Over the past decade or so, Canadian colleges and institutes have emerged as true champions of innovation. Their practical approach to problem solving based on applied research has made them go-to partners for countless companies, big and small, looking for support to improve products, processes, and services. This was achieved with support from the federal government, matched nearly dollar for dollar by each private and not-for-profit partner. Now, in order to grow their capacity and increase the impact they have in their communities, colleges and institutes require access to stable research support funding.
Budget 2018’s significant investment of $140 million over five years for the College and Community Innovation Program (CCIP) recognized the distinct role that colleges and institutes play in the innovation ecosystem. It was greeted with enthusiasm by CICan members across the country and will go a long way to support new research partner-ships. However, Budget 2018 also exposed an important gap in federal support that now constitutes the single biggest obstacle to building a sustainable applied research enterprise in colleges and institutes. Unlike other tri-agency programs, the CCIP is not eligible for the Research Support Fund (RSF), despite permitting a portion of the grants to be used to cover overhead and administrative costs.
For a more robust applied research enterprise at colleges and institutes, foundational funding is needed to identify research opportunities with prospective partners, build and maintain research capacity among faculty and students, and maintain a reliable research environment comprised of policies, procedures and state-of-the-art facilities. To realize this goal, colleges and institutes are calling for a new annual investment of $40M in research support funding. This would allow them to shift from a project-to-project planning horizon to focus on the longer-term. Applied research offices could then invest with confidence in their unique ability to draw new actors into regional innovation systems, particularly SMEs, young entrepreneurs and start-ups, and facilitate com-mercialization connections to other research players, such as universities and government labs.
Colleges and Institutes Canada has been working hard to support the growth of applied research at colleges and institutes, organizing symposiums that encourage the sharing of best practices and offering professional and leadership development opportunities for research leads.
We have witnessed a growing appetite to expand the research capacity of our institutions, not only from our members, but also from thousands of private and not-for-profit partners, as well as from students who see the chance to work on an applied research project as one of the best forms of work-integrated learning.
Last year alone, colleges and institutes led over 7,300 research partnerships that developed more than 1400 prototypes, 700 products, 500 processes, and 350 services. This helped drive Canadian innovation in a variety of sectors crucial to the Canadian economy. Just imagine what can be accomplished with sustained research support funding.
President & CEO Colleges and Institutes Canada