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Commentary - December 15, 2014

This op-ed was published in the Victoria Times Colonist on December 13, 2014

By Jamie Cassels, President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Victoria.

As the season for university applications in British Columbia approaches, there will be lively conversation around the holiday table. Where to go and what to study takes some thought. There are plenty of choices. But whether to pursue a postsecondary education shouldn’t be a question. It’s never been more important to pursue higher education and it is a terrific time to be a student at any one of B.C.’s fine universities.

Just as universities are incubators for the human talent that our society needs in the years and decades ahead, so are they engines for ideas and innovation through their research mission.

Last Thursday, the prime minister launched the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF). It is a transformative investment – $1.5 billion over 10 years – that will enable Canadian universities to excel globally in research areas that create long-term social and economic benefits for Canada. On the same day, the federal government released its updated Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy, which identifies five research priorities that are of strategic importance to Canada.

This new fund – layered on top of existing programs of research support – recognizes the role universities play in the country’s economic well-being. I listened to the prime minister as he articulated the benefits. “This very substantial funding helps our universities attract more top talent in areas identified as national priorities. Then it allows that talent to get to work and undertake the long-term world-class research that will ultimately be the foundation for Canada’s evolving economy,” he said.

B.C.’s universities are well-positioned to make the most of the opportunity and to deliver on it. They are recognized as global leaders in many of the fields identified as priorities, including environment and ocean sciences, clean energy, health and life sciences, information and communications technologies, advanced materials and nanotechnology.

The applications to business in those fields are significant too. The new funding will mean more connections between universities and companies ready to work with new discoveries and compete globally. It’s the type of high-level research that creates vital impact on the lives of Canadians and people around the globe.

The University of Victoria, for example, has experts working on a wide range of sustainable energy systems: from harnessing renewable sources, to managing and mitigating adverse impacts, to inventing and designing entirely new forms of energy.

UVic’s Ocean Networks Canada (ONC) created the world’s first plate-sized ocean observatory – an installation that countries around the world are trying to emulate. It opens the door to global collaboration on everything from earthquakes and tsunamis to climate change and the impact of ambient noise on marine mammals. This contributes to our knowledge and understanding of the world’s oceans as well as global climate systems and stimulates the development of innovative technologies that can be marketed and deployed around the world.

And UVic’s researchers, along with their colleagues at B.C.’s other research universities, are making fundamental contributions to understanding and improving human health.

The new CFREF encourages universities to do more of that ground-breaking research, to create more “Canada Firsts,” promoting discovery and innovation that is the key to individual, social and economic wellbeing for generations of Canadians.

CFREF is based on the principles of open competition and peer review. It supports excellence where it exists across Canada’s universities and it recognizes the need for a long-term commitment. That visionary approach encourages bold and ambitious strategies and allows us to attract and retain top researchers and to foster a new generation of innovation.

Such research intensity benefits our economy and our students. Our researchers already work with business, government, community partners and non-profits looking for better ways to solve and build. We have already seen a dramatic growth in the number of graduate students at our universities; at UVic the number of graduate students has more than doubled since 2000. And all of our students benefit from being educated in a research-intensive environment. After all, they are the innovators, problem solvers and research and business leaders of tomorrow; their creativity will be fundamental to our long-term social and economic prosperity.

When I arrived back on campus last week with the program details in hand, I saw students hard at work finishing assignments and studying for exams, some for the first time. In a few years’ time, with the benefit of this significant new future-focused investment, imagine what they’ll discover.

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Media release - December 4, 2014

$1.5 billion Canada First Research Excellence Fund sets a new marker for federal research investment for universities across Canada

OTTAWA – Today’s launch of the Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) program will advance Canada as a global leader in research excellence and innovation, fuelling our nation’s top researchers to undertake new global research collaborations that will increase Canada’s competitiveness as businesses benefit from new discoveries.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper launched the CFREF program today at Toronto’s IBM Canada Software Lab, accompanied by Minister of State for Science and Technology, Ed Holder.  Building on year-over-year investments to date, this unprecedented $1.5 billion investment over 10 years will stimulate Canadian universities to achieve global leadership in specific fields of strength by providing a research excellence destination of choice. The world’s best minds will forge ground-breaking discoveries that will fortify Canada’s global research standing and propel a vibrant economy.

“This bold new program will position Canada as a leader in international research. It will support Canada’s top research talent and build new global links,” says David Barnard, president of the University of Manitoba and chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC). “University leaders welcome the tremendous potential of this initiative to engage Canada’s next generation of top young researchers in globally significant research programs and networks.”

AUCC worked in consultation with partners in government and universities across the country as this program was developed, and underscored the importance of an open and peer reviewed competition for CFREF. This initiative is structured to ensure that benefits will be shared by universities, faculty, students and communities across Canada.

“This program demonstrates the government’s understanding that a vibrant, innovative and competitive Canadian economy needs a world-class university research system,” says Paul Davidson, president of AUCC. “It will help our universities to collaborate with global research leaders and better translate knowledge and ideas into the national and international marketplace.”

AUCC also welcomes the release today of Canada’s renewed Science Technology and Innovation strategy, which reviewed Canada’s research and innovation strengths, and supplemented existing priorities with emerging fields including advanced manufacturing and agriculture.

Today’s funding announcement builds on Canada’s solid research position—continually cultivated and strengthened by global initiatives that include AUCC-led missions to India and Brazil, and AUCC-hosted innovation best practice collaborations, most recently bringing together global higher education leaders from Canada, Israel and Germany.

About the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada 

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

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Media Contact:

Nadine Robitaille
Communications Officer
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
nrobitaille@aucc.ca
phone: 613-563-3961 ext. 306
cell: 613-884-8401

Media release - December 4, 2014

Media advisory

OTTAWA – Spokespeople for the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada are available for interviews on the university community’s response to the Government of Canada’s announcement of the implementation of the $1.5 billion Canada First Research Excellence Fund, and how this bold and transformative investment will help universities build new links with global research leaders to strengthen Canada’s position on the world stage and advance a competitive and vibrant Canadian economy.

To schedule an interview, please contact:

Nadine Robitaille
Communications Officer
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
nrobitaille@aucc.ca
phone: 613-563-3961 ext. 306
cell: 613-884-8401

Media release - October 27, 2014

University presidents and innovation leaders from Canada, Israel and Germany share ideas for higher education, research and innovation

OTTAWA – An international gathering of university and research leaders in Ottawa this week will discuss national innovation systems and how they help universities drive the advancements that build prosperity. University presidents and innovation experts from Canada, Israel and Germany gathering Oct. 27 and 28 for an international policy dialogue entitled, Optimizing Canada’s Innovation system: Perspectives from abroad, hosted by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

“Universities are an integral part of the innovation systems that improve quality of life and drive economic growth,” says Professor Peretz Lavie, president of Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. “Sharing successes and lessons learned through this kind of dialogue will help us enhance how our countries support medical breakthroughs, solutions to social challenges and the commercialization of research.”

The two-day conference focuses on three major themes: increasing risk-tolerance in research funding; catalysing international research collaboration; and facilitating new forms of collaboration between universities, the private sector and their surrounding communities.

Enno Aufderheide, secretary general of Germany’s Alexander von Humboldt-Foundation, an agency that funds international research collaboration,sees the meeting not only as a place to share insights and ideas, but also to build and strengthen partnerships. “Our countries already have successful collaboration in research and innovation, but there’s more we can do. This is a welcome opportunity to reach beyond our own institutions and create the alliances, partnerships and initiatives needed to address the challenges facing our world.”

David Barnard, president of the University of Manitoba and chair of AUCC, says the gathering will help strengthen existing partnerships among Canada, Israel and Germany in the areas of research and innovation, and forge new ones as well. “There is growing international recognition that advanced research must be collaborative, and that achieving research excellence in any field demands drawing together world-wide expertise.”

The policy dialogue is part of AUCC’s continuing series of international conversations about higher education, research and innovation.  It builds on an inaugural policy dialogue held in June 2013, which brought together higher education leaders from around the world to examine the forces shaping universities’ academic and research missions.

