Category Archives: science funding

Canadian Science Policy Centre: a 2024 Canadian federal budget event and a call for 2024 conference proposals *(deadline extension)*

2024 Canadian federal budget event

Canada’s 2024 federal budget will be presented on April 16, 2024, according to this March 4, 2024 Government of Canada media advisory. About two weeks later the Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC) will host their annual budget symposium (Decoding Budget 2024 for Science and Innovation). Here’s more from the March 28, 2024 CSPC announcement (received via email),

The CSPC Budget Symposium will be held on Wednesday May 1, 2024 starting at 12pm. The Symposium will feature a detailed budget analysis presented by David Watters and Omer Kaya from Global Advantage Consulting Group followed by panel discussions with leaders from across the country, representing academic, business, and non-profit sectors.

Details

Date: May 1 [2024]
Time: 12:00 pm – 5:00 pm EDT
Event Category: Virtual Session
Registration Page: https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_Zu0_hqZaRZuADWwT7y5rIw

Venue

Zoom

Organizer

Canadian Science Policy Centre
Email info@sciencepolicy.ca

Mark your calendar to be part of insightful discussions around the Federal Budget 2024!

Register Now

Kaya and Watters were both scheduled to speak at last year’s (2023) federal budget symposium and both have been guest speakers in years previous to 2023. Presumably more speakers and specific topics will be identified as the May 1, 2024 budget symposium draws nearer.

2024 Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC): call for proposals

I gather the conference organizers (the Canadian Science Policy Centre) are short of ‘panel proposals’ but have enough ‘short talk proposals’ as the the March 28, 2024 CSPC announcement (received via email) highlights the panels only,

Call for Panel Proposals, Three Weeks
Left to the Deadline: April 19, 2024 *(extended to April 26, 2024)*

The call for proposals is open with only 3 weeks left until the submission deadline of Friday, April 19, 2024. We invite you to submit proposals that revolve around any of the conference’s six tracks. The theme and topics can be viewed by clicking here, and the submission criteria and panel formats on our website at the link below.

CSPC 2024 Panel Proposal Submission

I have a few details about the 2024 conference, from the CSPC 2024 webpage,

16th Canadian Science Policy Conference

November 20th-22nd, 2024, at the Westin Ottawa hotel

CSPC 2024 Theme:

Empowering Society: The Transformative Value of Science, Knowledge, and Innovation

The 16th Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC 2024), will be held in person on November 20th – 22nd, 2024. The conference expects 1000+ participants, more than 300 speakers, in 60 panel sessions. CSPC 2024 will also include a spectacular Gala dinner featuring its award ceremony which has become a signature annual event to celebrate Canadian science and innovation policy achievements.

We invite you to submit proposals in a variety of presentation formats that revolve around any of the conference topics. …

Track One: Science, Knowledge, and Policy

*The national STI ecosystem: Strategy for the next ten years; building on strengths and opportunities; addressing weaknesses
*Managing the evolving/changing research landscape: AI, Open Science
*Evidence for policy
*Science policy futures

Track Two: Science, Knowledge, and Society


*Systemic racism, otherism

*Science, Knowledge, and Truth and Reconciliation
*Ethics of emerging technologies

*Citizen Scientist

Track Three: Innovation Policy and Economic Development

*Emerging economic opportunities
*Emerging and disruptive technologies

*Scale up and commercialization

Track Four: Science, International Affairs and Security


*Science diplomacy, research security and geopolitics
*Scientists on the move

Track Five: Science and the Next Generation


*Enabling the next generation of researchers with non-research skills
*Trainees’ well-being
*Grassroots science policy networks, opportunities and lessons learned

Track Six: Grand Challenges – Adaptation, Resilience, Canada’s Role

*Climate change
*The North
*Food, agriculture, water

For details about proposal submissions for either a short talk or a panel, go to the 2024 CSPC proposal webpage. If you’re curious about previous conferences, you can find the proceedings for the 2023 CSPC here.

*Deadline for 2024 CSPC conference proposals extended to April 26, 2024.*

First round of seed funding announced for NSF (US National Science Foundation) Institute for Trustworthy AI in Law & Society (TRAILS)

Having published an earlier January 2024 US National Science Foundation (NSF) funding announcement for the TRAILS (Trustworthy AI in Law & Society) Institute yesterday (February 21, 2024), I’m following up with an announcement about the initiative’s first round of seed funding.

From a TRAILS undated ‘story‘ by Tom Ventsias on the initiative’s website (and published January 24, 2024 as a University of Maryland news release on EurekAlert),

The Institute for Trustworthy AI in Law & Society (TRAILS) has unveiled an inaugural round of seed grants designed to integrate a greater diversity of stakeholders into the artificial intelligence (AI) development and governance lifecycle, ultimately creating positive feedback loops to improve trustworthiness, accessibility and efficacy in AI-infused systems.

The eight grants announced on January 24, 2024—ranging from $100K to $150K apiece and totaling just over $1.5 million—were awarded to interdisciplinary teams of faculty associated with the institute. Funded projects include developing AI chatbots to assist with smoking cessation, designing animal-like robots that can improve autism-specific support at home, and exploring how people use and rely upon AI-generated language translation systems.

All eight projects fall under the broader mission of TRAILS, which is to transform the practice of AI from one driven primarily by technological innovation to one that is driven by ethics, human rights, and input and feedback from communities whose voices have previously been marginalized.

“At the speed with which AI is developing, our seed grant program will enable us to keep pace—or even stay one step ahead—by incentivizing cutting-edge research and scholarship that spans AI design, development and governance,” said Hal Daumé III, a professor of computer science at the University of Maryland who is the director of TRAILS.

After TRAILS was launched in May 2023 with a $20 million award from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), lead faculty met to brainstorm how the institute could best move forward with research, innovation and outreach that would have a meaningful impact.

They determined a seed grant program could quickly leverage the wide range of academic talent at TRAILS’ four primary institutions. This includes the University of Maryland’s expertise in computing and human-computer interaction; George Washington University’s strengths in systems engineering and AI as it relates to law and governance; Morgan State University’s work in addressing bias and inequity in AI; and Cornell University’s research in human behavior and decision-making.

“NIST and NSF’s support of TRAILS enables us to create a structured mechanism to reach across academic and institutional boundaries in search of innovative solutions,” said David Broniatowski, an associate professor of engineering management and systems engineering at George Washington University who leads TRAILS activities on the GW campus. “Seed funding from TRAILS will enable multidisciplinary teams to identify opportunities for their research to have impact, and to build the case for even larger, multi-institutional efforts.”

Further discussions were held at a TRAILS faculty retreat to identify seed grant guidelines and collaborative themes that mirror TRAILS’ primary research thrusts—participatory design, methods and metrics, evaluating trust, and participatory governance.

