allocated to many academic research-related initiatives, as evidenced by the lack of any mention of NSERC or of CFI. CIHR received some funding for targeted programs to minimize health risks caused by climate change and to support the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy.

Budget 2017 reflects a focus on reviewing and restructuring the science and innovation system. It states that the results of the Fundamental Science Review launched in 2016 “will be made public in the coming months” and “Findings from the review will help maintain and strengthen Canada’s international standing in fundamental science and ensure that our scientists have the tools, training and support needed to excel globally”. The general absence of changes to funding for the granting councils might be explained by the fact that the Government hasn’t completed their assessment of the recommendations from the review panel and released the report.

The budget also promises “to elevate the importance of science in government, with the establishment of a Chief Science Advisor and related secretariat” and conduct or continue several reviews of government science, including the role of the National Research Council. They also refer to the development of a “new federal science infrastructure strategy” that will “provide a roadmap for future investments”. Meanwhile, the creation of a new agency – “Innovation Canada” – to “consolidate and simplify dozens of innovation programs situated across many departments” was announced.

The key focus areas of the Canadian innovation policy include advanced manufacturing, agri-foods, clean technology, digital industries, health and bioscience, and clean resources. Research in these focus areas are specifically addressed in Budget 2017 by investing up to $950 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, to support of a small number of business-led innovation superclusters that have the greatest potential to accelerate economic growth. $800 million of this money was promised in the previous budget, so this announcement represents a slight increase in funding to this area. With respect to clean technology research, the budget also repeats its commitment to “Mission Innovation”, a multi-national initiative to double investments in clean energy and clean technology research by 2020. A key aspect of this commitment is to provide $229 million over four years, starting in 2018–19, to Natural Resources Canada and Transport Canada to continue R&D activities through their core clean energy and clean transportation innovation programming.

Other funding related to physics research (more details are included in the budget excerpts below):

  • $10 million, over two years, to the Institute for Quantum Computing for the development of quantum technologies
  • $80.9 million over five years, starting 2017-2018, to space-related projects
  • $35 million over five years, starting 2017-2018, to CIFAR for international research collaborations
  • $117.6 million over eight years, starting 2017-2018, for 25 new Canada 150 Research Chairs (CRC)
  • $59.6 million renewed funding starting 2017-2018, to the National Research Council’s business innovation initiatives
  • $2 million annually to the Chief Science Advisor and secretariat

Funding related to physics education (more details are included in the budget excerpts below):

  • $221 million over five years, starting 2017-2018, to Mitacs for expanding work-integrated learning placements for Canadian post-secondary students and graduates
  • $10.8 million over five years, starting 2017-2018, to NSERC’s PromoScience Program to support STEM learning activities for Canadian youth
  • $1.5 million over five years, starting in 2017-2018, to expand the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence to include 17 new STEM-themed awards
  • $50 million over two years, starting 2017-2018, to Teaching Kids to Code for kindergarten to grade 12 children
  • $59.8 million over four years, and $17 million per year thereafter, to introduce new eligibility criteria to post-secondary student support programs for part-time students
  • $107.4 million over four years, starting 2018-2019, and $29.3 million per year thereafter, to expand the eligibility for post-secondary student support for students with dependent children
  • $7.8 million over two years starting 2017-2018, for the Global Skills Strategy allowing a new work permit exemption for short-duration work terms which can be useful for brief academic stays

Impact Canada

Budget 2017 proposes to create a new initiative, the Impact Canada Fund, to introduce a new mission- or “challenge”-based approach for the federal government and help focus and accelerate efforts toward solving Canada’s big challenges. The Impact Canada Fund, with collaboration from the National Research Council, will focus its initial efforts in two problem-solving streams:

  1. A clean technology stream, supported by up to $75 million over two years, starting in 2017–18, to address challenges such as helping Canada’s rural and remote communities reduce their reliance on diesel as a power source.
  2. A smart cities stream, supported by $300 million over 11 years, that will support the Smart Cities Challenge (see Chapter 2 of budget for additional details).

This initiative stems directly from the input to the 2016 Canadian Innovation Agenda which suggested a need for federally supported, mission-driven research and innovation. Within this and other chosen focus areas, physicists may find employment opportunities and benefits.

