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ARCHIVED - RPP 2007-2008
Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council

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Section I – Overview

Minister’s Message

Maxime Bernier - Minister of Industry

Canada’s New Government is committed to fostering a strong, competitive economy that benefits Canada and all Canadians. To achieve this goal, I firmly believe that our government must create an environment that encourages and rewards people who work hard, that stimulates innovation, and that avoids unnecessary regulatory burden. By modernizing and improving Canada’s marketplace frameworks, we will ensure stability and fairness while creating new opportunities and choices for businesses, consumers and all Canadians.

Over the past year, our government has taken significant steps to improve Canada’s economy. Early in our mandate we presented Budget 2006, which contained measures aimed at improving our quality of life by building a strong economy that is equipped to lead in the 21st century. These measures focused on making Canada’s tax system more competitive internationally, and outlined our commitments to reduce paper burden on businesses and to continue to support science and technology in Canada.

Last fall, we presented a long-term economic plan in the Economic and Fiscal Update. Advantage Canada: Building a Strong Economy for Canadians focused on creating five Canadian advantages that will give incentives for people and businesses to excel and to make Canada a world leader.

The Industry Portfolio consists of :

  • Business Development Bank of Canada [1]
  • Canadian Space Agency
  • Canadian Tourism Commission [1]
  • Copyright Board Canada
  • Industry Canada
  • National Research Council Canada
  • Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada
  • Registry of the Competition Tribunal
  • Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada
  • Standards Council of Canada [1]
  • Statistics Canada

[1] Federal Crown corporations do not prepare Reports on Plans and Priorities.

One of these proposed advantages, called the “Tax Advantage,” will create conditions more favourable to business in Canada by effectively establishing the lowest tax rate on new business investment in the G7. As well, the “Entrepreneurial Advantage” will ease the regulatory and paperwork burden imposed on business by ensuring that regulations meet their intended goals at the least possible cost.

Through Advantage Canada, our government committed to supporting science and technology in Canada, and underscored some of the elements of a science and technology strategy that will sustain research excellence in Canada and increase the competitiveness of the Canadian economy.

Canada’s New Government has repeatedly demonstrated that we are committed to getting things done for all Canadians. As we move forward, we will work more closely than ever with our stakeholders and the provincial and territorial governments, and we will continue to foster an environment where the marketplace functions as efficiently as possible, and keep encouraging investment in Canadian innovation and in research and development.

It gives me great pleasure to present the annual Report on Plans and Priorities for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, outlining its main initiatives, priorities, and expected outcomes for the upcoming year.

Maxime Bernier
Minister of Industry

Management Representation Statement

I submit for tabling in Parliament, the 2007-08 Report on Plans and Priorities (RPP) for the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).

This document has been prepared based on the reporting principles contained in the Guide for the Preparation of Part III of the 2007-08 Estimates: Reports on Plans and Priorities and Departmental Performance Reports.

  • It adheres to the specific reporting requirements outlined in the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS) guidance;
  • It is based on the department’s Strategic Outcomes and Program Activity Architecture that were approved by the Treasury Board;
  • It presents consistent, comprehensive, balanced and reliable information;
  • It provides a basis of accountability for the results achieved with the resources and authorities entrusted to it; and
  • It reports finances based on approved planned spending numbers from the Treasury Board Secretariat.

Suzanne Fortier
President, NSERC

Summary Information

Raison d’être:

NSERC works to make Canada a country of discoverers and innovators for the benefit of all Canadians. To achieve this, we invest in people, discovery and innovation in Canadian universities and colleges.