“Some of the funded projects are taking a fresh look at ideas we may have already been working on individually, and others are taking an entirely new approach to timely, pressing issues involving AI and machine learning,” said Virginia Byrne, an assistant professor of higher education & student affairs at Morgan State who is leading TRAILS activities on that campus and who served on the seed grant review committee.

A second round of seed funding will be announced later this year, said Darren Cambridge, who was recently hired as managing director of TRAILS to lead its day-to-day operations.

Projects selected in the first round are eligible for a renewal, while other TRAILS faculty—or any faculty member at the four primary TRAILS institutions—can submit new proposals for consideration, Cambridge said.

Ultimately, the seed funding program is expected to strengthen and incentivize other TRAILS activities that are now taking shape, including K–12 education and outreach programs, AI policy seminars and workshops on Capitol Hill, and multiple postdoc opportunities for early-career researchers.

“We want TRAILS to be the ‘go-to’ resource for educators, policymakers and others who are seeking answers and solutions on how to build, manage and use AI systems that will benefit all of society,” Cambridge said.

The eight projects selected for the first round of TRAILS seed-funding are:

Chung Hyuk Park and Zoe Szajnfarber from GW and Hernisa Kacorri from UMD aim to improve the support infrastructure and access to quality care for families of autistic children. Early interventions are strongly correlated with positive outcomes, while provider shortages and financial burdens have raised challenges—particularly for families without sufficient resources and experience. The researchers will develop novel parent-robot teaming for the home, advance the assistive technology, and assess the impact of teaming to promote more trust in human-robot collaborative settings.

Soheil Feizi from UMD and Robert Brauneis from GW will investigate various issues surrounding text-to-image [emphasis mine] generative AI models like Stable Diffusion, DALL-E 2, and Midjourney, focusing on myriad legal, aesthetic and computational aspects that are currently unresolved. A key question is how copyright law might adapt if these tools create works in an artist’s style. The team will explore how generative AI models represent individual artists’ styles, and whether those representations are complex and distinctive enough to form stable objects of protection. The researchers will also explore legal and technical questions to determine if specific artworks, especially rare and unique ones, have already been used to train AI models.

Huaishu Peng and Ge Gao from UMD will work with Malte Jung from Cornell to increase trust-building in embodied AI systems, which bridge the gap between computers and human physical senses. Specifically, the researchers will explore embodied AI systems in the form of miniaturized on-body or desktop robotic systems that can enable the exchange of nonverbal cues between blind and sighted individuals, an essential component of efficient collaboration. The researchers will also examine multiple factors—both physical and mental—in order to gain a deeper understanding of both groups’ values related to teamwork facilitated by embodied AI.

Marine Carpuat and Ge Gao from UMD will explore “mental models”—how humans perceive things—for language translation systems used by millions of people daily. They will focus on how individuals, depending on their language fluency and familiarity with the technology, make sense of their “error boundary”—that is, deciding whether an AI-generated translation is correct or incorrect. The team will also develop innovative techniques to teach users how to improve their mental models as they interact with machine translation systems.

Hal Daumé III, Furong Huang and Zubin Jelveh from UMD and Donald Braman from GW will propose new philosophies grounded in law to conceptualize, evaluate and achieve “effort-aware fairness,” which involves algorithms for determining whether an individual or a group of individuals is discriminated against in terms of equality of effort. The researchers will develop new metrics, evaluate fairness of datasets, and design novel algorithms that enable AI auditors to uncover and potentially correct unfair decisions.

Lorien Abroms and David Broniatowski from GW will recruit smokers to study the reliability of using generative chatbots, such as ChatGPT, as the basis for a digital smoking cessation program. Additional work will examine the acceptability by smokers and their perceptions of trust in using this rapidly evolving technology for help to quit smoking. The researchers hope their study will directly inform future digital interventions for smoking cessation and/or modifying other health behaviors.

Adam Aviv from GW and Michelle Mazurek from UMD will examine bias, unfairness and untruths such as sexism, racism and other forms of misrepresentation that come out of certain AI and machine learning systems. Though some systems have public warnings of potential biases, the researchers want to explore how users understand these warnings, if they recognize how biases may manifest themselves in the AI-generated responses, and how users attempt to expose, mitigate and manage potentially biased responses.

Susan Ariel Aaronson and David Broniatowski from GW plan to create a prototype of a searchable, easy-to-use website to enable policymakers to better utilize academic research related to trustworthy and participatory AI. The team will analyze research publications by TRAILS-affiliated researchers to ascertain which ones may have policy implications. Then, each relevant publication will be summarized and categorized by research questions, issues, keywords, and relevant policymaking uses. The resulting database prototype will enable the researchers to test the utility of this resource for policymakers over time.

Yes, things are moving quickly where AI is concerned. There’s text-to-image being investigated by Soheil Feizi and Robert Brauneis and, since the funding announcement in early January 2024, text-to-video has been announced (Open AI’s Sora was previewed February 15, 2024). I wonder if that will be added to the project.

One more comment, Huaishu Peng’s, Ge Gao’s, and Malte Jung’s project for “… trust-building in embodied AI systems …” brings to mind Elon Musk’s stated goal of using brain implants for “human/AI symbiosis.” (I have more about that in an upcoming post.) Hopefully, Susan Ariel Aaronson’s and David Broniatowski’s proposed website for policymakers will be able to keep up with what’s happening in the field of AI, including research on the impact of private investments primarily designed for generating profits.

FrogHeart’s 2023 comes to an end as 2024 comes into view

My personal theme for this last year (2023) and for the coming year was and is: catching up. On the plus side, my 2023 backlog (roughly six months) to be published was whittled down considerably. On the minus side, I start 2024 with a backlog of two to three months.

2023 on this blog had a lot in common with 2022 (see my December 31, 2022 posting), which may be due to what’s going on in the world of emerging science and technology or to my personal interests or possibly a bit of both. On to 2023 and a further blurring of boundaries:

Energy, computing and the environment

The argument against paper is that it uses up resources, it’s polluting, it’s affecting the environment, etc. Somehow the part where electricity which underpins so much of our ‘smart’ society does the same thing is left out of the discussion.

Neuromorphic (brainlike) computing and lower energy

Before launching into the stories about lowering energy usage, here’s an October 16, 2023 posting “The cost of building ChatGPT” that gives you some idea of the consequences of our insatiable desire for more computing and more ‘smart’ devices,

In its latest environmental report, Microsoft disclosed that its global water consumption spiked 34% from 2021 to 2022 (to nearly 1.7 billion gallons , or more than 2,500 Olympic-sized swimming pools), a sharp increase compared to previous years that outside researchers tie to its AI research. [emphases mine]

“It’s fair to say the majority of the growth is due to AI,” including “its heavy investment in generative AI and partnership with OpenAI,” said Shaolei Ren, [emphasis mine] a researcher at the University of California, Riverside who has been trying to calculate the environmental impact of generative AI products such as ChatGPT.

