State of the Nation 2008

3. Foundations for Innovation — Elements of the Innovation System

3.4 Building Innovation Strengths — Research and Development Sub-Priorities

For an economy and population the size of Canada, it is not possible to participate in all international initiatives or to conduct all our research domestically.15 We must be strategic as to where we focus our resources and how we capitalize on global excellence wherever it may reside. For this reason, the Government of Canada selected four priority areas for research:

  • Environmental science and technologies
  • Natural resources and energy
  • Health and related life sciences and technologies
  • Information and communications technologies

In September 2008, the Minister of Industry, based on advice from the STIC, announced 13 research sub-priority themes of significance to the nation (Figure 1). The sub-priorities16 were identified to focus attention on strategic areas of R&D, and enhance Canada's competitiveness. The sub-priorities cover both basic and applied research and innovation, and will serve as a springboard to leadership by Canada in areas of significance to the nation.

Water — Hydrology, Ecology and Health in Canada's North

Jennifer Nafziger Jennifer Nafziger, a student at the University of Alberta, and Tom Carter of Environment Canada measuring the velocity of ice floes during spring breakup of the Mackenzie River at Tsiigehtchic, Northwest Territories. (Photo: Spyros Beltaos)

The Arctic Freshwater Systems Hydrology and Ecology Project is one component of a broader Canadian science and research program. The project represents one of Canada's contributions to a multidisciplinary, international scientific and social research effort, the International Polar Year (2007-08). Canada's work built on existing programs, networks and facilities to focus on two important challenges for Canada's northern regions: climate change impacts and adaptation, and the health and well-being of northern communities.

The project mobilizes a multidisciplinary field and laboratory research network. Its objectives are: to assess ecological biodiversity and the integrity of Arctic freshwater ecosystems and food webs; to improve understanding and prediction of freshwater flow and nutrient transport to the Arctic Ocean; and to develop a legacy database of water, biodiversity and related environmental information for Arctic freshwater ecosystems.

The project's training and outreach program engages young scientists, Northerners and Northern communities in on-the-ground training in science and research activities. The project also provides for the acquisition and incorporation of traditional knowledge. It will lead to a new generation of polar scientists, particularly Northerners and Aboriginal peoples, carrying on strong northern research programs in the decades to follow. With new knowledge, these scientists will be able to monitor the quality and sustainability of traditional foods as well as the status of the Arctic environment.


15 Compete to Win notes that Canadian firms have to look beyond their borders to achieve the scale necessary to compete with global rivals.

16 Sub-priorities are not ranked within or across categories.