Financial and Human Resources:
($ millions)

319 FTE1
319 FTE
319 FTE

1 Full-time equivalent

Departmental Priorities:


1. Develop tomorrow’s discoverers and innovators


2. Build on Canada’s strength in discovery


3. Seize emerging research opportunities


4. Realize the benefits of university research


Program Activities by Strategic Outcome:

  Expected Results
Planned Spending2
($ millions)
Supports Priority #
2007-2008 2008-2009 2009-2010
Strategic Outcome #1: People
Highly skilled science and engineering research professionals in Canada
1.1 Promote Science and Engineering Student interest in research in the sciences, math and engineering is encouraged
1.2 Support Students and Fellows A supply of highly qualified Canadians with leading-edge scientific and research skills for Canadian industry, government and universities
1.3 Attract and Retain Faculty Enhanced research capacity in science and engineering
1, 2
Strategic Outcome #2: Discovery
High quality Canadian-based competitive research in the NSE
2.1 Fund Basic Research The discovery, innovation and training capability of university researchers in the NSE is enhanced
1, 2, 3
2.2 Fund Research in Strategic Areas Research and training in targeted and emerging areas of national importance is accelerated
1, 2, 3, 4
Strategic Outcome #3: Innovation
Productive use of new knowledge in the NSE in Canada
3.1 Fund University-Industry-Government Partnerships Mutually beneficial collaborations between the private sector and researchers in universities, resulting in industrial or economic benefits to Canada
3.2 Support Commercialization The transfer of knowledge and technology from Canadian universities and colleges to the user sector is facilitated

2Includes costs for admnistration of NSERC programs totalling $40.8 million in 2007-08.

Departmental Plans and Priorities

Operating Environment

NSERC aims to maximize the value of public investments and to advance prosperity and quality of life in Canada by supporting the creation and transfer of knowledge in the natural sciences and engineering (NSE) and by ensuring that people are trained to discover, develop and use that knowledge. NSERC has a track record of success demonstrated by sound investments reinforced by a rigorous peer review process.

NSERC is the primary federal agency investing in postsecondary research and training in the natural sciences and engineering (NSE).Through its grants and scholarships programs, NSERC:

  • annually funds 11,000 research professors at Canadian universities and colleges. Their discoveries advance knowledge and form the foundation of technological development by businesses as well as improvements in environmental quality and public safety. Despite its small population, Canada ranks eighth in the world for scientific knowledge production in the natural sciences and engineering (NSE) and third in the G8 for the impact of the new knowledge it creates3.
  • supports 23,000 undergraduate and graduate students and postdoctoral fellows each year. These highly skilled people form the human capital necessary for Canada’s competitiveness and economic growth. NSE graduates have among the lowest unemployment rates and highest salaries in the country4.
  • supports university-industry research collaborations and training through partnerships with 1,300 Canadian businesses. Participating companies report a wide range of benefits from these collaborations; they strengthen their ability to adopt and adapt discoveries and new technologies leading to commercial products and they mobilize university researchers to address the needs of industrial users of research results and of technological advances.

Virtually all aspects of modern social and economic life are affected by advances in the natural sciences and engineering. The benefits of discovery, skilled people and innovation are the foundation on which to build national prosperity, adding value to goods and services as well as developing the skilled people that are able to conduct research, generate new knowledge, access knowledge created elsewhere, and adopt and adapt new technologies for businesses.

Wealth is created by adding value in goods and services that are sold in world markets. Knowledge, created through investments in R&D, is the basis for adding value. This is well understood worldwide by both established and emerging economies. Countries like China and India have increased their R&D expenditures as a percentage of GDP by 37% and 50% respectively since 2000 and have set ambitious targets to increase them even more in the coming years. In the global, knowledge-based economy, Canada faces growing competition from both established and emerging economies with excellent educational systems and a large and skilled workforce. Beyond our traditional competitors among the G8, smaller economies such as Finland, Denmark, Israel and Sweden have surpassed Canada in research intensity5. These smaller economies are largely knowledge-based and focused on maintaining global leadership in key economic sectors.

Currently, Canada’s expenditures in R&D as a percentage of GDP (1.99) are lower than the OECD average (2.26). Canada ranks at or near the top however in terms of the proportion spent in the higher education sector, including the proportion that is provided by business (8.3% vs. 6.1% OECD average)6. These figures reflect the importance of a strong academic sector to the country; without it, our companies would lose a crucial source of knowledge and skilled people.