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

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For media inquiries, please contact:

Helen Murphy
Assistant Director, Communications
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
hmurphy@aucc.ca
613-563-3961 ext. 238
Cell: 613-608-8749

Nadine Robitaille
AUCC Communications Officer
nrobitaille@aucc.ca
613-563-3961 ext. 306

Commentary - October 27, 2014

The following op-ed was published in the Globe and Mail October 27, 2014

By Rivka Carmi, president, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev and Martha Crago, vice president, Research, Dalhousie University

The economic uncertainty that continues to plague countries around the globe has contributed to an increased focus on innovation and the commercialization of research – and rightly so. Innovation drives prosperity. Unfortunately this focus can lead to the questioning of the value of basic foundational research. That debate, however, presents a false choice—and only by understanding why, will universities’ contributions to the world be fully realized.

In fact, there is no choice to be made between basic research, driven by researchers’ desire and curiosity to explore the unknown, and applied research, inspired by usefulness and driven by need. Foundational research is how applied scientific discoveries get started, and universities cannot encourage innovation without fostering excellent basic research.

To see this in action, consider what happened when, in the 1970s, a Japanese researcher named Osamu Shimomura got curious about a jellyfish species and discovered the protein that makes it glow in colour. A decade later, American biologist Martin Chalfie realized that this glowing protein could help map the cellular structures of living organisms. Subsequently, another scientist, Roger Tsien, discovered how to make multi-colour fluorescent molecules that have technical applications, including mapping the human brain. That work—which developed over 40 years from basic research to fundamental and then advanced applications—won the three men a joint Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2008. It also illustrates that the path from basic research to innovation is rarely straight. Instead it builds upon both successes and failures along the way.

To say that foundational research is indispensable for scientific breakthroughs is fully compatible with promoting innovation in a variety of ways. Both in Canada and in Israel, universities are helping students and faculty better understand needs in both the public and private sectors, and are supporting their efforts to translate basic knowledge into applied breakthroughs.

Some of the most exciting steps on this front involve training students to become the next generation of innovators. At Dalhousie, for instance, the ‘Starting Lean’ program encourages entrepreneurial thinking in undergraduates—and now some of its graduates are joining the Canada-wide ‘Next 36’ program, which is aimed at turning  top students into the country’s most successful future business leaders and innovators.

Ben-Gurion University of the Negev’s annual innovation day brings together engineering students displaying their final year projects, business school students, industry leaders, governmental figures and private  investors for a full day of innovative scientific, technological (and social) project presentations, discussions, debates and business meetings. This way, students are exposed to the scrutiny as well as to the options of the world outside of academia and industries can look for opportunities to take academic research to the next level of application.

Universities also foster innovation by operating technology transfer offices that help faculty and students commercialize their research applications, develop research partnerships with local and global companies and forge links with nearby science and technology parks.

Another dimension of today’s constrained university budgets and the increasingly international scope of research is the need to collaborate with other institutions on mutual strategic research goals in order to maximize resources.  Because both Dalhousie and a group of Israeli universities, including Ben-Gurion University, have maritime campuses on the Atlantic and the Red Sea respectively, it made sense for us to partner in the development of a world-class marine science site in Eilat, Israel. This is expected to become an internationally recognized Ocean Studies Centre that will attract and educate marine scientists around the world, and will generate basic, applied and industry-partnered scientific advances.

Governments in both Canada and Israel, supported by philanthropists and industries, encourage such connections through the funding of collaborations that help researchers and their students pursue multi-sectorial, multi-country research initiatives.  The need to understand massive, rapidly accelerating societal, technological, and environmental change is why advanced countries need to invest together in basic research and higher education.  That investment will lead to the discovery of where the future opportunities for industry and innovation lie.

As countries, we can learn from each other. We welcome the gathering of university leaders and innovation experts from Canada, Israel and Germany this week in Ottawa to share successes and lessons learned from various nations’ innovation systems and higher education institutions. This policy dialogue, hosted by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, will give participants new insights into the strengths of each country’s research and innovation system and facilitate a sharing of promising practices for collaboration.

Underlying all of our discussions, we hope, will be a shared recognition that new discoveries and applications, whether small or revolutionary, begin with excellent basic research. From curiosity about glowing jellyfish to new tools for brain mapping: that’s what the path of innovation looks like. And that is why universities and our partners in government, industry and community must continue to support and nurture the essence of foundational research that is at the very beginning of the innovation continuum.

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Presentation - September 25, 2014

Speech
Economic Club of Canada – Ottawa

Paul Davidson
President, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Check against delivery

[Greetings]

Thank you David, and thank you to the Economic Club.

It is great to see so many friends of higher education, research and innovation here.

En français, one speaks of this time of year as “La Rentrée” – the return – back-to-school, back-to-Parliament, back-to-work. It is good to be back. The work we are all doing together is important to Canada.

One iconic image of “La Rentrée” is the yellow school bus picking up students and taking them to school. It is a reminder that Canada’s public education system, publicly funded, publicly delivered, and open to all is one of Canada’s great competitive advantages. And one of our greatest achievements.

And I want to speak both of achievement and ambition today.

Let me start with a question this afternoon. How many of you have just seen a child off to university or college? It’s a peculiar mix of pride and panic, isn’t it?

Paul Davidson President of AUCC Economic Club Speech September 25 2014

Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

You probably had some advice for your new student. I have three sons — one in university and two completing high school. I know the temptation. Your advice was probably based on your own experience.

I’m in a bit of a unique position as head of AUCC. I’ve visited over 80 campuses across the country. I’ve met with students, professors and administrators and I’ve walked through their labs, sat in their lecture halls and, yes, eaten the on-campus food.

I’ve heard about their successes and where they need help. Even in just five years at the helm of AUCC, I have seen tremendous change and growth on university campuses across the country.

It’s all with an unwavering focus: to equip students with the critical thinking and knowledge-based skills they will need to launch their careers and contribute to this great country.

As for the advice we’re giving our children, I’ll let you in on a secret. If you have a kid old enough to be in university, your own university experience will not resemble theirs in any way.

Let’s go back to the 1980s.

Ferris Bueller and his friends were heading off to university. They were using landlines, electric typewriters or maybe a Commodore 64.

Research was done almost exclusively in the library or lab.

As for me, I had left my family home in Toronto landing down the highway at Trent University in Peterborough. While it felt like a different world, let’s be honest. The language, food and basic culture really didn’t demand that much of an adjustment.

Times have changed. To help illustrate that, we are fortunate to have with us this afternoon a group of high school students and teachers from the Ottawa area. A special welcome to you.

Yes, we are all looking at you now, and, again, as a dad, I know how awkward that is. But I do want to provide a picture of where you might be headed. You are probably thinking about what to do after high school. If university is on your mind, you may be worried about exams, marks, and competition to get into the program you want.

You may also be struggling with making a choice. Do you stay close to home or do you cross the country? Humanities or science? On or off campus? Co-op or concurrent?

Let me help you out with your decision. The answer to all of those questions is yes.

Il n’y a pas de mauvais choix. Les universités canadiennes offrent plus de souplesse et d’options que jamais. Elles n’ont jamais été plus visionnaires qu’aujourd’hui.

À l’université, vous allez fréquenter d’autres étudiants et des professeurs du monde entier. Plus de la moitié d’entre vous pourrez faire des stages ou vivre des expériences à l’étranger, qui vous prépareront à votre carrière. Vous allez développer votre esprit critique, vos capacités à rédiger et à raisonner. Vous allez participer à des activités de recherche, qui vous seront utiles sur le marché du travail et qu’on n’aurait jamais pu imaginer.

Our kids may create businesses or work in fields that don’t yet exist. As they move forward, they’ll need labour market data from reliable and reputable sources to help make future career and course decisions. Decisions that are based on facts.

I didn’t ask our students in the room if you are worried about jobs. I’ll bet your parents have thought about that.

Some people would have you believe that there are no jobs for university grads. That you’ll be painfully underemployed. It’s a myth. It’s a corrosive myth.

Over the last six years, more than twice as many net new jobs were created for university grads than for college and trades grads combined. During their careers, university graduates will earn $1.3 million more than graduates of high school. And yes, a high income advantage is shared by arts grads.

That’s not to say that Canada doesn’t need all kinds of postsecondary graduates to build our economy and society – apprentices, colleges and polytechnics, and university.

In fact, I’m pleased to say that in just a few days, Canada’s university and college leaders will sign a new agreement to strengthen the collaboration, partnerships and pathways among our institutions.

Because we need to harness the talent of all Canadians to be successful in the 21st century.

How else have universities changed since the 1980’s? Far more students are gaining experience through co-ops. Right now, there are more than 1,000 co-op programs at 59 Canadian universities.

