OTTAWA--The federal government announced last week an investment of $750 million in the Canadian Foundation for Innovation (CFI). This latest investment comes only 5 months after a minibudget announcing a $500 million investment in the CFI. Gilbert Normand, Secretary of State for Science, Research and Development, pointed out, "The new money will secure funding for the 2005 to 2010 period."
The nonprofit CFI was created in 1997 by the Canadian government to help build the research infrastructure of universities, colleges, research hospitals, and other nonprofit research organizations. It also provides direct infrastructure support for newly recruited academic staff and for the Canada Research Chairs Program, which will create 2000 research positions across the country. To date, the government has invested $3.15 billion in the CFI, of which $850 million has been awarded out. Through an agreement with the provincial governments and the voluntary and private sectors, the federal government's investments have been matched with an additional $1.2 billion.
Pierre Bélanger, vice principal of research and dean of the faculty of graduate studies and research at McGill University, welcomed the news as "very positive." He added, "This announcement is important because all universities will be turning over within the next 2 to 3 years. Faculty members close to retirement may not be very active in research and will be replaced with researchers who are very active. Continued CFI funding will provide the infrastructure needed by the new faculty members to pursue their research."
Poor funding and high taxes have driven a number of Canadian scientists abroad. "Part of the problem with brain drain is that the facilities south of the border are better. Hence, we need to have first-class facilities in Canada to attract young scientists here," said Bélanger. Normand added, "With these investments, we will help keep Canadians here as well as attract scientists from other countries to come here."
Last week's announcement comes as part of the government's election promise to help Canada become among the top five research-intensive countries. "This investment proves that the government wants to put an accent on scientific research," said Normand. However, Bélanger cautioned, "additional funding from the granting agencies will be needed to keep the research going once the infrastructure has been set up." The government also promised to double federal expenditures on research and development by 2010.