Why it matters: Microsoft’s five WDM [West Des Moines in Iowa] data centers — the “epicenter for advancing AI” — represent more than $5 billion in investments in the last 15 years.

Yes, but: They consumed as much as 11.5 million gallons of water a month for cooling, or about 6% of WDM’s total usage during peak summer usage during the last two years, according to information from West Des Moines Water Works.

The focus is AI but it doesn’t take long to realize that all computing has energy and environmental costs. I have more about Ren’s work and about water shortages in the “The cost of building ChatGPT” posting.

This next posting would usually be included with my other art/sci postings but it touches on the issues. My October 13, 2023 posting about Toronto’s Art/Sci Salon events, in particular, there’s the Streaming Carbon Footprint event (just scroll down to the appropriate subhead). For the interested, I also found this 2022 paper “The Carbon Footprint of Streaming Media:; Problems, Calculations, Solutions” co-authored by one of the artist/researchers (Laura U. Marks, philosopher and scholar of new media and film at Simon Fraser University) who presented at the Toronto event.

I’m late to the party; Thomas Daigle posted a January 2, 2020 article about energy use and our appetite for computing and ‘smart’ devices for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s online news,

For those of us binge-watching TV shows, installing new smartphone apps or sharing family photos on social media over the holidays, it may seem like an abstract predicament.

The gigabytes of data we’re using — although invisible — come at a significant cost to the environment. Some experts say it rivals that of the airline industry. 

And as more smart devices rely on data to operate (think internet-connected refrigerators or self-driving cars), their electricity demands are set to skyrocket.

“We are using an immense amount of energy to drive this data revolution,” said Jane Kearns, an environment and technology expert at MaRS Discovery District, an innovation hub in Toronto.

“It has real implications for our climate.”

Some good news

Researchers are working on ways to lower the energy and environmental costs, here’s a sampling of 2023 posts with an emphasis on brainlike computing that attest to it,

If there’s an industry that can make neuromorphic computing and energy savings sexy, it’s the automotive indusry,

On the energy front,

Most people are familiar with nuclear fission and some its attendant issues. There is an alternative nuclear energy, fusion, which is considered ‘green’ or greener anyway. General Fusion is a local (Vancouver area) company focused on developing fusion energy, alongside competitors from all over the planet.

Part of what makes fusion energy attractive is that salt water or sea water can be used in its production and, according to that December posting, there are other applications for salt water power,

More encouraging developments in environmental science

Again, this is a selection. You’ll find a number of nano cellulose research projects and a couple of seaweed projects (seaweed research seems to be of increasing interest).

All by myself (neuromorphic engineering)

Neuromorphic computing is a subset of neuromorphic engineering and I stumbled across an article that outlines the similarities and differences. My ‘summary’ of the main points and a link to the original article can be found here,

Oops! I did it again. More AI panic

I included an overview of the various ‘recent’ panics (in my May 25, 2023 posting below) along with a few other posts about concerning developments but it’s not all doom and gloom..

Governments have realized that regulation might be a good idea. The European Union has a n AI act, the UK held an AI Safety Summit in November 2023, the US has been discussing AI regulation with its various hearings, and there’s impending legislation in Canada (see professor and lawyer Michael Geist’s blog for more).

A long time coming, a nanomedicine comeuppance

Paolo Macchiarini is now infamous for his untested, dangerous approach to medicine. Like a lot of people, I was fooled too as you can see in my August 2, 2011 posting, “Body parts nano style,”

In early July 2011, there were reports of a new kind of transplant involving a body part made of a biocomposite. Andemariam Teklesenbet Beyene underwent a trachea transplant that required an artificial windpipe crafted by UK experts then flown to Sweden where Beyene’s stem cells were used to coat the windpipe before being transplanted into his body.

It is an extraordinary story not least because Beyene, a patient in a Swedish hospital planning to return to Eritrea after his PhD studies in Iceland, illustrates the international cooperation that made the transplant possible.

The scaffolding material for the artificial windpipe was developed by Professor Alex Seifalian at the University College London in a landmark piece of nanotechnology-enabled tissue engineering. …

Five years later I stumbled across problems with Macchiarini’s work as outlined in my April 19, 2016 posting, “Macchiarini controversy and synthetic trachea transplants (part 1 of 2)” and my other April 19, 2016 posting, “Macchiarini controversy and synthetic trachea transplants (part 2 of 2)“.

This year, Gretchen Vogel (whose work was featured in my 2016 posts) has written a June 21, 2023 update about the Macchiarini affair for Science magazine, Note: Links have been removed,

Surgeon Paolo Macchiarini, who was once hailed as a pioneer of stem cell medicine, was found guilty of gross assault against three of his patients today and sentenced to 2 years and 6 months in prison by an appeals court in Stockholm. The ruling comes a year after a Swedish district court found Macchiarini guilty of bodily harm in two of the cases and gave him a suspended sentence. After both the prosecution and Macchiarini appealed that ruling, the Svea Court of Appeal heard the case in April and May. Today’s ruling from the five-judge panel is largely a win for the prosecution—it had asked for a 5-year sentence whereas Macchiarini’s lawyer urged the appeals court to acquit him of all charges.

Macchiarini performed experimental surgeries on the three patients in 2011 and 2012 while working at the renowned Karolinska Institute. He implanted synthetic windpipes seeded with stem cells from the patients’ own bone marrow, with the hope the cells would multiply over time and provide an enduring replacement. All three patients died when the implants failed. One patient died suddenly when the implant caused massive bleeding just 4 months after it was implanted; the two others survived for 2.5 and nearly 5 years, respectively, but suffered painful and debilitating complications before their deaths.

In the ruling released today, the appeals judges disagreed with the district court’s decision that the first two patients were treated under “emergency” conditions. Both patients could have survived for a significant length of time without the surgeries, they said. The third case was an “emergency,” the court ruled, but the treatment was still indefensible because by then Macchiarini was well aware of the problems with the technique. (One patient had already died and the other had suffered severe complications.)

A fictionalized tv series ( part of the Dr. Death anthology series) based on Macchiarini’s deceptions and a Dr. Death documentary are being broadcast/streamed in the US during January 2024. These come on the heels of a November 2023 Macchiarini documentary also broadcast/streamed on US television.