Today’s students recognize that co-ops and internships are one of the best paths to the labour market. Enrolment in those programs has jumped by 25 percent in recent years from 53,000 to more than 65,000 students.

Some of these students will do several co-ops or internships. Vanessa Stofer, a BA writing graduate of the University of Victoria, tells us she discovered what she did not want to do through one of her first co-op placements. That’s a valuable lesson. Her next placement hit the mark. She was hired by the employer, and is now doing what she loves, telling the stories of an organization she believes in.

We know that a significant percentage of co-op students are offered employment by their placement host. Employers have had a chance to “test drive” a potential hire. They know the skill set and have already invested in training the candidate on the corporate culture and job requirements.

You’ll also have access to research internships that benefit not just students and employers, but whole communities.

Megan MacGillivray is a PhD candidate at the University of British Columbia. She has a wealth of experience in the lab, but was looking for some practical applications.

Mitacs is a not-for-profit research outfit that connects organizations with student interns.

Through Mitacs, Megan worked with SideStix Ventures Inc.. It’s a very small B.C. company that makes forearm crutches. They’re commonly used by people who have had an amputation that won’t accommodate a prosthetic leg.

SideStix had developed a new crutch that has built-in shock absorbers – similar to a mountain bike. But the company had limited funds for research. That’s pretty common for a small venture.

Through Mitacs, SideStix had access to Megan’s expertise and Megan learned real world applications.

Megan’s research showed that the crutch helped users to walk farther with less pain.

The project had benefits for all sides. Sales went up. More importantly, users of forearm crutches gained from an advance in technology.

Megan’s story is just one example of student, university and community collaboration that makes a difference for all of us.

What else is new? Canada’s universities conduct nearly $1 billion of contract research for the private sector each year. They also conduct more than $1 billion of research a year with community and non-profit groups, particularly in the area of health.

We all benefit from the results, whether it’s a new procedure for joint replacements, a more accurate means of testing water quality or a clearer interpretation of our history. Canada’s universities are not isolated in some distant, ivory tower. They are in your community finding solutions every day.

It takes a series of investments in discovery and research, graduate student support and infrastructure to make that happen. Canada’s granting councils are essential to our success. Having state-of-the-art equipment and tools makes a difference. Those tools include laboratories, databases, computer hardware and software, and facilities.

The Canada Foundation for Innovation was created by the Government of Canada to build the country’s capacity for world-class research and technology development. Its support has helped advance leading- edge research in everything from skin-sensitive sunscreen to earthquake-resistant retaining walls.

Ongoing, sustainable funding for research and research infrastructure will ensure that Canada’s researchers excel, our students develop the research skills they need, and that Canada continues to attract top researchers from around the world.

Un financement soutenu et prévisible de la recherche, contribuera à préserver la dynamique existante, à créer davantage d’emplois de grande qualité, à renforcer la position du Canada dans l’économie actuelle du savoir. Il contribuera à doter les étudiants des compétences en recherche dont ils auront besoin tout au long de leur carrière.

L’expérience acquise aujourd’hui par les étudiants les prépare à intégrer le marché mondial de l’emploi. Les universités canadiennes créent des partenariats dans le monde entier qui permettent aux étudiants d’aller à l’étranger.

As a country, we have moved forward in increasing the number of international students coming to Canada. We’ve seen the benefits. They generate well over $8 billion a year to Canada’s economy and they bring us a glimpse of different cultures, languages, traditions and economies. It leads to a fresh perspective on our campuses and in our communities.

Those international students are getting a clearer view of the world. Canadian students need that too.
Currently, just 12 percent of Canadian university graduates have a study-abroad experience. That’s about 25,000 students a year. We can do better.

Many in this room shared our excitement when the late Jim Flaherty and Ed Fast established an expert panel to create an international education strategy for Canada.

avid Barnard AUCC Board of Directors Chair and University of Manitoba President Economic Club Speech September 25 2014

David Barnard, board chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada and president of University of Manitoba introduces Paul Davidson.

Led by Amit Chakma, President of Western University, the panel of business and postsecondary leaders called for the creation of 50,000 opportunities per year for Canadian students to go abroad for study and cultural exchanges.

We know there are barriers, cost being among the largest.

The panel also called for a partnership among governments, academic institutions and the private sector in helping fund Canadian students to become global citizens.

Listen to what Mark Wiseman said to graduates at Queen’s University in the spring. You’ll know Mark as president and CEO of the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board. Here’s what he had to say in a convocation address:

“It used to be that immigrants to this country were at a disadvantage. Today, those who aren’t bicultural or multicultural need to get up the global curve and fast. At CPPIB we look to hire people who have global experience. If you grew up in north Toronto, went to [a Toronto university] then worked at a downtown bank and your view is that the Far East is Oshawa, you need not apply… A student in China can, just as easily as you, apply to a job posting for a company in your own backyard. Figure out how to get a job in their backyard.”

By the way, in just one month, 1,700 people from 20 countries visited the Pension Plan Investment Board’s career page.
Now that doesn’t mean we forget about Canada. Let’s come back to that younger me. Even Toronto to Peterborough was farther than most students travel for their postsecondary education.

In a country that covers 9.9 million square kilometres, most students receive all of their education from kindergarten to university within 50 kilometres of the place they call home. Just one in 10 crosses a provincial border to study in another province. It’s understandable. Comfort, familiarity, important bonds with family and cost are all factors.

Now imagine adding a wider Canadian perspective to impressive graduation credentials. That too would benefit us all. Wouldn’t it be better to have an urban planner who understood small communities and large cities? A teacher who had lived and worked and learned in an Aboriginal community? An engineer who has seen what’s happening in another part of Canada?

Finding a creative and collaborative means of resourcing new opportunities for domestic mobility could reshape what it means to be a Canadian.

As plans are under way for Canada’s sesquicentennial in 2017, universities are looking beyond.

How will Canadians define ourselves? Will we be open to a much bigger concept of home and community? Will we be ready to go where the jobs are, to where our skills are really needed?

We also need to ask: Will we ensure that every Canadian has an opportunity to achieve?

Fewer than 10 percent of Aboriginals between the ages of 24 to 64 have a university degree. That’s one-third the rate of non-Aboriginals.

Nous savons qu’une formation universitaire rapporte au Canada et aux Canadiens. Actuellement, le faible taux d’accès des Autochtones à l’université les empêche de participer pleinement à notre économie et à notre société. Il nuit à la cohésion sociale et prolonge les inégalités historiques.

Les universités canadiennes ont établi de nombreux partenariats avec les Premières nations, les Inuits et les Métis. Elles offrent aussi des cours, des activités de sensibilisation, et de l’aide financière. Les étudiants des Premières nations, inuits et métis peuvent obtenir des conseils et du soutien, et maintenir les liens avec leur culture.

Many also run successful outreach programs in Aboriginal communities, providing support and mentoring to students as early as elementary school.

James Harper, for example, was a high achiever and scholarship recipient. He didn’t imagine he’d need support at university but something was missing. He felt out of place. A friend at the University of Manitoba sent him to the Engineering Access Program. It’s a community of support for students of Aboriginal ancestry. It offers a lounge, a lab, and tutoring for students working to qualify for the engineering program.

James liked the atmosphere immediately. He tells us:

“It was very easy to relate to people because many of us have stories of similarity, stories that I want to hear, stories that I want to build off of like going from reserve life and adjusting, getting over the culture shock barrier and graduating.”

That program has graduated the most Aboriginal engineers in Canada — 99 at last count, and growing.

We need more of that. And Canada’s universities can contribute to better outcomes for Aboriginal people.

Canada’s universities are making extraordinary contributions to this country. The one million Canadians who are working towards their first degree will most likely be in the workforce when Canada reaches our bicentennial in 2067.

That’s why I ask you to join us in our call to increase opportunities for young people, commit to sustainable funding research and research infrastructure, and to support the full participation of Aboriginal communities in higher education. To create smart skills, for a smarter Canada.

These actions will ensure that the young people with us here today and their cohort across the country will benefit for decades to come. It’s not just that they will benefit. In fact we will all benefit.

Thank you.

Media release - September 8, 2014

MEXICO CITY, Mexico – A delegation of Canadian university leaders is in Mexico this week to bolster research and institutional partnerships and to encourage greater student mobility between the two countries.

