We did so and continue to do so fully recognizing the important role the new investments will play in enhancing our productivity and economic prosperity. We have made significant investments in innovation in every budget and increased federal funding in science and technology every single year. We rank first among the G7 countries in expenditures on research and development in the higher-education sector as a share of the economy.
In recent years the government has emphasized the need to more closely link publicly funded research to business needs and to obtain greater economic and social value from federal funding for research. The next phase of Canada’s Economic Action Plan spelled out in budget 2011 " I always pause when I say that because we did two of these this year " it was in both, the one in March and the one after the election.
Budget 2011 contains a number of initiatives designed to meet those objectives and includes a commitment to support this very institute’s leading research education and public outreach activities. In addition, the budget this year provided some financial support for the creation of ten new Canada Excellence Research Chairs.
Our government has invested in new business-led networks of Centres of Excellence to help increase private-sector investments in research in Canada and to support the training of skilled researchers and to shorten the time needed to transfer ideas from the laboratory to the marketplace.
We continue to support a very important program, which is the National Research Council’s Industrial Research Assistance Program, IRAP, which works closely with small and medium-size businesses in Canada to develop, exploit and apply technologies to create new products, services and industrial processes.
In addition, our government has created an enduring legacy from the global economic crisis, introducing the knowledge infrastructure program as part of our Economic Action Plan. This has funded more than 500 maintenance, repair and construction projects at universities and colleges across Canada. As you know, in the Economic Action Plan, which was introduced in the budget at the end of January 2009, there’s very substantial spending on infrastructure on an urgent basis because of the danger of very high unemployment that we’re all facing at a time of recession.
It was the university and college sector that got the job done the most quickly across Canada, which is to their credit: the most effective implementation of that infrastructure program by a significant margin. By targeting Economic Action Plan investments toward innovation, we recognized like any forward-looking business would the true benefits of investments in research both for short-term advantage and long-term gain.
It is fair to ask, can Ottawa do more? Absolutely. Will we attempt to do just that over the next four years? Absolutely. The global economy depends increasingly on knowledge and innovation. We recognize of course that enduring global prosperity was never created by governments alone and it never will be. At the same time, new ideas on their own, no matter how brilliant their lustre, will never allow us to compete in the global knowledge economy.
That is why meeting the challenge of innovation for Canada must be a shared responsibility. The world is too big and other nations are moving too quickly for each of us to work in isolation. British statesman Anthony Eden saw this coming decades ago. He said, ”œEvery succeeding scientific discovery makes greater nonsense of old-time conceptions of sovereignty.”
Our future success depends on the ability and willingness of the private sector to innovate and commercialize ideas. Accelerating the transfer of knowledge from research institutions and universities and government to the marketplace will help to build a culture of innovation in business. Addressing these challenges must be a key priority for all of us and not just for the long-term health of our industries.
It’s important for our nation’s productivity, which helps determine the standard of living for Canadians and their families. When businesses don’t seize the opportunity to become more competitive and more innovative, the expectations of what a country’s economy might achieve become a little bit lower. This becomes even more critical in a country like ours that is undergoing a demographic shift that will result in fewer workers and, with regard to health care and benefits for the elderly, more obligations for the workers who remain.
If we fail to meet that challenge, Canadians will not be the innovators we need to be in a digital economy. At great expense both economically and socially, we will be reactive rather than proactive and our businesses will continue to lag in productivity compared to their competitors in other countries.
Let me conclude my remarks with a challenge for all of us in both the public and private sectors. Canada has high-quality institutions that perform world-leading research. The commercialization of this research into world class products and services will help open new markets and create high quality jobs for Canadians. Working together we can build on previous investments to further strengthen Canada’s research advantage, contributing to a stronger, more innovative economy and important social benefits for Canadians.
It is going to take a lot of work, goodwill and cooperation between the public and private sectors to succeed. It is up to all of us, particularly the private sector, to bring the people, the resources and ideas together to produce the innovations that will drive the Canadian economy in the decades to come. As I’ve described, our government has never hesitated in supporting a culture of innovation and striving to make our nation a world leader.
Today I call on Canada’s best and brightest, some of those in this room, along with our visionary entrepreneurs, to seize our nation’s growing opportunities, make them a reality, set their sights even higher and never waver in their efforts to create and excel. Bobby Kennedy again put it best. He said, ”œHistory is a relentless master. It has no present, only the past rushing into the future. To try to hold fast is to be swept aside.”
Working together, we can and we will make Canada the innovation nation it is fully capable of becoming. Canada will never be swept aside.