These realities are reflected in the Government of Canada’s high-level outcome areas within the whole of government framework. Specifically, under the economic affairs cluster, a key Government of Canada outcome is an innovative and knowledge-based economy (see Departmental Links to Government of Canada Outcomes). As described above, NSERC is a key instrument in managing federal investments in higher-education R&D in support of business productivity and Canada’s prosperity in a global knowledge-based economy.

As a result of the significant federal investments made since 1997, many of which are managed by NSERC, Canada’s S&T environment has been revitalized. World-class researchers are being recruited to Canadian universities7, state-of-the-art research equipment and infrastructure are being installed and used, while many important new research projects have been launched. The momentum in Canada’s research, training and innovation capacity has allowed the nation to perform above its class in international benchmarks of knowledge production and impact. Canadian students are highly sought after on the international scene and widely considered to be very well trained. Canadian researchers are welcome partners and strong contributors in international research projects8. There has been strong growth in the last six years in the commercialization outputs of university research9, 10. NSERC has also seen strong growth in the number of companies investing in its partnership programs. Currently, more than $45M/year is invested by Canadian industry in the Collaborative Research and Development Program alone. Companies contribute $1.50 for every dollar awarded by NSERC to their university partners.

The Granting Council Review announced in Budget 2006 examined a number of issues including governance, performance measurement and results, value for money (in particular, ensuring the excellence of funded research), relationships with government, and cross-agency coordination and alignment. NSERC provided extensive input to the review and will work with Industry Canada and NSERC’s Council to determine what further actions will be undertaken.

The anticipated federal science and technology strategy, which was also announced in Budget 2006, is expected to address research and development activities undertaken in the private sector and in universities and, therefore, may include recommendations that relate to NSERC’s mandate and activities.

In 2007-08, NSERC will fund research, training and innovation to support four critical priorities:

  1. develop tomorrow’s discoverers and innovators;
  2. build on Canada’s strength in discovery;
  3. seize emerging research opportunities; and
  4. realize the benefits of university research.

3Observatoire des Sciences et des Technologies
4Statistics Canada and NSERC Departmental Performance Report, 2004-05, pages 23-24 (
5OECD Main Science and Technology Indicators, November 2005
6OECD Main Science and Technology Indicators, November 2005
7For example, 359 researchers have been attracted from abroad to take up a Canada Research Chair (
8For example, the Neptune project in the field of oceanography ( is a joint Canada-USA initiative and the network on ultra-fast laser science led by Japan (
9Statistics Canada
10AUTM 2004 Canadian Licensing Survey (

Program Priority #1: Develop Tomorrow’s Discoverers and Innovators


NSERC will continue to support the development of new researchers in the NSE and, increasingly, the development of HQP for a highly educated workforce with experience in meeting the technology needs of industry and business. NSERC will also continue to support research to improve the ability of educators at the primary and secondary levels to help youth develop an interest in science and mathematics.


Canada needs a workforce which is both highly educated, and skilled in the natural sciences and engineering for it to compete in the knowledge economy. Such people are trained in university laboratories and classrooms by our scientists and engineers, using NSERC’s scholarship and training programs and research support. Qualified science and engineering graduates represent the most important mode of transfer of scientific and technical knowledge from academia to the user sector.

Canada ranks low in terms of the percentage of the 30-34 year old population holding a doctoral degree in the NSE11. The gap with the U.S. at the master’s and doctoral levels was noted in the recent report of the Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity as a factor that negatively affects Canadian productivity12. Given our relatively small population base and the increased reliance on human talent for economic development, Canada needs to ensure that every individual has the opportunity to develop to his/her full potential.