From September 8 to 12, presidents and senior representatives from 14 universities will meet with institutional partners, government officials and Mexican and Canadian private sector stakeholders. Organized by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada with strong support from the Canadian Embassy in Mexico, the delegation includes representatives from Mitacs, a Canadian organization that provides research internships and fellowships to university students, and Languages Canada.

This mission builds on February’s North American Leaders’ Summit, where Prime Minister Stephen Harper, U.S. President Barack Obama and Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto agreed to boost academic exchange and student mobility within North America. During this meeting, Mexico committed to increase the number of students it sends to the U.S. each year by 100,000; targets for Canada have not yet been established.

“Canadian and Mexican universities have a lot in common,” says Christine Tausig Ford, vice-president of AUCC, who is leading the delegation. “This visit will strengthen our ties. We’ll be focusing on forging new research and innovation partnerships, and encouraging students to learn more about – and study in – each other’s countries. Stronger higher education links drive increased trade between our countries,” Tausig Ford adds.

During the visit, AUCC will solidify linkages by renewing an agreement with its counterpart organization in Mexico, the National Association of Universities and Institutions (ANUIES), which brings together 180 Mexican universities.

The agenda also includes meetings with senior Mexican government officials, Canadian and Mexican business leaders and the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Mexico. The delegation will have a significant presence at ANUIES 20th annual meeting for international education leaders at the Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas. Canada features prominently on the agenda, including a presidential discussion on Canada-Mexico Aboriginal higher education, and a number of sessions designed to enhance international partnerships.

Media invitation:
Members of the media are invited to attend the AUCC-ANUIES MOU signing event September 9, 4:00−4:30 p.m. at the Mexico Ministry of Foreign Affairs/Secretaria de Relaciones Exteriores (Plaza Juárez 20, Cuauhtémoc, Centro, 06010 Ciudad de México) where Canadian university leaders will also make announcements on new programs and scholarships and sign new institutional agreements with Mexican partners.

Interview opportunities are available with Christine Tausig Ford, vice-president of AUCC, Brian Stevenson, president of Lakehead University, and Mike Mahon, president of the University of Lethbridge, as well as other members of the delegation.

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

Spanish version of media release

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Media contacts:

Helen Murphy,
Assistant director, communications
hmurphy@aucc.ca
613 563-3961 ext. 238

Nadine Robitaille
Communications officer
nrobitaille@aucc.ca
613 563-3961 ext. 306

Media release - June 20, 2014

OTTAWA – Business incubators and accelerators at a number of Canadian universities are poised to expand their reach after being selected for increased funding through the Canada Accelerator and Incubator Program (CAIP). Today Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the organizations chosen to advance in the selection process for $100 million in new funding at Communitech, Waterloo Region’s hub for the commercialization of innovative technologies.

“We are pleased to see this significant investment in university business accelerators and incubators and to see this element of Canada’s Economic Action Plan advanced,” says Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. “Canada’s universities are vital partners in building prosperity through entrepreneurship. AUCC has advocated for investment in such collaborative approaches to nurturing entrepreneurship and bringing fresh new ideas to market faster.” Mr. Davidson joined the Prime Minister and Minister of State for Science and Technology Ed Holder in Waterloo for the announcement.

In 2013, the government allocated $60 million over five years, with an additional $40 million in 2014, to help outstanding incubator and accelerator organizations expand their services to deserving entrepreneurs.

Universities across Canada play a leading role in fostering entrepreneurial success. In addition to operating top incubators and accelerators, 45 universities have developed entrepreneurship degree programs and provide workshops, facilities, mentoring and other supports to students and researchers to help them commercialize product and service ideas. University students are building careers and their innovative ideas are creating jobs in the industries of tomorrow.

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

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Media Contact:

Helen Murphy
assistant director of communications
hmurphy@aucc.ca
613 563-3961 ext. 238 or cell: 613 608-8749

Media release - March 18, 2014

OTTAWA – Canada’s universities applaud the launch of a federal program that will improve small- and medium-sized enterprises’ access to cutting-edge research and innovation.

The Business Innovation Access Program, announced today by the Honourable Greg Rickford, Minister of State (Science and Technology,) provides innovative SMEs with straightforward, upfront funding through the National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program that will help pay for research, technology and business development services at universities, colleges and other research institutions of their choice.

“Innovative initiatives like the Business Innovation Access Program will help turn the R&D knowledge of university researchers into improved products, goods and services,” says Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada.

“Business already counts on Canada’s universities for more than $1 billion in research every year,” adds Mr. Davidson. “This mechanism will boost university-industry links even further, as more small- and medium-sized business owners will be able to put the expertise of universities to work leading to the creation of new jobs, improved products and greater prosperity.”

The Business Innovation Access Program is consistent with a recommendation made by AUCC to the 2011 Independent Panel on Federal Support to Research and Development, which was chaired by Open Text chairman and chief strategy officer Tom Jenkins and included David Naylor, former president of the University of Toronto and Arvind Gupta, CEO and scientific director of Mitacs and recently named as president of the University of British Columbia beginning July 1, 2014.

Announced in Budget 2013, the two-year, $20 million program will enable hundreds of SMEs to use the skills, talents and knowledge of Canada’s universities to help commercialize their products or services more quickly and effectively. These companies frequently lack the resources to conduct their own research, employ recent graduates or take on student interns who would drive productivity gains.

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

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Media Contact:

Nadine Robitaille
Communications officer, AUCC
613-563-3961 x 306
nrobitaille@aucc.ca

Commentary - February 24, 2014

This op-ed was published in Research Money on February 24, 2014

By Paul Davidson
President, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Budget 2014 sent up a flare to the world: we are on our way with a bold new research and innovation initiative that will advance Canada internationally. To the community within our borders, it signals a new narrative, one that focusses on opportunity.

The newly-announced Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF), coupled with the largest support of the country’s research granting councils in nearly a decade, represents a catalytic investment.

First, the budget recognizes the nature of research. Government budgets traditionally have projected no more than two years forward. This commitment of $1.5-billion over 10 years to the research excellence fund — and enhanced ongoing funding for the granting councils and indirect costs of research provides certainty, sustainability and predictability. Planning well into the future is now a possibility, allowing for a continuum of discovery, building on previous or soon-to-come knowledge.

The CFREF also recognizes that research excellence takes place at universities of all sizes and in all regions of the country. University presidents called for an open, competitive and peer-reviewed program. This initiative will reflect that. So any university can compete, no matter its size or location. What will matter is the level of excellence, knowledge and talent being brought to the research and innovation table. The benefits will be shared by faculty, students and communities across Canada.

And on a third level, the research excellence fund speaks to the importance of international collaboration. It acknowledges that a world-class research system is a critical element of a vibrant, innovative and competitive economy. We can compete. But in today’s global village, collaboration is what moves us forward. As we bring up our game, we can look forward to a continued building and leveraging of global partnerships that are already under way.

The newest generation of Canadian university faculty members has laid the groundwork. They have studied abroad and are connected with colleagues around the world. They think in global terms. They are twice as likely as researchers elsewhere to produce jointly-authored international work, which makes them among the most collaborative in the world. In fact, top-cited international researchers recognize their Canadian peers as leaders in terms of the originality, impact and rigour in their field of research.

The new fund will allow Canada to continue expanding that. We know the opportunities are there. Last year, the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) and the Association of University Heads, Israel agreed to collaborate to promote the internationalization of higher education and to work towards increased research links with Israeli universities.

International outreach

An unprecedented AUCC-led mission of university presidents to Brazil—a nation spurring prosperity by investing heavily in research and innovation—resulted in more than 75 new university partnerships and scholarship programs. A similar AUCC-led mission of presidents to India in November 2010 raised Canada’s higher education profile in that country, and forged connections that continue to enhance academic and research collaboration.

Those connections are being further deepened during Governor General David Johnson’s current state visit to India. I will be accompanying the Governor General as we visit universities, talk to innovators and entrepreneurs, and discuss how best to address global challenges during an innovation roundtable in New Delhi.

Canada was early out of the gate in establishing international linkages, and our universities are building on these. Canada protected investments in research during the economic downturn. Our universities have been able to stem the historical brain drain and attract outstanding faculty, undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. New investments will allow us to pick up speed and hold on to our advantage.

