There are 13 academic research programs across Canada that have been given a remarkable opportunity to excel on the international stage thanks to a Harper-era initiative designed to scale up national research strengths. The Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) isn't as big as its proponents — U15 and Universities Canada — were hoping. But $1.5 billion over 10 years in leveraged funding promises to have a dramatic impact on the capacity and global visibility of Canadian research expertise and ingenuity.
The second, and largest, of three planned competitions will inject $900 million into some of Canada's largest post-secondary institutions. Each successful university will work to secure additional funding to make their designated research programs as large and influential as possible. A third $250-million competition is slated for FY21-22.
Hopefully the federal government will green-light even larger additional investments in CFREF, giving the research community the ongoing fiscal support it requires to take on other nations that are aggressively ramping up their research enterprises.
The Liberal's Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund (SIF) is also rolling out $2 billion to universities and colleges. Together with CFREF and the likelihood of healthy increases for the granting councils in the next Budget, all signals a revival of support for universities and colleges after a few lean years.
Fuelling the research base is a critical pillar of an effective innovation strategy, and Canada is declaring that it's willing to make the investment.