Dr. Death (anthology), based on the previews I’ve seen, is heavily US-centric, which is to be expected since Adam Ciralsky is involved in the production. Ciralsky wrote an exposé about Macchiarini for Vanity Fair published in 2016 (also featured in my 2016 postings). From a December 20, 2023 article by Julie Miller for Vanity Fair, Note: A link has been removed,

Seven years ago [2016], world-renowned surgeon Paolo Macchiarini was the subject of an ongoing Vanity Fair investigation. He had seduced award-winning NBC producer Benita Alexander while she was making a special about him, proposed, and promised her a wedding officiated by Pope Francis and attended by political A-listers. It was only after her designer wedding gown was made that Alexander learned Macchiarini was still married to his wife, and seemingly had no association with the famous names on their guest list.

Vanity Fair contributor Adam Ciralsky was in the midst of reporting the story for this magazine in the fall of 2015 when he turned to Dr. Ronald Schouten, a Harvard psychiatry professor. Ciralsky sought expert insight into the kind of fabulist who would invent and engage in such an audacious lie.

“I laid out the story to him, and he said, ‘Anybody who does this in their private life engages in the same conduct in their professional life,” recalls Ciralsky, in a phone call with Vanity Fair. “I think you ought to take a hard look at his CVs.”

That was the turning point in the story for Ciralsky, a former CIA lawyer who soon learned that Macchiarini was more dangerous as a surgeon than a suitor. …

Here’s a link to Ciralsky’s original article, which I described this way, from my April 19, 2016 posting (part 2 of the Macchiarini controversy),

For some bizarre frosting on this disturbing cake (see part 1 of the Macchiarini controversy and synthetic trachea transplants for the medical science aspects), a January 5, 2016 Vanity Fair article by Adam Ciralsky documents Macchiarini’s courtship of an NBC ([US] National Broadcasting Corporation) news producer who was preparing a documentary about him and his work.

[from Ciralsky’s article]

“Macchiarini, 57, is a magnet for superlatives. He is commonly referred to as “world-renowned” and a “super-surgeon.” He is credited with medical miracles, including the world’s first synthetic organ transplant, which involved fashioning a trachea, or windpipe, out of plastic and then coating it with a patient’s own stem cells. That feat, in 2011, appeared to solve two of medicine’s more intractable problems—organ rejection and the lack of donor organs—and brought with it major media exposure for Macchiarini and his employer, Stockholm’s Karolinska Institute, home of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. Macchiarini was now planning another first: a synthetic-trachea transplant on a child, a two-year-old Korean-Canadian girl named Hannah Warren, who had spent her entire life in a Seoul hospital. … “

Other players in the Macchiarini story

Pierre Delaere, a trachea expert and professor of head and neck surgery at KU Leuven (a university in Belgium) was one of the first to draw attention to Macchiarini’s dangerous and unethical practices. To give you an idea of how difficult it was to get attention for this issue, there’s a September 1, 2017 article by John Rasko and Carl Power for the Guardian illustrating the issue. Here’s what they had to say about Delaere and other early critics of the work, Note: Links have been removed,

Delaere was one of the earliest and harshest critics of Macchiarini’s engineered airways. Reports of their success always seemed like “hot air” to him. He could see no real evidence that the windpipe scaffolds were becoming living, functioning airways – in which case, they were destined to fail. The only question was how long it would take – weeks, months or a few years.

Delaere’s damning criticisms appeared in major medical journals, including the Lancet, but weren’t taken seriously by Karolinska’s leadership. Nor did they impress the institute’s ethics council when Delaere lodged a formal complaint. [emphases mine]

Support for Macchiarini remained strong, even as his patients began to die. In part, this is because the field of windpipe repair is a niche area. Few people at Karolinska, especially among those in power, knew enough about it to appreciate Delaere’s claims. Also, in such a highly competitive environment, people are keen to show allegiance to their superiors and wary of criticising them. The official report into the matter dubbed this the “bandwagon effect”.

With Macchiarini’s exploits endorsed by management and breathlessly reported in the media, it was all too easy to jump on that bandwagon.

And difficult to jump off. In early 2014, four Karolinska doctors defied the reigning culture of silence [emphasis mine] by complaining about Macchiarini. In their view, he was grossly misrepresenting his results and the health of his patients. An independent investigator agreed. But the vice-chancellor of Karolinska Institute, Anders Hamsten, wasn’t bound by this judgement. He officially cleared Macchiarini of scientific misconduct, allowing merely that he’d sometimes acted “without due care”.

For their efforts, the whistleblowers were punished. [emphasis mine] When Macchiarini accused one of them, Karl-Henrik Grinnemo, of stealing his work in a grant application, Hamsten found him guilty. As Grinnemo recalls, it nearly destroyed his career: “I didn’t receive any new grants. No one wanted to collaborate with me. We were doing good research, but it didn’t matter … I thought I was going to lose my lab, my staff – everything.”

This went on for three years until, just recently [2017], Grinnemo was cleared of all wrongdoing.

It is fitting that Macchiarini’s career unravelled at the Karolinska Institute. As the home of the Nobel prize in physiology or medicine, one of its ambitions is to create scientific celebrities. Every year, it gives science a show-business makeover, picking out from the mass of medical researchers those individuals deserving of superstardom. The idea is that scientific progress is driven by the genius of a few.

It’s a problematic idea with unfortunate side effects. A genius is a revolutionary by definition, a risk-taker and a law-breaker. Wasn’t something of this idea behind the special treatment Karolinska gave Macchiarini? Surely, he got away with so much because he was considered an exception to the rules with more than a whiff of the Nobel about him. At any rate, some of his most powerful friends were themselves Nobel judges until, with his fall from grace, they fell too.

The September 1, 2017 article by Rasko and Power is worth the read if you have the interest and the time. And, Delaere has written up a comprehensive analysis, which includes basic information about tracheas and more, “The Biggest Lie in Medical History” 2020, PDF, 164 pp., Creative Commons Licence).

I also want to mention Leonid Schneider, science journalist and molecular cell biologist, whose work the Macchiarini scandal on his ‘For Better Science’ website was also featured in my 2016 pieces. Schneider’s site has a page titled, ‘Macchiarini’s trachea transplant patients: the full list‘ started in 2017 and which he continues to update with new information about the patients. The latest update was made on December 20, 2023.

Promising nanomedicine research but no promises and a caveat

Most of the research mentioned here is still in the laboratory. i don’t often come across work that has made its way to clinical trials since the focus of this blog is emerging science and technology,

*If you’re interested in the business of neurotechnology, the July 17, 2023 posting highlights a very good UNESCO report on the topic.

Funky music (sound and noise)

I have couple of stories about using sound for wound healing, bioinspiration for soundproofing applications, detecting seismic activity, more data sonification, etc.

