Looking back on three years of federal action on IP and tech transfer in Canada

Mark Lowey
September 2, 2020

In a report published in 2017, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology made 12 recommendations to the federal government. Among them, the report suggested that Ottawa require Statistics Canada to develop a new set of indicators on tech transfer between post-secondary institutions and the private sector, and to launch an annual survey based on the new indicators. The report also recommended the Government of Canada to study the opportunity to renew and expand funding for programs supporting tech transfers between post-secondary institutions, and establish and promote a database of IP property assets held by post-secondary institutions.

How has Ottawa responded?

In the last three years, the federal government has introduced multiple programs and funding opportunities to boost IP development in Canada.

The Natural Science and Engineering Research Council's (NSERC) Alliance program, launched in 2019, encourages university researchers to collaborate with partner organizations from the private, public or not-for-profit sectors on research projects that will generate new knowledge and accelerate the application of research results. In 2020-21, the Alliance program will provide $91.5 million in grants, increasing to $241 million per year after 2023.

Also, the Tri-agency College and Community Innovation Program (CCIP) received an additional $140 million over five years through Budget 2018, bringing the total annual program budget to $86 million from $55 million. The program aims to increase innovation at the community and/or regional level by enabling Canadian colleges to increase their capacity to work with local companies, particularly SMEs. CCIP supports applied research and collaborations that facilitate commercialization, as well as technology transfer, adaptation and adoption of new technologies.

The Research Support Fund (RSF) helps post-secondary institutions with indirect costs in support of the research enterprise, including IP management and knowledge mobilization. Budget 2018 invested an additional $231 million over five years for the RSF and $58.8 million per year ongoing, which will bring the total program budget to $428 million per year by 2021-22.

Budget 2018 funds for the RSF are providing new Incremental Project Grants for projects that support a healthy research environment at research-intensive universities in four priority areas, including innovation and commercialization activities. Between 2013-14 and 2017-18, IP management and knowledge mobilization costs accounted for approximately 6% of RSF total funding.

In addition to the above granting agency initiatives, NSERC continues to support the Idea to Innovation (I2I) program, which provides funding to college and university faculty to support R&D projects with recognized technology transfer potential.

Canada’s first National IP strategy created

In 2018, the federal government launched Canada’s first-ever National IP Strategy, which “aims to strengthen IP elements in Canada’s innovation eco-system and to increase firms’ ability to use that system to their best advantage," said Hans Palmer, media relations advisor with Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada, in an email to Research Money.

The strategy’s initiatives encompass three overarching categories: legislative changes to clarify acceptable practice and prevent bad behavior; initiatives focusing on IP awareness, education and advice, to address the lack of IP literacy; and initiatives providing strategic IP tools for growth to reduce the costs and complexity of IP.

Specific initiatives that have been introduced include:

  • ExploreIP, Canada’s IP marketplace that provides a tool for businesses, creators, entrepreneurs and innovators to discover IP held by public sector institutions and leverage ground-breaking research and discoveries. To date, ExploreIP includes more than 40 public sector organizations that showcase over 3,300 inventions. ExploreIP now features a new COVID-19-related category to help users find technologies that could help combat the pandemic.
  • The Innovation Asset Collective, a non-profit organization, has been selected to receive funding through the Patent Collective Pilot Program, to support SMEs in the data-driven, clean-tech sector with their IP needs, helping them expand their business and become more competitive.
  • The Intellectual Property (IP) Legal Clinics Program, a grant program intended to encourage the establishment or enhancement of IP legal clinics within Canadian law schools. Program funding in the amount of $200,000 per year will support the provision of free or low-cost access to basic IP advisory services, and foster the development of future IP experts by increasing the exposure of university students to IP issues.
  • The College of Patent Agents and Trademark Agents was established as an independent regulator, with a modern regulatory framework, to oversee the patent agent and trademark agent profession.
  • The Indigenous IP Program grants support the participation of Indigenous peoples from Canada in domestic and international discussions about the IP system and the protection of Indigenous knowledge and cultural expressions, as well as other IP-related capacity building and outreach by Indigenous organizations.


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