As this program rolls out, universities will have the resources to build their performance in key areas: global excellence, talent and knowledge translation. Funding from the CFREF will build Canada’s reputation as a destination and a home for innovators, research talent and cutting-edge discovery. Universities receiving support will have the flexibility and nimbleness they’ll need to respond quickly to dramatic advancements or valuable partnerships in select areas. The potential for clusters of research excellence in concentrated fields is tremendous.

This new investment goes beyond spurring academic successes. The research excellence fund will heighten Canada’s capacity to attract and retain the best talent from Canada and around the world to remedy emerging shortages of highly skilled labour. We’ll be better able to stimulate the rate of ground-breaking discoveries. We’ll see increased opportunities to establish Canadian universities as preferred partners for the best international research institutions. Universities will also be able to enhance their efforts to reach out to businesses that are ready to adapt and exploit discoveries. And that will help Canadian businesses become more globally competitive.

Our universities are making those connections. They already conduct nearly $1-billion of research funded by the private sector in Canada each year, providing the “intellectual raw material” that drives innovation and builds prosperity.

An even larger share of research, more than $1-billion, is conducted by universities with funding from community and non-profit groups, particularly in the area of health. With secure, reliable and predictable support behind them, just imagine what they can achieve.

We all benefit from the results, and so for Canada, this is a pivotal moment.

We couldn’t be more ready for this bold investment. Half of the faculty members working at Canadian universities have been hired in the last decade. Together with more senior colleagues, they are making large contributions and are ready to do more. We’ve also seen dramatic growth in the number of graduate students at our universities of almost 90% since 2000.

That bench strength, combined with this new certainty, gives Canada’s universities the flexibility to pursue their priorities and missions and perform at their best. Driven by quality research and innovation, Canada will do the same. 

Commentary - February 13, 2014

This op-ed was posted on The Globe and Mail’s website on February 13, 2014

By Dr. David T. Barnard

In the highly competitive international field of research and innovation, Canada has just made an exceptional commitment to owning the podium.

The Canada First Research Excellence Fund announced in Budget 2014, coupled with the largest investment in Canada’s research granting councils in a decade, represents a catalytic investment. With a commitment of $1.5 billion over 10 years to the research excellence fund, this budget is a tangible recognition that a world-class research system is a critical element of a vibrant, innovative and competitive economy.

Just as we’ve seen with our Olympic athletes, skill, tenacity and desire are not enough. Those attributes have to be matched by reliable funding for training, facilities, staff and the right equipment.

Canada’s universities have what it takes and are in the game. We have a head start. Our past achievements are already an advantage.  The federal government’s commitment to Canadian research and innovation has resulted in a suite of programs – fellowships, scholarships and research chairs.  Through the economic downturn, Canada has protected these investments. This has been critical to the success of Canada’s universities and has had a strong and direct impact on the prosperity and quality of life of Canadians.  In addition, universities have been able to stem an historical brain drain and to attract and retain outstanding faculty, undergraduate and graduate students and post-doctoral fellows. 

Even with all that, our world advantage has been tenuous. So this ambitious new research excellence fund, coupled with the commitment of enhanced funding in discovery research through the federal granting councils, is significant. Other countries are working at doing more, ramping up to gain an edge. Canada faces growing international competition as more nations invest in research and innovation, and reap the benefits of those investments in the development of more skilled and creative workforces, as well as new and dynamic knowledge-based industries. In short, they are matching our record and are working to better it.                                  

The Canada First Research Excellence Fund is an exceptional investment in moving Canada forward. We have the potential to be among the leaders. And even while this new program will help Canadian universities compete on the world stage, it will also allow us to collaborate with leading researchers around the world.  Research results increasingly come from global networks of discovery and creativity.  

The new funding signals to others that Canada intends to compete with the best in terms of support for research excellence and attracting top innovators to our universities. The strategy recognizes that research excellence takes place at universities of all sizes and in all regions of the country. So the benefits will be shared by communities, students and faculties across Canada.

Canada’s universities conduct nearly $1 billion of research for the private sector in Canada each year. They also conduct more than $1 billion of research a year with community and non-profit groups, particularly in the area of health. We all benefit from the results, whether it’s a new procedure for joint replacements, a more accurate means of testing water quality or a clearer interpretation of our history.  For all of us, this is a pivotal moment.  

And we are ready. Half of the faculty members teaching at Canadian universities have been hired in the last decade. Together with more senior colleagues they are making large contributions and are ready to do more. We’ve also seen huge growth in the number of graduate students at our universities of almost 90 per cent since 2000.  They are also ready to go. 

Last fall’s Speech from the Throne called on us to seize the moment, to make our mark, to build on our ingenuity and natural wealth. It asked Canadians to be daring, to secure prosperity, for Canadians now, and for the generations to follow. With this funding, we will do that.

David T. Barnard is President and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Manitoba and Chair of AUCC.

Media release - February 11, 2014

OTTAWA – Substantial and exceptional investments in university research announced today in Budget 2014 will allow universities to achieve global leadership in knowledge and innovation for Canada, say leaders of Canada’s universities.

“This is a pivotal moment for research excellence and innovation in Canada,” says David Barnard, president of the University of Manitoba and chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. “The establishment of an ambitious new research excellence fund, coupled with the commitment of enhanced funding in discovery research through the federal granting councils, represent a catalytic investment. This shows that the government is taking a strategic approach to creating prosperity in Canada, and recognizes that a vibrant, innovative and competitive Canadian economy needs a world-class research system.”

Budget 2014 established the Canada First Research Excellence Fund with a $1.5 billion investment over 10 years, beginning in 2015-16. With this fund, the government has committed to a long-term, strategic vision for research and innovation in Canada. This investment in the next generation of researchers will intensify the momentum for Canada’s universities and their partners in advancing economic growth and quality of life for all Canadians.

The budget contains a series of investments in advanced research and innovation that are “far-sighted and strategic,” says Dr. Barnard. Canada’s university researchers are at the prime of their careers; more than 50 per cent of university faculty have been hired in the last 10 years. Graduate student enrolment has increased by almost 90 per cent since 2000. The government has seized this moment with investments that will propel Canada’s research and innovation performance.

Canada’s universities came together over the past year to advocate for a strategic investment in excellence – an ambitious new research fund that would be open, competitive and supplementary to research support from the federal granting councils and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

As proposed by AUCC during pre-budget consultations, the Canada First Research Excellence Fund is an ambitious plan to position Canada as a world leader in research and innovation. Canada’s universities welcome the government’s recognition of university research as a significant driver of prosperity, and its vision and action in making this bold investment in Canada’s future.

“Today Canada is signalling to the leading research nations of the world that it intends to compete with the best in terms of support for research excellence and attracting top innovators to our universities,” says Paul Davidson, AUCC president. “This new strategy recognizes that research excellence takes place at universities of all sizes and in all regions of the country; the benefits will be shared by communities, students and faculty across Canada.”

University leaders also applaud the government’s ongoing recognition of the value of university research, including discovery research and indirect costs, by substantially increasing funding for Canada’s research granting councils. The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – will receive an additional $37 million a year for advanced research and $9 million for indirect costs on an ongoing basis.

The federal government has increased funding for research and innovation in each year since 2006.

The government’s focus on ensuring the next generation of innovators has the skills and experience they need for the labour force is also welcome, AUCC says. Investments in Mitacs, a not-for-profit agency that offers internships and fellowships for graduate students and postdoctoral fellows, will give a boost to their careers. “The funding announced today will expand opportunities and benefit postdocs and employers alike,” says Mr. Davidson. AUCC has been working in partnership with Mitacs for a number of years to enhance programs that connect university graduates to work experiences.

Universities also welcome new investments in internships that will provide even more funding to connect postsecondary graduates with real-life work experiences. “More than half of today’s university students already take part in a co-op experience, internship or field placement during their undergraduate studies,” says Mr. Davidson.

Canada’s universities welcome Budget 2014’s investment of $1.25 billion in support of a new landmark agreement with the Assembly of First Nations to overhaul Aboriginal education at the K-12 level. The agreement was announced Feb. 7 at the Kainai High School in Stand Off, Alberta. AUCC is a strategic partner of the AFN in improving accessibility and success for Aboriginal students in higher education. In consultation and partnership with Indigenous communities, Canada’s universities have made enhancements in academic programming, services and curricula to better meet the needs of Aboriginal students. This includes community outreach and mentorship activities for young Aboriginals starting as early as their elementary grades to help them succeed at school and see a brighter future through education. A substantially improved K-12 system will help many more students achieve their goal of higher education.