Same old, same old CRISPR

2023 was relatively quiet (no panics) where CRISPR developments are concerned but still quite active.

Art/Sci: a pretty active year

I didn’t realize how active the year was art/sciwise including events and other projects until I reviewed this year’s postings. This is a selection from 2023 but there’s a lot more on the blog, just use the search term, “art/sci,” or “art/science,” or “sciart.”

While I often feature events and projects from these groups (e.g., June 2, 2023 posting, “Metacreation Lab’s greatest hits of Summer 2023“), it’s possible for me to miss a few. So, you can check out Toronto’s Art/Sci Salon’s website (strong focus on visual art) and Simon Fraser University’s Metacreation Lab for Creative Artificial Intelligence website (strong focus on music).

My selection of this year’s postings is more heavily weighted to the ‘writing’ end of things.

Boundaries: life/nonlife

Last year I subtitled this section, ‘Aliens on earth: machinic biology and/or biological machinery?” Here’s this year’s selection,

Canada’s 2023 budget … military

2023 featured an unusual budget where military expenditures were going to be increased, something which could have implications for our science and technology research.

Then things changed as Murray Brewster’s November 21, 2023 article for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) news online website comments, Note: A link has been removed,

There was a revelatory moment on the weekend as Defence Minister Bill Blair attempted to bridge the gap between rhetoric and reality in the Liberal government’s spending plans for his department and the Canadian military.

Asked about an anticipated (and long overdue) update to the country’s defence policy (supposedly made urgent two years ago by Russia’s full-on invasion of Ukraine), Blair acknowledged that the reset is now being viewed through a fiscal lens.

“We said we’re going to bring forward a new defence policy update. We’ve been working through that,” Blair told CBC’s Rosemary Barton Live on Sunday.

“The current fiscal environment that the country faces itself does require (that) that defence policy update … recognize (the) fiscal challenges. And so it’ll be part of … our future budget processes.”

One policy goal of the existing defence plan, Strong, Secure and Engaged, was to require that the military be able to concurrently deliver “two sustained deployments of 500 [to] 1,500 personnel in two different theaters of operation, including one as a lead nation.”

In a footnote, the recent estimates said the Canadian military is “currently unable to conduct multiple operations concurrently per the requirements laid out in the 2017 Defence Policy. Readiness of CAF force elements has continued to decrease over the course of the last year, aggravated by decreasing number of personnel and issues with equipment and vehicles.”

Some analysts say they believe that even if the federal government hits its overall budget reduction targets, what has been taken away from defence — and what’s about to be taken away — won’t be coming back, the minister’s public assurances notwithstanding.

10 years: Graphene Flagship Project and Human Brain Project

Graphene and Human Brain Project win biggest research award in history (& this is the 2000th post)” on January 28, 2013 was how I announced the results of what had been a a European Union (EU) competition that stretched out over several years and many stages as projects were evaluated and fell to the wayside or were allowed onto the next stage. The two finalists received €1B each to be paid out over ten years.

Future or not

As you can see, there was plenty of interesting stuff going on in 2023 but no watershed moments in the areas I follow. (Please do let me know in the Comments should you disagree with this or any other part of this posting.) Nanotechnology seems less and less an emerging science/technology in itself and more like a foundational element of our science and technology sectors. On that note, you may find my upcoming (in 2024) post about a report concerning the economic impact of its National Nanotechnology Initiative (NNI) from 2002 to 2022 of interest.

Following on the commercialization theme, I have noticed an increase of interest in commercializing brain and brainlike engineering technologies, as well as, more discussion about ethics.

Colonizing the brain?

UNESCO held events such as, this noted in my July 17, 2023 posting, “Unveiling the Neurotechnology Landscape: Scientific Advancements, Innovations and Major Trends—a UNESCO report” and this noted in my July 7, 2023 posting “Global dialogue on the ethics of neurotechnology on July 13, 2023 led by UNESCO.” An August 21, 2023 posting, “Ethical nanobiotechnology” adds to the discussion.

Meanwhile, Australia has been producing some very interesting mind/robot research, my June 13, 2023 posting, “Mind-controlled robots based on graphene: an Australian research story.” I have more of this kind of research (mind control or mind reading) from Australia to be published in early 2024. The Australians are not alone, there’s also this April 12, 2023 posting, “Mind-reading prosthetic limbs” from Germany.

My May 12, 2023 posting, “Virtual panel discussion: Canadian Strategies for Responsible Neurotechnology Innovation on May 16, 2023” shows Canada is entering the discussion. Unfortunately, the Canadian Science Policy Centre (CSPC), which held the event, has not posted a video online even though they have a youtube channel featuring other of their events.

As for neurmorphic engineering, China has produced a roadmap for its research in this area as noted in my March 20, 2023 posting, “A nontraditional artificial synaptic device and roadmap for Chinese research into neuromorphic devices.”

Quantum anybody?

I haven’t singled it out in this end-of-year posting but there is a great deal of interest in quantum computer both here in Canada and elsewhere. There is a 2023 report from the Council of Canadian Academies on the topic of quantum computing in Canada, which I hope to comment on soon.

Final words

I have a shout out for the Canadian Science Policy Centre, which celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2023. Congratulations!

For everyone, I wish peace on earth and all the best for you and yours in 2024!

Money and its influence on Canada’s fisheries and oceans

Having neither the research skills nor the resources to investigate the impact *that* money (and power) have on science in Canada, more specifically, on our fisheries and oceans, I have to thank the Canadian Science Media Centre for the link to a paper on the topic.

As usual, you’ll find a citation and link to the paper at the end of this posting. First, a few reasons why you may want to take a look at the paper in its entirety. From the “Is scientific inquiry still incompatible with government information control? A quarter-century later” paper,

Abstract

Twenty-six years ago, in response to regionally devastating fisheries collapses [collapse of Maritime provinces cod fisheries] in Canada, Hutchings et al. asked “Is scientific inquiry incompatible with government information control?” Now, a quarter-century later, we review how government science advice continues to be influenced by non-science interests, particularly those with a financial stake in the outcome of the advice. We use the example of salmon aquaculture in British Columbia, Canada, to demonstrate how science advice from Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) can fail to be impartial, evidence-based, transparent, and independently reviewed—four widely implemented standards of robust science advice. Consequently, DFO’s policies are not always supported by the best available science. These observations are particularly important in the context of DFO having struggled to sustainably manage Canada’s marine resources, creating socio-economic uncertainty and putting the country’s international reputation at risk as it lags behind its peers. We conclude by reiterating Hutchings et al.’s unheeded recommendation for a truly independent fisheries-science advisory body in Canada to be enshrined in the decision-making process.

