Editorial 31-7

The National Research Council is embarking on a re-alignment of its core strengths by reaching out to academia and other players in the federal innovation system (see lead article). NEOMED is making major strides retaining critical pharmaceutical talent in the Montreal region and it’s actively considering a third site for its potent combination of research expertise and business collaboration.

A similar story is unfolding in Toronto, Edmonton and Montreal in artificial intelligence, spurred on by surging industry demand and federal support. Clean tech is being eyed as a critical partner to Canada’s natural resource sectors as they strive to reduce their environmental footprint and remain competitive on a sustainable basis. And the Structural Genomics Consortium is expanding its open innovation concept into the clinical realm, with spectacular initial results at the Montreal Neurological Institute.

What all these initiatives have in common is a collective ambition to foster collaborations that bolster Canada’s innovative capacity and output. Achieving greater alignment and coherence of the Canadian innovation ecosystem has long been a key policy objective but it takes the initiative and ingenuity of all players to make it a reality.

As much as the efforts of applied- and use-inspired R&D organizations are welcome, however, the role of fundamental research must not be overlooked. Pressure is growing on the federal government to respond to a key report on the issue by an expert panel led by Dr David Naylor.

Science minister Kirsty Duncan says the government will respond to its recommendations in due course, but years of underfunding have taken their toll and new funding is urgently required. The evidence is clear. It’s up to Ottawa to make sure the research base of the innovation pipeline is healthy and prepared to collaborate. Mark Henderson, Editor