It’s an interesting problem and one that governments worldwide are attempting to solve in any number of ways. Funding research and development with one eye to stimulating ‘innovation’, i.e. commercialization and economic prosperity in the near future, while keeping one eye to supporting the grand scientific discoveries and thinking that will influence future generations but have no immediate prospects for development is a tricky balancing act.
Having gone through a recent review of Canadian federal government funding in research and development (R&D) where there was an attempt to redress that balance here, I found the May 28, 2012 article by Hamish Fletcher for the New Zealand Herald provided some insight into how at least one other jurisdiction is responding,
The Government said last week it would dedicate $90 million of operating funding and $76.1 million of capital funding over the next four years to create the Advanced Technology Institute (ATI).
A number of scientists welcomed news of the funding and New Zealand Association of Scientists’ president Shaun Hendy said it would build stronger links between science and industry.
But the chairman of Izon Science, Hans van der Voorn, said the ATI was a bad idea and would not be successful in driving innovation.
Van der Voorn said although Crown research institutes “do good science”, they had no track record when it came to commercialisation. Instead of putting money into the ATI, van der Voorn said the Government should look at giving more funding to research centres at universities.
New Zealand’s Minister of Science and Innovation, Steven Joyce, noted van der Voorn’s criticism was justified and replied the government was carefully designing the new centre so it was being driven by industry rather than science.
I look forward to seeing how this experiment in New Zealand works as Joyce’s and van der Voorn’s comments remind me of one of the recommendations from Canada’s recent R&D review,
Recommendation 4: Transform the institutes of the National Research Council (NRC) into a constellation of large-scale, sectoral collaboration R&D centres involving business, the university sector and the provinces while transferring public policy-related research activity to the appropriate federal agencies. (p. E12 print version, p. 26 PDF, Innovation Canada: A Call to Action)
I’ve not gotten word yet as to whether this recommendation has been adopted or whether it’s being implemented. Some days I think it’s more likely I’ll hear about what’s going on with New Zealand’s initiative before I find out about the Canadian one.
One final note, I have written about Izon Science before notably in my Sept. 26, 2011 posting regarding a race they sponsored to make measurements at the nanoscale. I believe they will be holding the race again in Sept. 2012 and this time there may be some Canadian participation. For anyone who’s interested in Izon, from their home page,
Izon provides the world’s most comprehensive nanoparticle analysis system in a single instrument.
Virtually all particles including nanoparticles, viruses, bacteria and bioparticles (such as exosomes and liposomes) can be measured and characterised. Particle size, concentration, electrophoretic mobilty and aggregation may all be analysed. Monitoring subtle changes in the characteristics of particle sets allows interactions between particles and particles and biomolecules to be monitored in real time. Explore our technology, learn about our applications and ask how we can take your research to the next level.
Tags: Advanced Technology Institute, ATI, Hamish Fletcher, Hans van der Voorn, Innovation Canada: A Call to Action, Izon Science, New Zealand, New Zealand Association of Scientists, New Zealand Herald, Shaun Hendy, Steven Joyce