In supporting this priority in the future, the following needs will be taken into consideration:

  • Professional skills – One of the key findings of the Expert Panel on Commercialization13 was the importance of human capital to Canada’s innovation performance. There is a growing recognition that new and talented researchers require, as well as advanced scientific and engineering training, the appropriate professional skills – such as project management, marketing, the ability to work in teams, intellectual property management, and financial analysis – to translate new discoveries from home and from around the world into economic and social benefits for Canadians.
  • International experience – Opportunities to access financial support and structured programs for mobility in graduate education and research, to attend a foreign institution or research facility as part of their training, are not as readily available to Canadian students and fellows in comparison with their counterparts in other industrialized countries. Participation in such activities is especially low in the natural sciences and engineering. The benefit of supporting international travel and exchanges for a significant number of Canadian students in the NSE is threefold: first, students gain valuable research experience at world-class research organizations and learn novel research techniques; second, by collaborating with international counterparts, Canadian professors and students are able to develop a network of potential future collaborators and access the new discoveries and knowledge created by researchers outside Canada; finally, students who travel abroad to work and study at world-class facilities can become effective marketers for Canadian innovations around the world.

11National Science Foundation and OECD
12Institute for Competitiveness and Prosperity, Rebalancing Priorities for Canada’s Prosperity, March 2006
13People and Excellence: The Heart of Successful Commercialization, April 2006 (

Management Priorities

NSERC is one of many players contributing to the education and training of these highly qualified people; its critical role lies in supporting the development of the next generation of research professors as well as industrial and government scientists and engineers. The following management priorities are aligned to NSERC’s program priority to train the next generation of NSE knowledge professionals in Canada:

  • Invest $129.6 million in 2007-08 to provide scholarships and fellowships to students and fellows studying at universities or conducting research in Canadian industrial labs.
  • Partner with MITACS, a Network of Centres of Excellence (NCE) in the mathematical sciences, and with the Fonds québécois de la recherche sur la nature et les technologies (FQRNT) to increase the number of internship opportunities available for students to conduct research in industry.
  • Expand programs that promote university-industry collaboration and training in environments outside academia to expand the non-technical professional skills of students.
  • Continue to work with partners in Japan, Taiwan and the United Kingdom and implement new agreements with India to provide additional opportunities for international training. As part of the development of an International Strategy for NSERC, further options for international training will be examined.
  • Support five multi-disciplinary research centres that work to improve research into primary and secondary school science and math education, in collaboration with provincial stakeholders.
  • Provide support to Aboriginal graduate students in the NSE so that they may travel to Aboriginal communities and become active role models for youth, encouraging more young people to consider careers in science and engineering.
  • Work with key stakeholders to identify ways to improve enrolment levels, graduation rates and the acquisition of professional skills by science and engineering graduates.

Program Priority #2: Build on Canada’s Strength in Discovery


NSERC will continue to provide stable multi-year support for Canadian professors’ research programs to ensure Canadian universities can attract and retain excellent researchers and maintain advanced research laboratories and facilities. This will result in the creation of knowledge, a capacity to access discoveries made around the world and a highly educated workforce.


Countries around the world are recognizing the importance of a strong base of research excellence and a highly educated workforce for prosperity and sustainable development in today’s world. There are numerous examples, including the United States, based on its National Academies’ report “Rising above the Gathering Storm”14, and Germany15, which has recently reviewed its science policy. Both these countries (and many others such as Japan) plan to put increased emphasis, and investment, in basic research and nurturing excellence in science.

The number of scientists and engineers active in research has been growing rapidly since 1998. This is great news for Canada as it means our research capacity is building. In the most recent Discovery Grants competition, NSERC received funding applications from more than 924 first-time applicants. Across all Discovery Grant holders, 30% have received their first grant in the period since 2002 and will be seeking funding renewals in the years ahead. These well-qualified researchers need research funding from NSERC to be able to contribute to the creation of new knowledge and discoveries, and to help educate the next generation of scientists and engineers.