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

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Media Contacts:

Helen Murphy
Assistant Director of Communications
hmurphy@aucc.ca
613 563-3961 ext. 238 or cell: 613 608-8749

Nadine Robitaille
Communications Officer
nrobitaille@aucc.ca
613 563-1236 ext. 306 or cell: 613 884-8401

Media release - November 27, 2013

OTTAWA – Canada’s universities welcome the federal government’s launch of a renewed foreign policy and trade plan which highlights education and the promotion of Canada’s research and innovation advantage abroad among its top priorities.

The Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade, announced the launch of the report entitled the Global Markets Action Plan: The Blueprint for Creating Jobs and Opportunities for Canadians Through Trade today in Ottawa.

Canada’s universities are pleased with the report’s identification of international education as a priority sector that will strengthen Canada’s trade, investment and people-to-people ties in priority markets.  Canadian universities are recognized as world-class institutions that provide excellent education and research opportunities to Canadian and international students and are a key resource in attracting the world’s best and brightest to Canada.  The Action Plan also highlighted the value of Canadian universities in fostering research linkages.

The university sector looks forward to the government’s forthcoming launch of an international education strategy to build Canada’s brand of excellence in education and research.  Advisory panel recommendations to the government included doubling the number of international students coming to Canada, establishing a new mechanism for supporting international research collaboration at scale, and creating a new program to send 50,000 Canadian students abroad annually by 2022. 

“International education is one of the few sectors to have grown constantly through the recession, to a value of $8 billion per year in communities large and small across the country,” said AUCC president, Paul Davidson.  “The federal government clearly recognizes the benefits that international students bring to Canadian university campuses and their communities, and the economic and trade advantages they bring to the country as a whole.”

AUCC is the voice of Canada’s universities at home and abroad, representing the interests of 97 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities and university degree-level colleges.

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Media Contact:

Nadine Robitaille
Communications Officer
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
nrobitaille@aucc.ca
613-563-3961 ext. 306

Media release - November 26, 2013


OTTAWA — A new Canadian-European initiative aims to raise awareness of the growing partnership opportunities for Canadian and European researchers and innovators. The ERA-Can Plus project will promote science, technology and innovation collaboration between Canada and the European Union through policy dialogues, research exchanges and information sharing about funding opportunities.

The initiative, launched in early October, begins just as the EU is set to start its Eighth Framework Programme for Research and Innovation, also referred to as Horizon 2020, with an expected budget of more than €70 billion (CAD $92 billion) between 2014-2020. The signing of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic Trade Agreement in the same month also underscores the important economic and research ties between Canada and the EU, and the role of science and technology for promoting innovation-based economic growth.

“Canada is a valued partner for the European Union in a wide range of cooperation areas and our partnership in research and innovation is particularly strong,” said European Union Ambassador Marie-Anne Coninsx. “ERA-Can Plus will further contribute to deepen the already existing strong ties. In particular, this joint initiative will be instrumental in facilitating enhanced cooperation in the new mutually agreed priority areas of arctic and marine research.”

ERA-Can Plus will raise awareness of the multiple research and innovation program opportunities for Canadians in Horizon 2020 and for Europeans in Canada’s research programs. The project will tackle societal challenges by helping bridge the gap between research and the market and will also enrich the Canada-EU policy dialogue by identifying research areas of mutual interest. It builds on two previous ERA-Can projects that have made significant inroads in expanding Canadian and European research collaboration and improving bilateral relations between Canada and the EU.

 “Building on the recently announced agreement-in-principle on an historic Canada-European Union trade agreement, ERA-Can Plus is yet another bridge that will help us take our 21st century relationship to the next level,” said the Honourable Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade. “Enhancing the science, technology and innovation collaboration between Canada and the European Union, key features of our landmark trade agreement, will contribute to new jobs and new opportunities on both sides of the Atlantic.”

“The ERA-CAN Plus project objectives and its Canadian and European partnership correspond to the new international cooperation strategy for research and innovation of the European Union,” said Maria Cristina Russo, Director in DG RTD for International Cooperation in the European Commission. “It will support the implementation of our policy dialogue for example as follow up of the Galway Statement signed by Canada and the EU.“

The consortium brings together seven leading associations and organizations for research, innovation and public policy discussions from across Canada and Europe. The Canadian partners are the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada, the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, and the Public Policy Forum. The European partners are the Agenzia per la Promozione della Ricerca Europea in Italy, the Centre National de Recherche Scientifique in France, the Project Management Agency at DLR in Germany, and the Zentrum für Soziale Innovation in Austria. The Italian partner will act as the coordinator for the project.

The project is largely funded by the European Commission. 

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For more information:
Martina de Sole 
Coordinator APRE   
info@era-can.net

Commentary - September 27, 2013

This op-ed was published in Research Money magazine September 26, 2013

By Elizabeth Cannon

The third Science, Technology and Innovation Council “state of the nation” report, released earlier this year, says Canada risks erosion of its competitive talent advantage if it does not make significant investments in research and education.

The report findings are no surprise. It says that Canada continues to rank in the mid-levels as a performer in science, technology and innovation when compared to other countries. While noting that Canada can celebrate the high quality of talent coming out of our postsecondary institutions – and calling that talent a “competitive advantage” – the report signals that the country requires real improvement in other areas. Among the key challenges highlighted is the need to enhance private sector investments in R&D, which continue to lag behind many other countries. When a country such as ours trails on R&D spending, we typically trail in productivity and competitiveness measures as well.

One need only look at the international horizon to witness the changing dynamic. Many of Canada’s international competitors are coming from new places. As European countries and the United States continue their slow economic recovery, Asia and South America are home to the world’s rising economies.

Expansion and productivity in emerging nations are changing our world in ways we are only beginning to grasp. Since 2008, GDP in India and China has been growing by an average of more than seven per cent a year, in real terms, and Brazil’s is growing by three per cent per year. Meanwhile, in the developed OECD nations, annual GDP growth has been less than one per cent per year.

New realities require new ways of competing. In Canada, one of our greatest assets is our high-quality education system. Now, as never before, there is an urgent need to leverage that asset for growth and prosperity.

In our knowledge economy, progress relies heavily on technological and process advancements; prosperity requires innovation. And innovation increasingly happens at the junction between university research and business initiative.

Universities are natural partners for private sector R&D. They help businesses solve problems through new technologies and new ideas. Through their international connections, they open up new markets; through their expertise, they uncover efficiencies.

So how can educational institutions help Canada compete? Among the most effective and efficient ways of improving our competitive position and boosting our economic prospects is through increased collaboration between universities and business. Canadian universities conduct close to $900 million in research annually in partnership with the business sector.

Partnership through research and development is not solely the domain of industry however.  The not-for-profit sector is also investing heavily in university R&D; in 2011, this sector represented another $1 billion in university research.

But in the competitive global marketplace, this is still not enough. Canadian companies spend less on R&D than our direct competitors. Israeli companies, for example, spend proportionately three times more on R&D than do Canadian firms, while Swedish, German and American companies invest more than twice as much.

Further collaboration is essential. Collaborative and innovative research between universities and business is a key link to economic prosperity. For example, Roger Butler, a former Imperial Oil employee who from 1983 to 1995 held the first Endowed Chair in Petroleum Engineering at the University of Calgary, is often referred to as the father of steam-assisted gravity drainage (SAGD), after developing one of the most commercially effective technologies for extracting bitumen in Alberta’s oil sands. Today, further advances in SAGD technology are driving new innovations to increase oil production using the least amounts of water, natural gas, electricity and land.

Another significant way universities support business innovation is through internships.  Interns and co-op students bring energy and a wealth of new ideas and new knowledge to their placements in business and civil society. Along the way, they learn how organizations operate and develop the skills and contacts that will help them in their future careers.

Today, half of all undergraduate students participate in internships and co-ops during the course of their studies. Expanding these kinds of opportunities for Canadian students – especially at the graduate level — will improve knowledge transfer to industry and help businesses of all sizes become more innovative and competitive.

Still, we can do even more by challenging the status quo. Canada’s universities and businesses are actively engaging the public and policy-makers in a number of areas that will improve partnership opportunities, and in turn boost our bottom-line global competitiveness. Policy decisions supporting areas such as research funding, graduate education, and immigration of skilled individuals can all help.

Universities and the private sector can do more for Canada by partnering and collaborating. Industry needs the ideas, imagination and creativity universities provide. Universities benefit from the real-life challenges businesses present.

