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R&D Review Panel seeking submissions

January 18, 2011

The blue-ribbon panel appointed to review federal R&D support has released a consultation paper (.pdf here) and has launched an appeal for submissions from stakeholders.

The panel has been charged with evaluating the roughly $7-billion the federal government spends each year on innovation-targeted R&D. This excludes research in federal labs and basic research performed at universities. It includes the big expenses – SRED and IRAP, for instance. But it will also, one hopes, include a hard look at the myriad boutique programs that are more political than practical (the regional development agencies are notoriously political). Nassif at Piece of Mind has a (partial!) list of the programs involved. Surely some sort of coordination for program delivery and reduction in overlap is essential.

In any case, the panel has been charged with addressing these three questions:

  • What federal initiatives are most effective in increasing business R&D and facilitating commercially relevant R&D partnerships?
  • Is the current mix and design of tax incentives and direct support for business R&D and business focused R&D appropriate?
  • What, if any, gaps are evident in the current suite of programming, and what might be done to fill these gaps

The consultation paper provides background and context – I’ve only had a cursory look through it, so can’t comment yet on the details (though I will eventually…). The paper also provides fifteen questions for stakeholders to answer, and invites submissions. This is a real chance to be heard. You can be sure that industry stakeholders – the ones who currently benefit from the most generous R&D tax policies in the OECD, and yet don’t innovate – will have their say. Stakeholders are invited to submit their opinions by Feb. 18, 2011. Instructions can be found here. Here is the list of suggested “Consultation Questions”:

  1. In addition to the R&D activity defined by the OECD, should government be funding other business activities related to the commercialization of R&D?  If so, what and why?
  2. Does Figure 2, the model of business innovation presented above, capture the key structural factors and inputs to innovation?  If not, what is missing?
  3. Regarding capital, is there an adequate supply of risk capital for Canadian firms at each stage of their growth (start-up, small, medium, large)?  If not, why not?  Where returnson investments are low, what are the reasons and potential solutions?
  4. Regarding ideas and knowledge, do you believe it is important for Canadian firms to perform their own R&D and, if so, what do you believe are the key factors that have been limiting business R&D activity in Canada?
  5. Regarding networks, collaborations and linkages, what are the main impediments to successful business-university or business-college partnerships? Does the postsecondary education system have the right capacity, approaches, and policies for effective partnerships with business?
  6. Regarding the creation of demand for business innovation, what role, if any, do you believe that government should play in being a “first customer” for R&D investments in Canada?
  7. Regarding talent, is Canada producing sufficient numbers of graduates with the right skills to drive business innovation and productivity growth? If not, what changes are needed?  Where demand for advanced skills is low, what are the reasons and what changes, if any, are needed?
  8. Can you describe whether and how your firm employs students currently enrolled in community colleges, polytechnics and universities, and what government measures could make it easier to work with students during their academic programs and to recruit them after their graduation?
  9. With which federal programs supporting business or commercially oriented R&D in Canada do you have direct experience and knowledge? In your view: a. Which of these programs are working, and why? b. Which programs are not working, and why not?
  10. If you have direct experience and knowledge of the SR&ED tax credit, what are your views in relation to the following: a. Does the current structure of the SR&ED tax credit encourage incremental investment in R&D? Does it free up capital to invest in other aspects of innovation activities in the firm?  Does this vary by size, ownership, sector or nationality of firm? b. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the refundable portion of the SR&ED tax credit for Canadian-controlled private corporations and to what extent does it encourage the growth and commercial success of SMEs? c. Bearing in mind the improvements being made by the Canada Revenue Agency, are there additional opportunities for change to simplify the administration of the SR&ED tax credit and facilitate the applications process?
  11. How could the Government of Canada lighten the administration requirements of its programs on recipients and improve outreach to business?
  12. How could the Government of Canada be more innovative and responsive to meet new needs or opportunities, and try alternative service delivery-approaches in its programs?
  13. Are there any gaps in the Government of Canada’s support to business and commercially-oriented R&D? Do firms performing R&D in other countries have an advantage over Canadian firms because of access to programs that are not available in Canada? What would be the principal features of new programming to fill these gaps?
  14. What lessons and best practices can be taken from provincial business and commercially oriented R&D programs, and how should the two orders of government align their programming?
  15. Is there a difference between R&D and innovation? If yes, how are they different? Should government focus on R&D or Innovation?  What should the balance be?

Interesting questions. I’ll publish my thoughts about them in the weeks ahead. In the meantime, take the time to pick one or two (or all) and write something up and submit it.

2 Comments leave one →
  1. January 20, 2011 09:57

    Another review of S&T activities in Canada, wow. Given our track record of studies which take a lot of time and effort leading to no effective, intelligent action, why waste your time with submissions.

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