Some of the factors that underpin this priority include the following:

  • Momentum of federal investments in S&T – Canada has taken important steps to increase its investment in university research through the Granting Councils, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), the Canada Research Chairs and the Canada Graduate Scholarships. These have dramatically improved our landscape to the point that Canada is now attracting the best and brightest researchers to its well-equipped university laboratories, including many scientists and engineers attracted and repatriated from other countries.
    In this context, NSERC’s challenge is to maintain the momentum created by these important investments by ensuring that these researchers have the resources to continue to perform at an internationally competitive level, and are able to attract the very best students from around the world. The best researchers are highly mobile, and will go to countries that offer them the best conditions for success. The competitiveness of Canada’s research efforts depends on ensuring that the Canadian research environment is optimal. Recipients of Canada Research Chairs also require research grants to conduct their programs of research. Researchers need access to well-equipped laboratories and other research resources to conduct their research. The CFI and its co-funding partners have put in place many world-class facilities across the country, but cover only a fraction of the operating expenses required to run them, and only for a limited time (3-5 years). Many investments require significant and long term commitments: the Canadian Light Source in Saskatoon, the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory Laboratory (SNOlab) and the Neptune Project on the west coast16 are just a few but among the largest. In addition, while CFI is very effective in supporting the acquisition of large pieces of equipment and the creation of new laboratories, it falls to NSERC to support the purchase, replacement and maintenance of the large number of smaller tools and instruments that run all day, every day, in thousands of academic research labs across the country.
  • Canadian presence and participation in international S&T – NSERC encourages researchers to interact and collaborate with international researchers through various programs designed to support such efforts. With increased support, Canadian researchers and students could more fully participate in international research projects, have the means to access world-class research facilities abroad, attract excellent foreign researchers to visit Canada and build international networks and contacts. There are also many opportunities to increase collaborations with scientists in emerging and developing countries as well as support international collaborations involving academic, industrial and government researchers. As Canada contributes 4% of world scientific knowledge, the other 96% must be accessed from abroad.
  • Under-represented groups in science and engineering – Women and Aboriginals continue to be under-represented in a number of disciplines within the NSE. There are various reasons for this difference, including poor access to research and training opportunities, a lack of role models and personal factors. To meet Canada’s requirements for increases in the number of HQP, it is essential to engage all pools of talent and encourage them to reach their potential.

15Science, Vol. 313 14 July 2006 .

Management Priorities

In order to build on Canada’s strength in discovery, the following actions will be taken.

  • NSERC will provide $387.4 million in funding in 2007-08 through programs that support basic research, allow researchers to purchase modern research equipment and contribute to the operation of unique regional and national research facilities and institutes.
  • NSERC will invest $164.9 million in faculty support programs17 that allow universities to attract and retain excellent researchers and develop faculty positions in areas of industrial relevance or national need in the natural sciences and engineering.
  • For its largest program, the Discovery Grants program, NSERC will review the structure of the peer review committees, as well as undertake an International Review to carefully examine the success rates in this program and the quality of research supported. The review of success rates will be conducted by an international committee and will include consultations with Canadian stakeholders. Success rates in the Discovery Grants program will be considered in the context of NSERC’s whole program structure and overall funding approach for research in the NSE.
  • NSERC will complete the development of an International Strategy that will identify objectives and mechanisms to increase Canadian researchers’ ability to participate in international S&T activities such as multi-national research projects, access foreign labs and host foreign researchers in Canada.
  • NSERC will continue to work with the university community and other stakeholders to implement appropriate strategies to better address the under-representation of women and Aboriginals in the NSE.

17Including $133.2 million in funding for the tri-agency Canada Research Chairs program.

Program Priority #3: Seize Emerging Research Opportunities


NSERC will continue to identify promising research opportunities and rapidly expand support for research, training and innovation in areas where Canada has the potential to be a world leader.


The fields of scientific and engineering research are undergoing dramatic renewal. Increasingly, dynamic research partnerships, reaching across disciplinary and national boundaries, combine talents and experience in ways that allow insights and breakthroughs to flourish.