The true beneficiaries are all Canadians, because industry and university collaboration creates jobs, builds prosperity and enhances our quality of life.

Dr. Elizabeth Cannon is president and vice-chancellor of the University of Calgary. An expert in geomatics engineering, she is a former dean of the Schulich School of Engineering and is a former holder of the NSERC/Petro-Canada Chair for Women in Science and Engineering. 

Media release - March 21, 2013

OTTAWA – The federal government’s investments in university research, skills and talent will help to make Canada more innovative and competitive, says the organization representing Canada’s 97 universities across the country.

“One million young people will graduate from Canada’s universities by the year 2017,” says Stephen Toope, president of The University of British Columbia and chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. “They’ll be equipped with the knowledge, experiences and skills Canada will need for decades to come. And they’ll have gained the ability to adapt to the jobs of today – and tomorrow.”

“Canada needs more university, college and trades graduates to compete in the new global knowledge economy,” adds Paul Davidson, president of AUCC. According to a recent CIBC report, most jobs in high demand in Canada require a university degree, including managers in health, education, social and community services; human resources and business service professionals; and supervisors in manufacturing and processing.

The federal government’s research investments have made Canada a top research nation. “Even in difficult fiscal times, the government recognizes that university research fuels a competitive advantage for Canada,” says Mr. Davidson. “Over successive budgets, the federal government has increased support for research and innovation in Canada –investments that nurture talent, create jobs and make us more competitive internationally.”

Canada’s universities also welcomed the importance that today’s budget places on international education initiatives. “Investments in international education leverage economic benefits of more than $8 billion a year – and they benefit every region of Canada,” Mr. Davidson points out. “Employers tell us they want a versatile international workforce. Canada benefits – and Canadian students benefit – from a global outlook.”

AUCC is part of an education sector-led consortium that has urged the government to enhance international education efforts to drive Canada’s global competitiveness, and is ready to work with partners to help ensure the international education strategy advances.

A new element of the international education efforts announced today is enhanced funding for Mitacs’ Globalink Program, which brings top undergraduate students from around the world to Canadian universities to undertake research projects and will now allow Canadian students to go abroad for research experiences. “This is an opportunity for Canada’s universities to enhance their profile and attract the brightest international students to our campuses,” says Mr. Davidson.

University leaders also welcomed a new scholarship program that will improve access and achievement for Aboriginal postsecondary students. The budget provides funding to be matched by the private sector for new scholarships for Aboriginal students through an initiative of Indspire, in collaboration with Canada’s universities.

“Aboriginal youth is the fastest growing segment of our population, yet Aboriginal university graduation rates lag far behind those of the non-Aboriginal population,” notes Mr. Davidson. “These measures are a concrete step towards closing the education gap.”

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For interviews and information, please contact:

Helen Murphy
Assistant Director, Communications
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
613.563.1236, ext. 238
Cell: 613.608.8749
hmurphy@aucc.ca

Nadine Robitaille|
Communications Officer
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
Tel: 613.563.3961, ext. 306
Cell: 613.884.8401
nrobitaille@aucc.ca

Commentary - December 6, 2012

This op-ed was published in Research Money magazine, December 6, 2012

By Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University

As Prime Minister Stephen Harper has said, “you simply can’t build a modern economy without investing in world-class research.”

Our modern knowledge economy depends heavily on research and innovation, both of which require talent, perseverance and funding. Innovation – the search for a new idea, a new way of doing things, a new product – is what allows us to put our knowledge to use and to be competitive in a global economy. High-quality research makes innovation happen. And both take place at universities.

The OECD’s Innovation Strategy and the Canada’s 2011 Jenkins Report demonstrate that universities play a crucial role in driving innovation and prosperity, and for that matter, the health, social well-being and security of nations.

In 2011, Canada’s universities were responsible for 38 percent of Canada’s R&D activities and conducted more than $11.3 billion in research, including approximately $1 billion in directly funded contract research for the private sector. The overall economic impact of Canada’s universities is estimated to be more than $60 billion annually.

What’s more, research and innovation translate into jobs. According to the OECD, innovation accounted for two-thirds to three-quarters of economic growth in Austria, Finland, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States between 1995 and 2006.

Innovation also attracts talent. When Canadian universities take a lead in conducting research, we draw bright minds to our country. In recent years, universities have attracted or repatriated more than 450 Canada Research Chairs and Canada Excellence Research Chairs from abroad. Talent follows opportunity.

In this globalized world it’s no longer enough for us to succeed or even excel at home – Canada must compete globally. Nurturing top talent at home and attracting leading researchers from around the world is what will position Canada as an innovation leader.

We have a strong foundation upon which to build. A report by the Council of Canadian Academies recently highlighted the high regard that the world’s most cited researchers have for the quality research conducted in our universities. We can strengthen that reputation by leveraging and growing partnerships between Canadian universities and international institutions, both public and private.

I recently had the opportunity to serve on the U.S. National Research Council’s Committee on Research Universities, and it is clear that research universities on both sides of the border are working to respond to their changing environment.

The U.S., a long-time front-runner in research and innovation, is at risk of falling behind in the innovation race, due in part to stagnating investment in innovation. Asia’s emerging economies steadily and dramatically increased R&D spending as a percentage of GDP between 1996 and 2007 – Japan’s reached 3.4 percent in 2007, and South Korea’s 3.5 percent. In comparison, U.S. spending remained between 2.5 and 2.8 percent of GDP over the past three decades, while Canada’s was still below 2 percent of GDP in 2007.[1]

In a globally competitive environment, partnerships between universities and the wider community, including industry and civil society, have never been more critical. Countries, institutions and companies need to tap into and contribute to international knowledge networks.

Innovation is, at its core, a creative endeavour. Creativity often means heading down a path without knowing what’s at the end.

Earlier this year, after almost 50 years of searching, researchers confirmed the existence of the Higgs-Boson particle. While there may be no known applications for the Higgs-Boson particle today, the search for it has contributed to discoveries in health instrumentation, diagnostics and treatments, as well as the information and communication technologies that power the Internet.

Innovations and discoveries enrich our daily lives. Research in social science and humanities is increasingly important in our globalized world. Trading with partners in Canada and from around the world requires a deep understanding of history, culture, religion, law, ethics, marketing, supply-chain development and data analytics – research skills that come primarily from social science and humanities programs.

As our government develops national strategies for science and technology, international education and global commerce, Canada’s universities – and their tremendous capacity for talent development, research, innovation and collaboration – will play a key role in our country’s roadmap for the future.

Dr. Heather Munroe-Blum is Principal and Vice-Chancellor of McGill University and a Professor of Epidemiology in the Faculty of Medicine. She is a member of Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation Council, and was named an Officer of the Order of Canada for her outstanding record of achievements in science, innovation and higher education policy.

Media release - September 27, 2012

OTTAWA – A new report from the Council of Canadian Academies highlights the outstanding quality of Canada’s university researchers and points to Canada’s growing influence on global knowledge. Commissioned by Industry Canada and released today, The State of Science and Technology in Canada, 2012 underscores the excellence and breadth of research taking place at Canadian universities in a broad range of fields. The State of Science and Technology is a follow-up report to a 2006 study. The new report found “a high international regard for the quality and rigour” of Canada’s science and technology researchers.

 “The new report by the Council of Canadian Academies emphasizes the crucial role Canadian university researchers play on the world stage,” says Paul Davidson, president of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. “Our universities are driving research and innovation, and gaining international respect for the quality of their work in a broad range of fields.”

Prepared by an 18-member expert panel that was chaired by Eliot Phillipson, the former president of the Canada Foundation for Innovation and included Sara Diamond, president of OCAD University, the report takes and ambitious and wide-ranging look at the current state of Canadian research.

Among its key findings:

  • Between 2005 and 2010, Canada produced about 60 percent more academic papers than it had in the previous five years – the highest increase among G7 nations.
  • Nearly four in 10 of the world’s top-cited international researchers ranked Canada in the top five countries in their field, and 68 percent rated Canada as strong compared to the rest of the world. This puts Canada fourth in the world (behind only the U.S., the U.K. and Germany).
  • Canada produces nearly five percent of the most frequently cited research papers in the world, despite having only 0.5 percent of the world’s population.

 “Our universities are well-positioned to help Canada compete in the global marketplace of ideas,” says Mr. Davidson. “Canada’s research contributions are healthy, growing, internationally competitive and well-respected.”

