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November 06, 2006— Ottawa, Ontario

Building a Stronger Future for Canadian S&T

The competitiveness of our nation depends largely on its capacity to innovate – to create and commercialize new technologies, products and services for the world's markets. In Canada, that capacity hinges on the performance of small and medium-size businesses (SMEs) that comprise the vast majority of firms in all technology-intensive industry sectors.  

Industry, university and government each have a role to play in helping these firms compete successfully on the world stage. Each brings its own unique focus, strengths and capacities to Canada's innovation equation. But, unless we can take the best advantage of their assets and integrate them successfully, we will not gain ground in sectors where we need a competitive edge to succeed.

Over the past two decades, we have seen increased efforts made by Canadian industry and universities to build science and technology-based innovation. But is that enough? What added role does the government sector play in improving Canada's innovation performance?  What does it bring to the innovation table that is different, relevant, and valuable? While most acknowledge the value and importance of federal science and technology (S&T) in decision making, policy development, and regulatory work, the impact of organizations like Canada's National Research Council (NRC) on our innovation system is less recognized and understood.

The Council of Canadian Academies recently completed its assessment of Canada's strengths and weaknesses in S&T.   Its report, The State of Science & Technology in Canada, lists the areas of technological development where Canada has a real presence. NRC is a top player in most of them. Among the national weaknesses the report mentions ― for example, the need to strengthen knowledge transfer and the commercialization of new technologies ― NRC is taking concrete action. Canadian S&T experts surveyed for the report gave high marks to NRC research labs and facilities, as well as its support programs for industrial research. However you look at it, NRC is a valuable force for Canadian innovation. 

Although universities and industry conduct R&D and commercialize their advances in many of the same fields, NRC's contributions are distinct in several important ways. Perhaps most noteworthy is that NRC always works in the national interest. It uses its broad range of R&D and innovation capacities to deal with national issues that help industry directly.   In a deliberate way, NRC supports the growth of Canada's economy and the well-being of Canadians. 

For many years, NRC's R&D programs have strengthened Canada's S&T-based industries in key sectors of the economy. We have taken on the challenge of convergence – building advanced knowledge in areas where multiple disciplines come together. No single organization in Canada matches the range of NRC research programs or brings as many highly respected minds from so many disciplines to bear on national S&T challenges and opportunities for industry.

But NRC provides industry with more than hands-on R&D. We combine our research expertise with other critical S&T resources and capacities ― S&T information, industrial research assistance, technology development and transfer, industry partnership facilities, national codes and measurement standards, and access to Canadian and international networks and more. In short, we leverage an array of complementary programs to meet industry needs and respond to specific national priorities.

As one example of this approach, we have worked for several years with industry, government and university partners on technology cluster initiatives in communities across Canada. Such efforts to create concentrations of technology-intensive firms focused on specific technology sectors may well determine the future success of Canadian industry in the global arena. 

Our new business strategy, Science at Work for Canada, sets out the directions NRC will take to make an even greater difference in the coming years. We will contribute to the competitiveness of Canadian industry in key sectors and help improve the economic viability of communities. We will enhance our technology advice and assistance to start-ups and SMEs. We will increase the transfer of knowledge and technologies created by NRC to firms that are well positioned to capitalize on them. Through focused R&D programs and multidisciplinary collaborations, we will tackle enduring issues in health and well-being; environmental protection; and the development of clean, renewable sources of energy. And we will continue with the strategies that have long helped strengthen Canada's innovation system.  

Our goal is to see Canada consistently succeed in bringing innovative products and services to market. We are determined to help generate wealth and enhance national well-being.   It is this commitment ― to be Science at Work for Canada ― that truly makes NRC a unique S&T and innovation force for the nation. 

Enquiries: Media relations
National Research Council of Canada

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