S&T-related excerpts from the budget

Fundamental Science Review

In 2016, the Government launched an independent review of federal investments in and funding for fundamental science research. The review, led by an independent panel of distinguished research leaders and innovators, has involved broad consultations with research communities, industry and civil society to assess the effectiveness of current supports for scientists and scientific research. In particular, the panel looked at the challenges facing women and other underrepresented groups, and considered ways to make current supports more accessible and inclusive. Findings from the review will help maintain and strengthen Canada’s international standing in fundamental science and ensure that our scientists have the tools, training and support needed to excel globally. The panel’s report and recommendations will be made public in the coming months.

Innovation Superclusters

Budget 2017 proposes to invest up to $950 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, to be provided on a competitive basis in support of a small number of business-led innovation “superclusters” that have the greatest potential to accelerate economic growth….Of the $950 million, $800 million will be drawn from the Budget 2016 provision for innovation networks and clusters and $150 million will be drawn from the public transit and green infrastructure allocations provisioned in the 2016 Fall Economic Statement.

What Would Superclusters Look Like?

  • Risk sharing to develop platform technologies and disruptive technologies that will boost Canada’s competitiveness in areas of economic strength (e.g. advanced manufacturing, agri-food, clean technology, digital economy, health/bio-sciences, clean resources, and infrastructure and transportation).
  • Strong connections between businesses, from large anchor firms to startups, post-secondary institutions and research institutions that support private sector-led research and development that is linked to commercial outcomes with application in the real economy.
  • Create opportunities to grow Canadian companies through globally integrated supply chains.
  • Diverse and skilled talent pools enhanced by advisory services and business mentoring for startups and small and medium-sized enterprises that lead to opportunities for Canadians to access high-value, well-paying jobs.
  • Focus on innovative solutions that will improve the quality of life of Canadians and allow businesses to better perform in a competitive environment.

Institute for Quantum Computing

The development of new quantum technologies has the potential to transform markets, create new industries and produce leading-edge jobs. The Institute for Quantum Computing is a world-leading Canadian research facility that furthers our understanding of these innovative technologies. Budget 2017 proposes to provide the Institute with renewed funding of $10 million over two years, starting in 2017–18.

Canadian Institute for Advanced Research

The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR) connects Canadian researchers with collaborative research networks led by eminent Canadian and international researchers on topics that touch all humanity. Past collaborations facilitated by CIFAR are credited with fostering Canada’s leadership in artificial intelligence and deep learning. Budget 2017 proposes to provide renewed and enhanced funding of $35 million over five years, starting in 2017–18.

Mitacs

Mitacs has set an ambitious goal of providing 10,000 work-integrated learning placements for Canadian post-secondary students and graduates each year— up from the current level of around 3,750 placements. Budget 2017 proposes to provide $221 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, to achieve this goal and provide relevant work experience to Canadian students.

Canada Research Chairs

In recognition of the importance of research excellence and in celebration of Canada’s 150th anniversary, approximately 25 Canada 150 Research Chairs will be created to attract top-tier international scholars and researchers to Canada and enhance Canada’s reputation as a global centre for innovation, science and research excellence. Budget 2017 proposes to invest $117.6 million over eight years for these new chairs, funded with resources within the existing Canada Excellence Research Chairs program.

Chief Science Advisor

Budget 2017 proposes to elevate the importance of science in government, with the establishment of a Chief Science Advisor and related secretariat. As part of her/his mandate, the Chief Science Advisor will provide advice on how to ensure that government science is open to the public, that federal scientists are able to speak freely about their work, and that science is effectively communicated across government.

The Chief Science Advisor will be responsible for providing advice to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Science, and will serve primarily in an advisory and coordinating capacity. Budget 2017 proposes to establish an annual budget of $2 million for the Chief Science Advisor and related secretariat.

Reviews of Government Science-Related Programs

  • The Government will work to develop a new federal science infrastructure strategy. This will include a review of existing investments in federal science infrastructure, including federal laboratories and testing facilities, and provide a roadmap for future investments. The strategy will offer a more integrated and effective approach to federal laboratories, information technology and human resources in the federal science community, and will seek to ensure that federal scientists have the access to the world class infrastructure, innovative equipment and computer networks they need to produce the best results for Canadians.
  • The Government will initiate a horizontal review of all federal innovation and clean technology programs across all departments, as federal innovation programs are dispersed. Consistent with the principles of Canada’s new Innovation and Skills Plan (discussed in Chapter 1), the horizontal review will look to simplify programming and better align resources to improve the effectiveness of innovation programs. To ensure that its programs are simple and effective and best meet the needs of Canada’s innovators, the Government will review existing programs with the help of external experts. The review will encompass all relevant federal organizations, including Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. In parallel, the Government will also review the Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax incentive program to ensure its continued effectiveness and efficiency.
  • The Government will initiate a three-year horizontal review of federal fixed assets, staged by asset-type—e.g., engineering assets, science facilities, etc. A comprehensive review of government fixed assets has not been completed in decades. The Government spends roughly $10 billion annually to purchase, construct, renovate, repair, maintain and operate both owned and leased capital assets. This review will look to identify ways to enhance or generate greater value from government assets.