AUCC is the national voice of Canada’s universities, representing 94 Canadian public and private not-for-profit universities.

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Media Contact:

Nadine Robitaille
Communications Officer
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
nrobitaille@aucc.ca
613-563-1236 ext. 306

Commentary - September 21, 2012

Op-ed published in Research Money September 21, 2012

By Daniel Woolf
Principal and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s University
Chair of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada’s Standing Advisory Committee on International Relations

New and returning students have unpacked their things and settled back into campus life here at Queen’s University, but many graduate students have been here all summer, working alongside faculty researchers on a variety of projects. The research endeavour never sleeps.

In Canada, we’re doing well in terms of research achievements. Canadian research teams have elevated our status as a world leader in areas of expertise such as information and communications technology, health education and environmental stewardship. But we need to push further to compete in today’s highly competitive, multi-disciplinary, trillion-dollar global research industry. Our contemporaries are already focusing their resources and attention to compete in this market.

Take a look at Brazil, projected to become the fifth-largest economy over the next few years. Already, it has 5.4 million university students and produces more PhDs than Canada. Other parts of the world have become the planet’s economic drivers. In fewer than two decades, more than 40 percent of the world’s GDP will come from Asia.

A culture of collaboration among top world talent has already become both the norm and the necessity. In Canada, some 40 percent of today’s university faculty earned their first or highest degree in another country, and 30 percent of Canada Research Chairs have been recruited from abroad. Top research talents are collaborating at a record level to leverage their combined data, research and knowledge. Close to 50 percent of Canada’s research papers have co-authors from other countries – twice the rate of 15 years ago and double the world average. Now we must step up our momentum to keep pace with the changing context of global research.

The shift toward international partnerships comes as traditional world powers cope with difficult fiscal realities. The United States’ slower-than-anticipated recovery and the European Union’s ongoing economic fragility have allowed Brazil, China and India to seize the lead. In this climate of change, what remains constant is the collective global recognition that university research, as a key investment, drives both short- and long-term economic growth. Over the past decade, our competitors have been pouring considerable resources into all sectors of research.

The Royal Society of London estimates the number of researchers, globally, at seven million. In our research-driven global economy, the new challengers – with their booming populations – are very serious about research and economic growth.

As I, and others, have stated elsewhere, Canada is facing fundamental choices. Economic, social and technological revolutions are underway throughout the world. We will confront significant economic, health, and labour market challenges as a result of shifting demographics in the decades ahead. By 2030, the proportion of the Canadian population that is over the age of 65 will double, while the working age population (ages 25-64) will grow by only eight percent. To offset these differences and remain competitive in the global marketplace, we must use our considerable research assets to drive innovation and become more productive.

There are already clear results from global collaborations, and more will follow. Working as teammates, our international partnerships on pandemic research and planning mean we’ll also combat the spread of infectious diseases with greater insight and speed. Collaboration in the face of major environmental shifts and surging world populations will ensure better planetary resource management.

For example, Queen’s University partners with Fudan University in Shanghai and the Southwest University of China to offer the Ontario Universities Program in Field Biology. Students from both countries do field study on aquatic environments and ecosystems along the Yangtze River in the vicinity of the Three Gorges Dam Project in China, and in the St. Lawrence River and Frontenac Arch regions of Eastern Ontario.

Moreover, Colin Funk, Canada Research Chair in Molecular, Cellular and Physiological Medicine at Queen’s, is the only Canadian scientist working with an international consortium of 39 investigators from 18 institutions and four countries to personalize drug therapy for the most common medications consumed worldwide, with the goal of reducing the risk of heart attacks, heart failure and strokes.

These examples show Canada has top talent to bring to the table. But if we expect others to view Canada as an attractive partner, we must commit to R&D as an investment priority, and make this commitment well-known across the globe. Competition is fierce. Our international colleagues seeking collaboration on highly complex issues will naturally pursue the most readily available resources, talent and investment.

As our competitors surge forward, Canada must commit more in R&D investment, particularly on the private sector side. Either we demonstrate comparable commitment, or potential collaborators will take their business elsewhere: we then run the further risk of Canadian researchers moving outside Canada.

To build prosperity at home, our international competitors must also be our allies. Competition and collaboration now go hand-in-hand. The result of doing both well will be increased innovation, productivity, social well-being, entrepreneurship and jobs for Canadians.

Commentary - September 4, 2012

This op-ed was published in the Globe and Mail on September 3, 2012

By Paul Davidson
President and CEO
Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada

Like the rush to buy new running shoes for the kids and the shortening of summer evenings, the last days of August routinely bring a wave of editorial comment questioning the value of a university education, bemoaning the cost of tuition, and lamenting a supposed by-gone golden age of higher education. More recently, these have been coupled with articles suggesting today’s graduates are ill-prepared for the workforce and that universities are failing to advance Canada’s research and innovation agenda.

While it is true that tuition has increased in recent years, so too has the value of a degree. The income premium of a university degree is large and growing. University graduates will on average earn $1.3 million more during their careers than a high school graduate and $1 million more than a college grad. And contrary to what you read in the papers, there are jobs for university graduates. Between July 2008 and July 2012 there were 700,000 new jobs for university graduates in Canada compared with 320,000 for college grads, and a net loss of 640,000 jobs for those with no postsecondary education.

Student debt load is a serious issue that we should all work to address – but it is important to note that more than four out of 10 students in Canada graduate completely debt-free. For those that do have debt, almost one-third owe less than $12,000. How do we make sure that the balance among private value, public benefit and access is appropriate?

Canadians typically overestimate the cost of a degree and underestimate its value. In a world of greater uncertainty, a university education remains the surest path to prosperity for Canadians.

One of the greatest public policy achievements of the last three decades is expanded access to Canada’s high quality higher education system. Once the preserve of Canada’s elite – in 1980, only 10 percent of Canada’s young people attended university – full-time enrolment has since increased steadily so that this fall, one in every four young Canadians will be enrolled full-time. Indeed, university enrolment has grown by more than 50 percent since 2000 alone. In fact, undergraduate enrolment surpassed the one million student mark for the first time last fall. Canada will need all of them, and more, to offset the retirement wave that is already underway. In the next 20 years, six million Canadians are set to retire. Many of those jobs, as well as new jobs being created in an increasingly knowledge-driven world, will need to be filled by university graduates. Public investment to ensure today’s students get the quality education experience of previous generations is essential to Canada’s economic strength in the years ahead.

Frankly, public investments have not kept pace with the dramatic expansion of enrolment. In fact, on a per student basis, provincial support for university operating budgets remains at the same level as it was in 1997. You read that right. While 20 years earlier, government operating support averaged $22,400 per student, by 1997 it had fallen to $11,600 and it has stayed at that level ever since. It can be argued that universities today are delivering substantially more with substantially less.

The development of co-op, internship and work placements – both in industry and broader society – has become a distinguishing characteristic of the Canadian university experience. Once an opportunity in a few programs at a few universities, today more than half of all students will have the opportunity of putting ideas to work during the course of their studies. These students benefit from this early exposure to the working world – as do businesses benefit from a ready source of new ideas, approaches and energy.

With more than half of Canada’s faculty hired in the last 10 years, campuses across the country have a new generation of professors providing their students with opportunities for hands-on research experiences – experiences that excite the imagination and help build a culture of innovation. Going to university is more than a rite of passage. It is an opportunity to engage in the pursuit of ideas and research that generates new knowledge, which can then be transformed into products, processes and services. The research environment is a critical training ground for students. The ability to identify a problem, test solutions, and apply new knowledge in related areas is the very definition of innovation and at the heart of the university mission. Research transforms how we think, act and live.

Federal investments in research and innovation since 1997 have provided Canada with an extraordinary platform upon which to conduct leading research that benefits Canadians and the world. These investments are integral to ensuring Canada a prominent place in a globalized world. More important, they are an essential component in finding the new discoveries and nurturing the talent that will lead to enhanced economic prospects for all Canadians. And perhaps most importantly, learning in a research-enriched environment provides university graduates with the 21st century ideas and skills that today’s employers want – and need.

Oh, and those back-to-school running shoes you’re buying? They’re better than ever, thanks to the work of university researchers including those at the University of Calgary’s Human Performance Lab – home to one of the world’s leading experts in the biomechanics of sports shoes.


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