With the rapid pace of such new scientific breakthroughs, a number of countries, e.g. Ireland (development of a successful software industry), Singapore (gaining world-class expertise in the biomedical sciences) and Britain, pursue a selective strategy aimed at focusing efforts on a few areas where they can achieve leadership and impact. Canada too must compete globally, but it is clear that we cannot be research and business leaders in all sectors. With substantial input from the Leaders’ Roundtable on Commercialization, in April 2006 the Conference Board released a report entitled, “Picking a Pathway to Prosperity: A Strategy for Global-Best Commerce.” The report advocates for building upon Canada’s broad base of research excellence, setting priorities and targeting some of our resources on areas where Canada has the potential to achieve maximum impact and global-best status. This Roundtable of more than fifty industry leaders, university presidents and deputy ministers argue that choosing priority niches is the most important element of a strategy to compete successfully in the global economy.

NSERC is already targeting major investments toward strategic opportunities in order to more rapidly expand research, training, and innovation in emerging strategic areas. Our capacity to compete at the world scale rests on our ability to form strong strategic partnerships, both at home and internationally so as to integrate research expertise and resources for increased benefits and maximum impact. The investment of significant funds will enable Canadian researchers to seize the research opportunities that will lead to a greater impact for their work and enable Canada to play a major role in subsequent innovation.

NSERC estimates indicate that it allocates approximately 60% of its total funding toward research activities within the four clusters of Canadian S&T strength that were identified in the Council of Canadian Academies’ recent study. In June 2006 , the Council was asked by the Government of Canada, via Industry Canada, to explore Canada’s strengths in Science and Technology (S&T). Their report, The State of Science and Technology in Canada,18 helps to set the context for the government’s consideration of S&T policy. The report identifies the following four clusters of S&T strength in Canada: natural resources; information and communication technology; health and related life-sciences and technologies, and environmental sciences and technology.

18The complete report is available online at:

The following initiatives support this program priority:

