Editorial – 29-16

By Mark Henderson, Editor

Will Canada’s science, technology and innovation (STI) strategy be getting a much needed overhaul? The incoming Liberal government’s election platform didn’t have much to say about STI but that hasn’t stopped a torrent of advice from business and academia, urging the new government to get serious about the knowledge-based economy (see page1).

The current STI strategy was issued in late 2014 with little fanfare — announced as an add-on to prime minister Stephen Harper’s announcement of the timing and details of the $1.5-billion Canada First Research Excellence Fund (R$, December 10/14). A frustrating mixture of high-altitude roadmap and a compendium of acronyms, its status as a strategy is highly debatable and it has had negligible impact on pulling together the disparate pieces of the innovation ecosystem.

The Harper government’s demonstrated neglect of STI has hurt the high-tech sector and a new strategy is essential to ensure that the skill sets of Canadians are properly positioned and afforded opportunities to contribute.

The key missing ingredient has been an STI champion within government. The challenge to the new Trudeau administration is to appoint an appropriate senior-level MP to give it the profile it deserves.

Industry, government and academia are more than willing to collaborate if there’s a powerful vision and associated policies and programs they can buy into.

The onus is on Industry Canada’s policy shop to work with the new government in crafting a true strategy that reflects the opportunities and challenges innovative companies will face in the coming years.