Over a quarter of a century later, the cod fisheries and others are in dire conditions, Note: Links have been removed,

… numerous Pacific salmon (Oncorhynchus spp.) populations are at historically low abundances (Peterman and Dorner 2012; Riddell et al. 2013; Bendriem et al. 2019; COSEWIC 2019), and Canada’s Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) stocks remain in a “critical” state (Fisheries and Oceans Canada 2020).

Much of the paper is written in an academic style and features an alphabet soup. For example, COSEWIC is Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. That said, there are many valuable comments, from the “Is scientific inquiry still incompatible with government information control? A quarter-century later” paper, Note: Links have been removed,

… Science advice is integral to DFO’s [Department of Fisheries and Oceans] role, but the provision of Canadian fisheries-science advice is challenging, due not only to the diversity and large geographic scale of Canada’s ocean environments, but also to the pitfalls inherent in providing science advice.

Although science can play an important role in the mitigation and reversal of anthropogenic stresses by supplying evidence for policy decisions, competing interests and ideologies can impede the delivery of robust science advice and its integration into government policy decisions. In particular, individuals or groups with vested interests can manipulate the science-policy process through the “disinformation playbook” (Reed et al. 2021)—a collection of strategies that downplay and obscure risk by seeding doubt about scientific consensus (Freudenburg et al. 2008). These tactics can be used to discount the connections between negative health or environmental outcomes and their corporate or industrial causes, at times resulting in regulatory capture, a “process by which regulation… is consistently or repeatedly directed away from the public interest and toward the interests of the regulated industry, by the intent and action of the industry itself” (Carpenter and Moss 2013). Examples of regulatory capture exist in relation to cancers from tobacco use, bird-population declines from dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT), ozone-layer depletion from chlorofluorocarbons, and climate change from greenhouse gas emissions (Oreskes and Conway 2010; Anker et al. 2011).

It’s not all bad news, from the “Is scientific inquiry still incompatible with government information control? A quarter-century later” paper, Note: Links have been removed,

Reassuringly, governments commonly seek to incorporate evidence and scientific findings to strengthen policy and better inform decision-making. A flagship example, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), provides policymakers with regular assessments of the scientific basis for climate change, its impacts and future risks, and options for adaptation and mitigation (Masson-Delmotte et al. 2021). The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) assesses the global extinction risks for animal, fungal, and plant species (IUCN Red List 2022). In Canada, the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) (Waples et al. 2013) provides species threat-status assessments whose quality and independence are internationally recognized (Waples et al. 2013). Recently, to inform their responses to the COVID-19 pandemic, many national governments drew on science advisory bodies, such as the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) in Canada (Macdonald and Pickering 2009; Ismail et al. 2010).

The authors make note of how social, political, legal, and economic issues affect decisions and then they call out a few specific problems with the Canadian effort, specifically, Pacific Coast salmon aquaculture, from the “Is scientific inquiry still incompatible with government information control? A quarter-century later” paper, Note: Links have been removed,

Salmon aquaculture has had a turbulent history in Canada, particularly on the Pacific coast, where non-native Atlantic salmon comprises 89% of aquaculture production by quantity and 95% by value (FAO [Food and Agriculture Organization] Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022). The controversy on the Pacific coast—where the industry is regulated federally, by DFO, rather than provincially, as in Atlantic Canada—is largely due to the amplification of disease and its transmission from farmed to wild salmon, a concern for salmon farming globally (Garseth et al. 2013; Krkošek 2017; Kibenge 2019; Mordecai et al. 2021). The Pacific coast of Canada is perhaps the only region in the world where salmon farming was developed alongside abundant, viable wild salmon stocks (FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture 2022). In this context, widespread declines of many wild Pacific salmon populations (Peterman and Dorner 2012; Riddell et al. 2013; Bendriem et al. 2019, 2019), in parallel with growing evidence of the ecological effects of salmon farms, have eroded the social license for the industry to operate (Wiber et al. 2021; Reid et al. 2022). …

The quality of DFO’s science advice on salmon farming in BC is particularly important in the context of growing evidence that⁠ (due to multiple causes⁠) wild salmon are not thriving (Peterman and Dorner 2012; Riddell et al. 2013; Bendriem et al. 2019; COSEWIC 2019), and has repeatedly been a cause for concern among scientists, nongovernmental organisations, Indigenous groups, and even government bodies (Proboszcz 2018; Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans 2021a). …

… for some, the close relationships between members of the salmon aquaculture industry and DFO personnel raise concerns that these standards of impartiality are not being met. For example, the former Director of DFO’s Aquaculture, Biotechnology, and Aquatic Animal Health Science Branch was previously the President of the Aquaculture Association of Canada (Supplementary data, pp. 80–82), an organisation with the objective to “promote, support, and encourage… [the] advancement of aquaculture in Canada” (Supplementary data, p. 83). Similarly, the former Director of the Pacific Biological Station and Head of Aquaculture for DFO later served as Chair of the Science Advisory Council for the BC Salmon Farmers Association, by which he was described as “a strong advocate for the aquaculture industry in BC” (Supplementary data, pp. 84–85). These are just two examples among many. …

DFO’s accountability to industry was once again brought to light in 2022 when a prominent DFO research scientist testified in front of a parliamentary committee that DFO’s ability to conduct robust, transparent evidence-based risk assessments on aquaculture–wild interactions was compromised by a lack of independence from industry (Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans 2021b). Examples of the Department’s processes for developing salmon-farm regulations, while not examples of science advice, further call industry influence into question. …

In the end, the authors had this to say about all of the fisheries and oceans science advice given to the department, from the “Is scientific inquiry still incompatible with government information control? A quarter-century later” paper, Note: Links have been removed,

The case for improving fisheries-science advice in Canada has never been stronger. DFO’s standard of fisheries-science advice now lags behind international best practice (Hutchings et al. 2012b; Winter and Hutchings 2020) as well as Canada’s own science advisory bodies, such as COSEWIC and the NACI, which strive to offer advice unfiltered and unaffected by political or bureaucratic influences. Yet DFO continues to allow industry lobbying and other non-science influences to interfere with advice processes (see Impartial section) while publicly claiming that the resulting advice is based on science (Supplementary data, pp. 10–15). …

Here’s a link to and a citation for the paper,

Is scientific inquiry still incompatible with government information control? A quarter-century later by Sean C. Godwin, Andrew W. Bateman, Gideon Mordecai, Sean Jones, and Jeffrey A. Hutchings. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences DOI: https://doi.org/10.1139/cjfas-2022-0286 Published: 31 July 2023

This paper is open access and because I don’t ever before recall seeing an ‘Acknowledgements’ section that is sad, humorous, and touching, here it is,

Acknowledgements

We dedicate this paper to Jeffrey Hutchings, who tragically passed away halfway through the writing process. Jeff was a giant of the field who had an immense, positive influence on his friends and colleagues, and on fisheries science and policy in Canada and beyond. JH contributed to the conception and outline of the paper, wrote the first draft of the Introduction, edited as far as the “Background” subsection of the “Salmon Aquaculture Case Study,” discussed the case study examples, and penned a portion of the “Conclusions and Recommendations.” SG, AB, and GM all contributed equally to the manuscript (and reserve the right to list themselves as first author on their CVs). Published order of the co-first authors was determined via haphazard out-of-a-hat selection by AB’s 18-month-old son, Linden; whether this process bears all four hallmarks of robust science advice was not assessed. We are very grateful to 14 colleagues who provided valuable feedback during preparation and review.