  • Accelerating Excellence – Each year, a select group of researchers reach a key point in their work when a substantial boost in funding would enable them to rapidly and significantly increase their impact. Within the Discovery Grants Program, NSERC is launching a new initiative to provide substantial resources to a small group of outstanding researchers. These Accelerator Supplements will be highly targeted to outstanding researchers who have a well established research program and are at a key point in their careers at which they can make, or capitalize on, a significant breakthrough, but who are being held back by insufficient funds.
  • Strategic Partnerships – In order to enhance research capacity in a promising new field, such opportunities must first be identified and prioritized. As the Government of Canada cannot fund every potential opportunity, investment choices must ensure sufficient resources are mobilized to allow Canadian researchers to have an impact in such highly competitive emerging areas, which often span several traditional disciplines.
    Canada’s future prosperity depends upon our ability to establish research and business leadership in key areas. Increased partnerships and strategic investments through NSERC will strengthen Canada’s competitiveness in the global economy. NSERC is well-positioned to identify and prioritize strategic investments in emerging platforms such as quantum computing, nanotechnology, and other areas of strategic importance to the country. The workshops, projects, and networks of the Strategic Partnership Programs (SPP) of NSERC provide a concerted means to focus resources on a limited number of areas ensuring that Canada’s highest priority research challenges are addressed and that we develop the research talent we will need to compete in the knowledge-based economy. NSERC’s Strategic Partnerships and Innovation Platforms accelerate research and training in targeted areas that can strongly enhance Canada’s economy, society and/or environmental stewardship within the next ten years. Seven new target areas were launched in January 2006. These areas were selected following a year and a half of extensive consultations with key stakeholders - senior university researchers, industry representatives and government and non-governmental researchers, research managers and policy leaders - and analysis of other national and international strategies and reports.
    The involvement of partners is not only key to translating the research results into applications, it is a central part of NSERC’s strategy for alignment, to better integrate resources across the university, industry and government research communities and thus build the critical mass of human and physical infrastructure necessary to address complex research challenges. NSERC’s new Regional Offices are also an important tool in building partnerships, promoting the participation of all regions in these efforts and encouraging companies across Canada to become partners in these initiatives.
  • International collaboration and competition – The rapid pace of scientific breakthroughs offers opportunities for Canadians to become pioneers in new research domains, with the economic and social advantages that a competitive position in science often brings. Seizing opportunities for leadership in areas where Canada has strengths cannot be done in isolation from what happens elsewhere. Canada must both compete and collaborate with many other countries that may wish to develop a world-class research base in similar areas of strategic interest but also offer potential for collaboration on major research initiatives for greater leverage of Canada’s investments.
    The significant federal investments in university research and training since 1997 have been very successful in re-establishing Canada’s reputation worldwide as a key player in research and innovation. Canadians already collaborate on a number of high-profile international projects and NSERC sees the opportunity to build on this success so that Canadian researchers and students may fully participate in international research projects, bring the best from abroad to Canada’s leading edge centres and access world-class foreign research facilities. NSERC currently spends about 5% of its budget on international activities.
    NSERC is currently developing an International Strategy that will position Canada as a lighthouse for international collaboration. Here again focus is important and efforts must be targeted to areas of strength and importance to Canada, and to countries with whom enhanced collaborations will bring maximum benefits.
    NSERC created the Special Research Opportunities (SRO) program in 2003 as the main vehicle through which opportunities for international collaborations could be initiated. Through this program, NSERC can also issue targeted calls for proposals, for example, to participate in collaborative research efforts with counterpart agencies in Canada and abroad, or one-time scientific opportunities such as the International Polar Year. In the last four years, NSERC has increased the annual budget of the SRO program to $12M.
    The Networks of Centres of Excellence program, which NSERC administers, has recently launched the International Partnership Initiative (NCE IPI) to provide existing networks with additional support to develop and enhance linkages with the best centres of excellence in the rest of the world; $7 million has been allocated to this pilot initiative. Thanks to a contribution from Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC), the NCE IPI will also build new relationships with researchers from the developing world. To encourage NCEs to collaborate with organizations from low and middle income countries (LMIC), IDRC is allocating an additional $2M to support the research and networking costs of the LMIC participation.

Management Priorities

The following management priorities for 2007-08 will help NSERC achieve its objective of identifying and funding new research opportunities as they become apparent:

  • NSERC will invest $64.9 million for research and training in areas of strategic importance to the country and in areas of emerging opportunities for research, training and innovation, such as the Innovation Platform on quantum information processing that will enable Canada to consolidate its position as a recognized leader in this field.
  • NSERC will invest $2 million per year for the next three years for Accelerator Supplements within the Discovery Grants program, to enable a select group of researchers to more rapidly attain world prominence in their respective field.
  • NSERC will continue to implement its Strategic Partnerships suite of programs, including the launch in 2007 of a new three-year pilot program of workshops, co-led by business and academics, to develop new university-industry research relationships.
  • Through the Special Research Opportunity (SRO) program, NSERC will issue calls for proposals in response to unique research opportunities, including opportunities to jointly fund research with counterpart agencies in Canada and abroad, in order to achieve greater leverage of NSERC’s research funding.

Program Priority #4: Realize the Benefits of University Research


NSERC will increase the impact of research and training on Canadian industries’ competitiveness and accelerate the translation of research results into commercially successful innovations.


NSERC’s partnership programs have a proven record of increasing collaboration between the academic, industrial and government sectors, and provide a full spectrum of support for students from the undergraduate to the postdoctoral level to gain industry-based research training. Through such collaborations, industry is able to access knowledge, ideas and technologies, as well as specialist expertise that can lead to the development of new products, processes and services. Industry also gains access to students, which often leads to hiring new staff with the most advanced skills and knowledge. In short, such collaborations result in greater productivity. University researchers, in turn, address issues of interest to industry, develop new research directions and are often able to use these experiences to develop more relevant curricula for the benefit of future students. Students and fellows involved in these programs develop important professional skills and are often hired by the supporting company once the project is completed. With experienced staff and an excellent record of accountability in the effective use of public funds, NSERC is well-positioned to actively promote research, training and innovation with relevance to, and in partnership with, Canadian businesses and industries.

