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Submissions to R&D Review Panel Available

March 9, 2011

Just… wow.

Earlier this year, the R&D Review Panel issued a call for submissions from interested parties regarding government support for business- and industry-related R&D. Today the submission papers have been made public.

What a treasure trove of special pleading.

There are more than 250 submissions from industry, academia and government. I sympathize with Tom Jenkins and his fellow panelists who will have to sift through these not-even-thinly-veiled self-interested calls for support.

Clearly, I haven’t had the time (or the stomach) to go through them all, but here’s a couple quick highlights/observations:

  • There is a submission by the U15 – Canada’s Fifteen Leading Research Universities. I guess the short-lived and much-maligned “G5” group didn’t cut it, so they’ve let more in. Sorry Guelph and UVic! This is the first I’ve heard about the U15 – anyone else?
  • The U15 identifies the keys to improving innovation as more education and collaboration with universities. Quelle surprise!
  • That didn’t stop members of the U15 from presenting individual submissions, too. Double-dipping?
  • Major industry players have made submissions, including JD Irving, Pratt & Whitney, and Bombardier. These international industry leaders will no doubt be able to provide a global sense of how to nurture innovation and strengthen our economy. What are their suggestions? Well, Irving would like rules to be changed so it can get IRAP funding and access collaborative R&D grants without university collaboration. Pratt & Whitney would like foreign-controlled companies to qualify for greater SRED credits, including for R&D performed outside Canada (not clear how that boosts Canadian innovation…). And Bombardier reminds the panel that its industry has “unique characteristics” that require governments to make exceptional investments to address their R&D needs. Of course it does.

As Stephen Gordon, Université Laval economics professor and blogger/tweeter extraordinaire, tweeted just hours ago in response to an unrelated subject, “Business groups are pro-BUSINESS, not pro-MARKET. Government’s responsibility is to protect latter, not former.” In this case, the sentiment clearly extends to universities and government agencies, too. I hope (and expect) the Review Panel heeds his warning and reminder.

5 Comments leave one →
  1. Jim permalink
    March 13, 2011 14:11

    There’s a good primer on why the SRED tax rebate system (primary source of funding for private R&D) is broken and being abused in the G&M: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/flawed-rd-scheme-costs-taxpayers-billions/article1939418/

    The problem is that government doesn’t actually understand private sector R&D and crated a subsidy system to support purported research even though most of the SREDs are rebating activities that are about as close to research as Ghadaffi is to democracy. Shred the back-ended SREDs and replace with up-front incentives to allow companies to borrow at low rates to develop new technologies. Pay back through profits. Throw in a venture fund with provincial and federal backing (like CFI) and we might actually end up with encouraging true innovation.

  2. March 15, 2011 11:23

    Hi Rob! Thanks for this roundup. So the big companies just want more, eh? My submission is there too but I don’t imagine it will be taken seriously since I don’t follow the terms of reference. While I think this ‘housecleaning’ is long overdue, I think the larger questions have been ignored and the consequence will be that the players will simply find a way to game any new systems that may be devised in the wake of this consultation.

    BTW, in principle I like Jim’s idea a lot. It makes a lot of sense if you make certain assumptions. The problem is that it reminds me of the Massey Ferguson debacle. The feds. loaned that company a lot of money to keep them afloat and they were supposed to pay us back through their profits, unfortunately once it was sufficiently ‘healthy’ the company moved its operations to the US and told the feds. they could whistle if they wanted the money repaid. (Perhaps my memory deceives but I was pretty steamed about it at the time so I was paying attention.) This gets back to my notion that the players will simply find a new way to game the system unless we change the game. Cheers, Maryse

  3. Nilima permalink
    March 18, 2011 10:53

    I’ve also been looking at some of these submissions. Dishearteningly, most of the arguments are articulate variants of existing, tired ones. For example, the “u15” document needs to refer to the ‘innovation ecosystem’ 6 times in 5 pages, without ever telling us exactly what this phrase *means*. Don’t ecosystems have predators and prey? The cliches sound compelling, but provide nothing of substance.

    There are plenty of other buzzwords, but few new ideas. That’s OK, perhaps it’s more important to mount a spirited defense of existing programs which universities believe are good. The document fails, I think, to adequately do even this. Even a critique of the SRED program is hedged with ‘We encourage government to consider undertaking a more in-depth analysis of the SR&EDs following the conclusion of the current review.’ That’s right.

    If this document is the best response of the Canadian research community to this review, we are in trouble.

Trackbacks

  1. Who is shredding SR&ED? | Piece of Mind
  2. Canada’s innovation consultation « FrogHeart

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