*February 8, 2024: ‘the’ changed to ‘that’.

10 years of the European Union’s roll of the dice: €1B or 1billion euros each for the Human Brain Project (HBP) and the Graphene Flagship

Graphene and Human Brain Project win biggest research award in history (& this is the 2000th post)” on January 28, 2013 was how I announced the results of what had been a a European Union (EU) competition that stretched out over several years and many stages as projects were evaluated and fell to the wayside or were allowed onto the next stage. The two finalists received €1B each to be paid out over ten years.

Human Brain Project (HBP)

A September 12, 2023 Human Brain Project (HBP) press release (also on EurekAlert) summarizes the ten year research effort and the achievements,

The EU-funded Human Brain Project (HBP) comes to an end in September and celebrates its successful conclusion today with a scientific symposium at Forschungszentrum Jülich (FZJ). The HBP was one of the first flagship projects and, with 155 cooperating institutions from 19 countries and a total budget of 607 million euros, one of the largest research projects in Europe. Forschungszentrum Jülich, with its world-leading brain research institute and the Jülich Supercomputing Centre, played an important role in the ten-year project.

“Understanding the complexity of the human brain and explaining its functionality are major challenges of brain research today”, says Astrid Lambrecht, Chair of the Board of Directors of Forschungszentrum Jülich. “The instruments of brain research have developed considerably in the last ten years. The Human Brain Project has been instrumental in driving this development – and not only gained new insights for brain research, but also provided important impulses for information technologies.”

HBP researchers have employed highly advanced methods from computing, neuroinformatics and artificial intelligence in a truly integrative approach to understanding the brain as a multi-level system. The project has contributed to a deeper understanding of the complex structure and function of the brain and enabled novel applications in medicine and technological advances.

Among the project’s highlight achievements are a three-dimensional, digital atlas of the human brain with unprecedented detail, personalised virtual models of patient brains with conditions like epilepsy and Parkinson’s, breakthroughs in the field of artificial intelligence, and an open digital research infrastructure – EBRAINS – that will remain an invaluable resource for the entire neuroscience community beyond the end of the HBP.

Researchers at the HBP have presented scientific results in over 3000 publications, as well as advanced medical and technical applications and over 160 freely accessible digital tools for neuroscience research.

“The Human Brain Project has a pioneering role for digital brain research with a unique interdisciplinary approach at the interface of neuroscience, computing and technology,” says Katrin Amunts, Director of the HBP and of the Institute for Neuroscience and Medicine at FZJ. “EBRAINS will continue to power this new way of investigating the brain and foster developments in brain medicine.”

“The impact of what you achieved in digital science goes beyond the neuroscientific community”, said Gustav Kalbe, CNECT, Acting Director of Digital Excellence and Science Infrastructures at the European Commission during the opening of the event. “The infrastructure that the Human Brain Project has established is already seen as a key building block to facilitate cooperation and research across geographical boundaries, but also across communities.”

Further information about the Human Brain Project as well as photos from research can be found here: https://fz-juelich.sciebo.de/s/hWJkNCC1Hi1PdQ5.

Results highlights and event photos in the online press release.

Results overviews:
– “Human Brain Project: Spotlights on major achievements” and “A closer Look on Scientific
Advances”

– “Human Brain Project: An extensive guide to the tools developed”

Examples of results from the Human Brain Project:

As the “Google Maps of the brain” [emphasis mine], the Human Brain Project makes the most comprehensive digital brain atlas to date available to all researchers worldwide. The atlas by Jülich researchers and collaborators combines high-resolution data of neurons, fibre connections, receptors and functional specialisations in the brain, and is designed as a constantly growing system.

13 hospitals in France are currently testing the new “Virtual Epileptic Patient” – a platform developed at the University of Marseille [Aix-Marseille University?] in the Human Brain Project. It creates personalised simulation models of brain dynamics to provide surgeons with predictions for the success of different surgical treatment strategies. The approach was presented this year in the journals Science Translational Medicine and The Lancet Neurology.



SpiNNaker2 is a “neuromorphic” [brainlike] computer developed by the University of Manchester and TU Dresden within the Human Brain Project. The company SpiNNcloud Systems in Dresden is commercialising the approach for AI applications. (Image: Sprind.org)

As an openly accessible digital infrastructure, EBRAINS offers scientists easy access to the best techniques for complex research questions.

[https://www.ebrains.eu/]

There was a Canadian connection at one time; Montréal Neuro at Canada’s McGill University was involved in developing a computational platform for neuroscience (CBRAIN) for HBP according to an announcement in my January 29, 2013 posting. However, there’s no mention of the EU project on the CBRAIN website nor is there mention of a Canadian partner on the EBRAINS website, which seemed the most likely successor to the CBRAIN portion of the HBP project originally mentioned in 2013.

I couldn’t resist “Google maps of the brain.”

In any event, the statement from Astrid Lambrecht offers an interesting contrast to that offered by the leader of the other project.

Graphene Flagship

In fact, the Graphene Flagship has been celebrating its 10th anniversary since last year; see my September 1, 2022 posting titled “Graphene Week (September 5 – 9, 2022) is a celebration of 10 years of the Graphene Flagship.”

The flagship’s lead institution, Chalmers University of Technology in Sweden, issued an August 28, 2023 press release by Lisa Gahnertz (also on the Graphene Flagship website but published September 4, 2023) touting its achievement with an ebullience I am more accustomed to seeing in US news releases,

Chalmers steers Europe’s major graphene venture to success

For the past decade, the Graphene Flagship, the EU’s largest ever research programme, has been coordinated from Chalmers with Jari Kinaret at the helm. As the project reaches the ten-year mark, expectations have been realised, a strong European research field on graphene has been established, and the journey will continue.

‘Have we delivered what we promised?’ asks Graphene Flagship Director Jari Kinaret from his office in the physics department at Chalmers, overlooking the skyline of central Gothenburg.

