Open Access Government’s M F Warrender highlights the work being undertaken by NSERC to pioneer scientific advancement in Canada
Science and technology are now driving forces within discovery and innovation sectors all over the world, with countries constantly matching and surpassing one another’s technological advances.
This has established a fast-moving and cutting-edge platform for new innovations everywhere, and therefore constantly shaping the world we live in. Canada is one of these many countries on the brink of an exciting, dynamic, and prosperous future, as it refines its vision and further develops its Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC). The goal is to ensure that Canada can continue producing major discoveries and building upon the foundations of economic growth within a rapidly changing world.
The NSERC was formed in May 1978 and is an agency that provides grants for research in natural sciences and engineering. It is governed by a council composed of the President along with up to 18 members appointed from both the private and public sectors. In June 2014, B. Mario Pinto was appointed the president of NSERC, and one year on from his election, he spoke of the NSERC’s achievements, primary aims, and future plans. He stated: “NSERC creates value for Canada by investing in scientific inquiry and discovery research.
This is at the core of NSERC’s mandate. In doing so, we have established the powerful brain trust needed to fuel this country’s knowledge-based economy.” He also illustrated in detail the 5 clear goals that will be pursued through his launch of NSERC 2020: a “strategic plan” to promote science and technology as the primary enablers in pushing Canada forward.
Key strategies for 2020
The 5 strategies established to push NSERC to where it wants to be in 2020 are:
1. Foster a science and engineering culture in Canada (in order to make science and engineering mainstream, thus increasing interest, awareness, and appreciation of science as a way of experiencing, understanding and enriching the world).
2. Launch the new generation (in order to enable early-career scientists to launch independent research careers).
3. Build a diversified and competitive research base (to stimulate breakthrough research, and connect expertise across populations, institutions and sectors).
4. Strengthen the dynamic between discovery and innovation (deepening interactions between its own partnerships).
5. Go Global (in order to increase international research endeavours through the solidifying of Canada’s access to global scientific and engineering knowledge).
Thus far, the NSERC has built many strong partnerships across the research and innovation ecosystem in Canada, embracing and connecting the private sector, universities, colleges, government-led research labs, training partners, and other non-governmental players.
Students, in particular, play a vital role in fuelling research and discovery, and the NSERC provides many with industry experience and business skills, benefitting both the students and the industries themselves.
It is important to note that 1 in 3 companies’ hire a student trained under NSERC partnership programs in Canada, and there have also been efforts to work with the research and development sectors of other countries worldwide. Most recently, as part of NSERC 2020 in May this year at the 6th Annual Meeting of the Global Research Council, President Pinto finalised changes to strengthen collaborative research and training ties for students, with President of the German Research
Foundation, Dr. Peter Strohschneider. This will create opportunities for student exchanges between Canada and Germany, maintaining a strong working relationship between the 2 countries. In Canada, 10,000 students trained each year in industrial settings, and increasing the levels of collaboration with other countries will without a doubt widen these students’ future opportunities.
Boosting Canadian research
Presently, countries all over the world are both competing and working together to maintain a prominent presence within this ever-growing sector. Through the NSERC, Canada is able to boost private-sector research and development, and also focus on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which, more often than not, have difficulty in making the transition into growth companies, and therefore use partnerships through the NSERC to scale up. Today, 97% of companies that have used NSERC’s partnership programmes would recommend them to others, and NSERC 2020 will continue to further improvements through its set of goals. However, its aims are perhaps best summed up by the president himself: “It seeks to maximize the efficacy and extend the reach of existing tools, while also taking advantage of new modalities. With the new strategic plan, NSERC 2020, we can contribute to positive change.”
M F Warrender
Open Access Government