The following considerations and analysis underpin NSERC’s actions to realize the benefits of university research:

  • Industry investments in R&D – Canada has invested substantial amounts to strengthen the research capacity of universities, colleges and research hospitals. However, studies by the Conference Board of Canada and the Association of Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters indicate that industry’s under-investment in R&D and insufficient capacity to transform ideas into marketable products and services constitute a major weakness. NSERC’s Research Partnerships Programs play an important role in promoting increased industrial investments in R&D. NSERC’s Regional Offices are an important tool in this process, providing an NSERC presence and promoting NSERC programs to companies across Canada.
  • Receptor capacity and innovation performance – NSERC has identified several areas that must be addressed in order to improve Canada’s innovation performance. NSERC recognizes that it will need to coordinate its efforts with other stakeholders to address these issues. Some of the areas that NSERC can help address include the following:
    • Innovation culture – There is a need for university researchers to see their activities as part of a national innovation system. The potential of new knowledge and research advances to lead to wealth creation must be more widely recognized and pursued by universities. In turn, a broader acceptance is needed from industry that the results of university research can benefit their business performance.
    • Research transfer – The impact and effectiveness of knowledge and technology transfer from academia to the user sector must be improved in order to more fully harness the discoveries made at Canadian postsecondary institutions.
    • Partnerships – The number and scope of university-industry research collaborations and exchanges must continue to increase in order to take advantage of the research capacity at Canadian universities.
    • International – International collaborations involving university and industry researchers must be increased in order to foster greater access to and adoption of new technologies developed around the world and to increase the economic impact of Canadian companies’ innovations.
  • The role of community colleges in the Canadian innovation system – Canada has a national network of colleges that are closely connected to local business and industry and sometimes form a direct technology link between university-based fundamental research and the application of this research by small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the local community. The colleges are particularly well positioned to enhance innovation and economic revitalization within their communities and to play a critical role in building an innovative and productive economy. NSERC has begun to address the needs of community colleges to carry out this important function through its College and Community Innovation Program,19 which is currently funded on a limited pilot basis.

19This program is being undertaken as a partnership between NSERC, the Association of Canadian Community Colleges and the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters.

Management Priorities

NSERC will continue to support a broad spectrum of activities that include targeted research, strategic networks, university-industry collaborative projects, technology transfer and capacity building for the mobilization of intellectual property. In 2007-08, the following management priorities will help Canada realize the benefits of federal investments in research, training and innovation:

  • NSERC will invest $159.0 million in partnership programs that support innovation and $14.4 million in programs that support commercialization.
  • NSERC will continue to promote its partnership programs through industrial associations, trade shows and by using the resources of the NSERC Regional Offices to develop networks of potential partners for NSERC programs.
  • NSERC will work with the National Research Council (NRC) and the Business Development Bank (BDC), building upon their respective and complementary strengths, to accelerate the commercialization of publicly-funded research.
  • Options to increase international collaborations involving university and industry researchers will be examined as part of the development of an International Strategy for NSERC.
  • As the Networks of Centres of Excellence program (NCE) enters its 18th year of operation, and in conjunction with a regularly scheduled program evaluation exercise, the NCE Steering Committee (Presidents of the three granting agencies and Deputy Minister of Industry Canada), has set up an independent International Committee to get advice on the future of the program. In support of the work of the International Committee, a "Blue Sky" session was organized at the NCE Annual Meeting on December 5th 2006, and the outcome of that session has been summarized in a discussion document that is being circulated to a wider audience of stakeholders for input.