National Research Council of Canada

In keeping with the mandate of the new President of the National Research Council, the Government will undertake a review in 2017 to assess how the Council can best support the Innovation and Skills Plan.

The National Research Council has a long track record of success in helping industry take ideas from the research stage through to development and demonstration. Recognizing the National Research Council’s important role in fostering and supporting innovation in Canada, Budget 2017 proposes to renew funding of $59.6 million in 2017–18, to support the Council’s business innovation initiatives. The Council provides research and development services covering areas from aerospace to medical devices, maintains hundreds of partnerships with organizations and engages with thousands of clients. These initiatives include providing technical services, lending scientific expertise, and offering the unique facilities that businesses across Canada need to successfully bring their innovations to market.

As part of the review, the Government will also examine what future role the National Research Council could play in supporting innovation, creating more opportunities for women researchers and innovators, and supporting mission-driven, breakthrough research in collaboration with the new Impact Canada Fund.

Innovation Canada

Budget 2017 proposes to establish Innovation Canada, a new platform that will help to consolidate and simplify dozens of innovation programs situated across many departments. This will make it easier for Canadian innovators to access and benefit from Government-led innovation programs, reducing legwork and paperwork, providing more timely and relevant access to services, and ultimately putting more money in the hands of Canadian innovators to grow their businesses and create jobs. The Government will initiate a whole-of-government review of business innovation programs to ensure they are effectively geared to support Canada’s innovators in turning their ideas into thriving businesses.

Space Exploration

“Canada has a long and proud history as a space-faring nation. As our international partners prepare to chart new missions, Budget 2017 proposes investments that will underscore Canada’s commitment to innovation and leadership in space. Budget 2017 proposes to provide $80.9 million on a cash basis over five years, starting in 2017–18, for new projects through the Canadian Space Agency that will demonstrate and utilize Canadian innovations in space, including in the field of quantum technology as well as for Mars surface observation. The latter project will enable Canada to join the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA’s) next Mars Orbiter Mission.”

Global Skills Strategy

“Building on funding announced in the 2016 Fall Economic Statement, Budget 2017 proposes to provide an additional $7.8 million over two years, starting in 2017–18, to implement a new Global Talent Stream under the Temporary Foreign Worker Program, as part of the Global Skills Strategy. Also under the Global Skills Strategy, the Government will introduce a new work permit exemption for short-duration work terms. The short-duration work permit exemption will apply for work terms of fewer than 30 days in a year—or for brief academic stays—and will be used for short-term, inter-company work exchanges, study exchanges or the entrance of temporary expertise.”

Promoting STEM to Young Canadians

The PromoScience Program helps to introduce diverse groups of young Canadians to the power and potential of these exciting fields through hands-on learning experiences, such as space camps and conservation projects. To support these efforts, Budget 2017 proposes to invest $10.8 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, to allow PromoScience to support more STEM learning activities for Canadian youth—in particular underrepresented groups.

Teachers also play an important role in keeping students engaged in formal STEM learning, and in developing the culture of innovation that Canada needs today, and in the future. Budget 2017 proposes to invest $1.5 million over five years, starting in 2017–18, to expand the Prime Minister’s Awards for Teaching Excellence to include 17 new STEM-themed awards. These awards will recognize teaching excellence and allow for broad sharing of teaching practices at the national level.

To help more Canadians learn about and celebrate extraordinary accomplishments in research excellence, Budget 2017 also proposes to create a new Prime Minister’s Gold Medal. This award will recognize scientific excellence and bring greater international acclaim to Canadian scientists and researchers.

Providing educational opportunities for digital skills development to Canadian girls and boys—from kindergarten to grade 12—will give them the head start they need to find and keep good, well-paying, in-demand jobs. To help provide coding and digital skills education to more young Canadians, the Government intends to launch a competitive process through which digital skills training organizations can apply for funding. Budget 2017 proposes to provide $50 million over two years, starting in 2017–18, to support these teaching initiatives.