Urgent investment needed to ‘save Canada’s research system’

Group of leading universities warn lack of funding risks causing a ‘debilitating brain drain’

August 4, 2023
Source: iStock

The Canadian government must make major investments to stop the “hollowing out” of the country’s research ecosystem, a group of leading universities has warned.

U15 Canada, a collective of research-intensive institutions, has put forward a series of “bold” recommendations to combat growing global challenges ahead of the Trudeau administration revealing its latest budget.

In a submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance’s pre-budget consultations, the group warned that stagnating funding and mounting international competition were leaving Canada behind.

“U15 Canada’s submission points to a hollowing out of Canada’s research ecosystem and warns that without ambitious action, Canada risks a debilitating brain drain,” it said.

“As peer countries make significant new investments in science and research, Canada must keep pace in the global race for talented individuals who advance knowledge and contribute across all sectors to help make a better future.”

Meanwhile, the report said global challenges – including extreme weather events and digital transformations such as AI – were increasing the pressure to innovate across all sectors in Canada.

“At the same time, certain foreign actors have increasingly sought to undermine Canada’s institutions including our open research ecosystem,” it read.

To achieve one of its two key aims of developing and retaining highly qualified talent, the submission includes a call to deliver an annual 10 per cent increase for five years to the core budgets of the federal granting councils.

It also recommends a 50 per cent increase in the value of graduate scholarships and the creation of 750 additional Canada Research Chairs.

And to bolster economic growth, the organisation said, it wants to see an expansion of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, the establishment of a C$75 million (£44 million) fund for private sector partnerships to commercialise research ideas, and the creation of a dedicated C$200 million fund for sensitive research.

Chad Gaffield, chief executive of U15 Canada, said the “bold measures” reflected the urgent need for an ambitious agenda for research in Canada.

“The talent differential produced by Canada’s research-intensive universities will be essential to tackling many of the pressing economic and social challenges facing the country,” he said.

“Now is the time to deliver a major investment which allows us to keep that desperately needed talent and innovation here in Canada.”

U15 highlighted statistics showing that Canada now ranks 26th in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development for the proportion of those with graduate-level education, that recent figures revealed a national shortage of highly educated job seekers, and that the number of researchers per 1,000 has plummeted.

“These and other indicators emphasize that Canada must immediately renew its commitment to a robust research and innovation ecosystem to underpin the pursuit of a prosperous, just and resilient society in the rapidly changing and turbulent 21st century,” it said.


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Reader's comments (2)

Whatever is a national "research system"? Canada, the US, UK, Australia, etc. have no such think. This is meaningless jargon
Whatever is a national "research system"? Canada, the US, UK, Australia, etc. have no such think. This is meaningless jargon