BY TONY SPEARS
Ottawa universities could benefit from millions of dollars the government plans to pour into science and technology research starting in 2015.
Tuesday’s federal budget pledged $1.5 billion over the next 10 years to what the government has dubbed the Canada First Research Excellence Fund.
The fund “will support the strategic research priorities of Canada’s post-secondary institutions and help them excel globally in research areas that create long-term economic advantages for Canada,” Finance Minister Flaherty told the House of Commons.
The influx of cash begins with $50 million in the first year, growing to $200 million a year starting in 2018.
The fund will be available to all post-secondary institutions “on a competitive, peer-reviewed basis”; more details will be announced in the coming months.
The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council — itself awarded $7 million a year by federal budget — will administer the fund.
The fund was created as Canada lags behind other developed countries in the proportion of science, technology, engineering and math grads.
A labour market survey released with the budget notes that the shift to a knowledge-based economy requires workers skilled in these areas, yet Canada ranks 23rd in the proportion of graduates in those fields, significantly behind leaders Finland, Poland and South Korea. Low graduation rates in engineering and computing are mainly to blame, and woman remain under-represented across those fields.
Flaherty said the budget “will result in the largest annual increase in funding for research through granting councils in over a decades.”