Federal budget backs research, innovation

by Hilary Thomson
Staff writer

The federal government took a big step forward on the road to a knowledge-based economy with more than $1.8 billion slated for research and innovation investments in the recently announced budget.

"We applaud the increased research support provided in this budget," says UBC President Martha Piper. "This funding will have a major impact on our ability to recruit and retain the best students, staff and faculty at UBC."

A new program, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), aims to co-ordinate health research activities by creating 10 to 15 health institutes across Canada. The budget provides $240 million over two years to create the network.

"Innovative structures like CIHR plus additional funding makes this a go-forward budget," says Bernard Bressler, vice-president, Research. "Investigators will now be able to complete studies that were put on hold due to lack of funding and make additional headway in the entire spectrum of health research from bench to application."

An addition of $200 million to the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) brings the total amount available to modernize research infrastructure in post-secondary institutions and hospitals to $1 billion.

The CFI program was launched in 1997 to support health, environment, science and engineering research. UBC researchers have received $3.5 million in funding from the program.

CFI investments are made in partnership with provincial governments, universities and the private sector. Every $40 contributed by the CFI can generate $100 in total funding.

A new fund of $25 million has been created to fund nursing research.

The Nurses Using Research and Service Evaluations (NURSE) fund will support a 10-year program to finance university research positions, funding for career renewal, student awards and a national nursing knowledge database.

"This is exciting news," says Joan Bottorff, associate director, Research, in the School of Nursing. "With access to new funding for research we can strengthen our contribution to solving patient care problems in hospitals and communities."

The budget also provided $150 million over the next three years for health-related research.

Canada's major research and development granting councils -- the Medical Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council -- will receive a total of $42.5 million annually over three years.

The National Research Council (NRC) and Health Canada's National Health Research and Development program will receive a total of $7.5 million annually for three years.

The Networks of Centres of Excellence program, which helps to commercialize knowledge gained through research, was given an additional $90 million over the next three years to create new networks.

UBC participates in all 14 centres. The Canadian Genetic Diseases Network is based at UBC.

The Canadian Health Services Research Foundation received an additional $35-million endowment this year to support its participation in the CIHR.