Friday, 6 April 2012

CAP writes to Prime Minister re Jenkins Report and NRC

CAP writes to Prime Minister re Jenkins Report and NRC: ... "CAP believes that the Report's recommendations regarding the future of the National Research Council of Canada (NRC) are much superior to those announced by NRC itself. In essence, the Report recommends continuing but transforming the current NRC Institutes: some as business-facing industry-oriented non-profit research centres mandated to undertake collaborative R&D and commercialization projects with business organizations, some (those currently undertaking more basic research) as centres engaged in basic research and affiliated with one or more universities, and some as part of a non-profit organization mandated to manage what are currently NRC major science initiatives.
In contrast, NRC's proposed changes place a heavy emphasis on short-term efforts aimed at immediate industrial needs. There is a role for such efforts, but major contributions to Canada's economy and wellbeing require deep, world-leading expertise based on research and expertise built up over many years. NRC has a long history of such major advances. For example, the critical importance of canola (developed by NRC in collaboration with Agriculture Canada) to Western Canada was recently highlighted in the Globe and Mail; according to the article, canola is responsible for $14B p.a. of economic activity in the West. Other examples over the years include the development of the world's first practical electric wheelchair, the first artificial cardiac pacemaker, the first effective vaccine against infant meningitis, the Crash Position Indicator, the Canadarm, and Computer Animation Technology.
Compared with NRC's own proposals, the Report's recommendations seem to us much more likely to preserve the very valuable, hard-won expertise of the NRC Institutes, and to assist them to continue to make major long-term contributions from which industry and all Canadians will benefit. CAP is concerned that the structural reorganization proposed by the NRC does not sufficiently take into account the recommendations of the Report and we urge your government to request that the Report's authors review NRC's proposed changes before they are implemented."
Here you could learn about Jenkins report and get the full pdf file of the report: ..."An expert panel convened by the federal government released their final report Monday on how effective Canada is at supporting business-oriented research and development. Chaired by Tom Jenkins, chief strategy officer of Open Text, the report has several recommendations, including large changes to the National Research Council. The report can be found online:" ... the summary of the recommendation of the report on NRC: "Transform the institutes of the National Research Council into a series of large-scale, collaborative centres involving business, universities and the provinces.
The NRC was created during World War I to kick-start Canada's research capacity. It has a long and storied history of discoveries and innovation, including numerous commercial spin-offs. While the NRC continues to do good work, research and commercialization activity in Canada has grown immensely. In this new context, the NRC can play a unique role, linking its large-scale, long-term research activity with the academic and business communities. The panel recommends evolving NRC institutes, consistent with the current strategic direction, into not-for-profit centres run with stakeholders, and incorporating its public policy research into other departments." ... from the pdf of the full report here is more

on what this recommendation means for NRC: "Canada needs a fundamentally new approach to building public–private research collaborations in areas of strategic importance and opportunity for the economy. Accordingly,
we recommend that the business-oriented institutes of the National Research Council (NRC) should become independent collaborative research organizations, intended to be focal points for sectoral research and innovation strategies with the private sector. Those NRC  institutes that perform primarily fundamental research would become affiliates of universities, while those with core public policy mandates
would be transferred to the most relevant federal department or agency." ..."We believe that public–private research consortia in Canada lack the scale needed to have significant impact on the development of globally competitive Canadian companies. Consequently, Canada needs a fundamentally new approach to building such collaborations in areas of strategic importance and opportunity for the economy. The existing institutes of the NRC are a unique asset in terms of infrastructure, talent and sectoral and regional coverage. Consistent with the new direction being taken by NRC management, we believe that several of the institutes should be evolved to become a core national constellation of R&D and technology institutes mandated to collaborate closely with business in key sectors. The appropriate individual institutes could
become focal points for the development of R&D and innovation strategies for key sectors, for major enabling technologies and for regional clusters of innovative firms and supporting services."... "Evolution of the NRC — Charge the NRC to develop a plan for each of its existing institutes and major business units that would require their evolution over the next five years into one of the following:
(a) an industry-oriented non-profit research organization mandated to undertake collaborative R&D and commercialization projects and services, funded by amounts drawn against existing NRC appropriations together with revenue earned from collaborative activities (b) an institute engaged in basic research to be affiliated with one or more universities and funded by an amount drawn against existing NRC appropriations together with contributions from university and/or provincial partners (c) a part of a non-profit organization mandated to manage what are currently NRC major science initiatives and potentially other such research
infrastructure in Canada (d) an institute or unit providing services in support of a public policy mandate and to be incorporated within the relevant federal department or agency."
And here is a bit on the early history of NRC: "The National Research Council of Canada, federal CROWN CORPORATION responsible to Parliament through the minister of industry. The NRC was formed in 1916 as the Honorary Advisory Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. It immediately funded research committees for special needs, offered science fellowships at Canadian universities, and carried out a research inventory (the first statistical review of the Canadian scientific work force and budgets). Early plans to found an NRC national laboratory at Ottawa were not authorized until 1928. During the presidency of H.M. TORY (1923-35), laboratory staff reached 153, including 54 scientists and research engineers, all but one of whom were employed in industrial or applied research.
Tory's successor, General A.G.L. MCNAUGHTON, enlarged the staff to 300 and prepared the NRC laboratories for their central role in war research (from medicine and food packaging to weapons and synthetic fuels). Under C.J. MACKENZIE, president from 1939 to 1952, NRC staff reached 2000 and was reorganized to provide a stronger foundation in basic (pure) SCIENCE. President E.W.R. STEACIE (1952-62) established the principle that NRC extramural budgets for university grants and fellowships should rise to match the intramural budget ($21.5 million in 1962-63) and initiated the Industrial Research Assistance Program for extramural grants to private industry (see INDUSTRIAL RESEARCH AND DEVELOPMENT).
Many of the NRC's functions have been spun off to separate bodies. For example, the council was the government's general adviser on SCIENCE POLICY from 1916 until the Science Secretariat was created in 1964. Activities initiated by the NRC and delegated to separate bodies include military research (to the DEFENCE RESEARCH Board, 1947), atomic research (to ATOMIC ENERGY OF CANADA LTD, 1952), medical research grants (to the MEDICAL RESEARCH COUNCIL, 1966), university grants and scholarships (to the NATURAL SCIENCES AND ENGINEERING RESEARCH COUNCIL, 1978) and the astronaut program (Canadian Space Agency, 1989). "

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