‘Yes, we have delivered more than anyone had a right to expect,’ [emphasis mine] he says. ‘In our analysis for the conclusion of the project, we read the documents that were written at the start. What we promised then were over a hundred specific things. Some of them were scientific and technological promises, and they have all been fulfilled. Others were for specific applications, and here 60–70 per cent of what was promised has been delivered. We have also delivered applications we did not promise from the start, but these are more difficult to quantify.’

The autumn of 2013 saw the launch of the massive ten-year Science, Technology and Innovation research programme on graphene and other related two-dimensional materials. Joint funding from the European Commission and EU Member States totalled a staggering €1,000 million. A decade later, it is clear that the large-scale initiative has succeeded in its endeavours. According to a report by the research institute WifOR, the Graphene Flagship will have created a total contribution to GDP of €3,800 million and 38,400 new jobs in the 27 EU countries between 2014 and 2030.

Exceeded expectations

‘Per euro invested and compared to other EU projects, the flagship has performed 13 times better than expected in terms of patent applications, and seven times better for scientific publications. We have 17 spin-off companies that have received over €130 million in private funding – people investing their own money is a real example of trust in the fact that the technology works,’ says Jari Kinaret.

He emphasises that the long time span has been crucial in developing the concepts of the various flagship projects.

‘When it comes to new projects, the ability to work on a long timescale is a must and is more important than a large budget. It takes a long time to build trust, both in one another within a team and in the technology on the part of investors, industry and the wider community. The size of the project has also been significant. There has been an ecosystem around the material, with many graphene manufacturers and other organisations involved. It builds robustness, which means you have the courage to invest in the material and develop it.’

From lab to application

In 2010, Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov of the University of Manchester won the Nobel Prize in Physics for their pioneering experiments isolating the ultra-light and ultra-thin material graphene. It was the first known 2D material and stunned the world with its ‘exceptional properties originating in the strange world of quantum physics’ according to the Nobel Foundation’s press release. Many potential applications were identified for this electrically conductive, heat-resistant and light-transmitting material. Jari Kinaret’s research team had been exploring the material since 2006, and when Kinaret learned of the European Commission’s call for a ten-year research programme, it prompted him to submit an application. The Graphene Flagship was initiated to ensure that Europe would maintain its leading position in graphene research and innovation, and its coordination and administration fell to Chalmers.

Is it a staggering thought that your initiative became the biggest EU research project of all time?

‘The fact that the three-minute presentation I gave at a meeting in Brussels has grown into an activity in 22 countries, with 170 organisations and 1,300 people involved … You can’t think about things like that because it can easily become overwhelming. Sometimes you just have to go for it,’ says Jari Kinaret.

One of the objectives of the Graphene Flagship was to take the hopes for this material and move them from lab to application. What has happened so far?

‘We are well on track with 100 products priced and on their way to the market. Many of them are business-to-business products that are not something we ordinary consumers are going to buy, but which may affect us indirectly.’

‘It’s important to remember that getting products to the application stage is a complex process. For a researcher, it may take ten working prototypes; for industry, ten million. Everything has to click into place, on a large scale. All components must work identically and in exactly the same way, and be compatible with existing production in manufacturing as you cannot rebuild an entire factory for a new material. In short, it requires reliability, reproducibility and manufacturability.’

Applications in a wide range of areas

Graphene’s extraordinary properties are being used to deliver the next generation of technologies in a wide range of fields, such as sensors for self-driving cars, advanced batteries, new water purification methods and sophisticated instruments for use in neuroscience. When asked if there are any applications that Jani Kinaret himself would like to highlight, he mentions, among other things, the applications that are underway in the automotive industry – such as sensors to detect obstacles for self-driving cars. Thanks to graphene, they will be so cost-effective to produce that it will be possible to make them available in more than just the most expensive car models.

He also highlights the aerospace industry, where a graphene material for removing ice from aircraft and helicopter wings is under development for the Airbus company. Another favourite, which he has followed from basic research to application, is the development of an air cleaner for Lufthansa passenger aircraft, based on a kind of ‘graphene foam’. Because graphene foam is very light, it can be heated extremely quickly. A pulse of electricity lasting one thousandth of a second is enough to raise the temperature to 300 degrees, thus killing micro-organisms and effectively cleaning the air in the aircraft.

He also mentions the Swedish company ABB, which has developed a graphene composite for circuit breakers in switchgear. These circuit breakers are used to protect the electricity network and must be safe to use. The graphene composite replaces the manual lubrication of the circuit breakers, resulting in significant cost savings.

‘We also see graphene being used in medical technology, but its application requires many years of testing and approval by various bodies. For example, graphene technology can more effectively map the brain before neurosurgery, as it provides a more detailed image. Another aspect of graphene is that it is soft and pliable. This means it can be used for electrodes that are implanted in the brain to treat tremors in Parkinson’s patients, without the electrodes causing scarring,’ says Jari Kinaret.

Coordinated by Chalmers

Jari Kinaret sees the fact that the EU chose Chalmers as the coordinating university as a favourable factor for the Graphene Flagship.

‘Hundreds of millions of SEK [Swedish Kroner] have gone into Chalmers research, but what has perhaps been more important is that we have become well-known and visible in certain areas. We also have the 2D-Tech competence centre and the SIO Grafen programme, both funded by Vinnova and coordinated by Chalmers and Chalmers industriteknik respectively. I think it is excellent that Chalmers was selected, as there could have been too much focus on the coordinating organisation if it had been more firmly established in graphene research at the outset.’

What challenges have been encountered during the project?

‘With so many stakeholders involved, we are not always in agreement. But that is a good thing. A management book I once read said that if two parties always agree, then one is redundant. At the start of the project, it was also interesting to see the major cultural differences we had in our communications and that different cultures read different things between the lines; it took time to realise that we should be brutally straightforward in our communications with one another.’

What has it been like to have the coordinating role that you have had?

‘Obviously, I’ve had to worry about things an ordinary physics professor doesn’t have to worry about, like a phone call at four in the morning after the Brexit vote or helping various parties with intellectual property rights. I have read more legal contracts than I thought I would ever have to read as a professor. As a researcher, your approach when you go into a role is narrow and deep, here it was rather all about breadth. I would have liked to have both, but there are only 26 hours in a day,’ jokes Jari Kinaret.

New phase for the project and EU jobs to come

A new assignment now awaits Jari Kinaret outside Chalmers as Chief Executive Officer of the EU initiative KDT JU (Key Digital Technologies Joint Undertaking, soon to become Chips JU), where industry and the public sector interact to drive the development of new electronic components and systems.

The Graphene Flagship may have reached its destination in its current form, but the work started is progressing in a form more akin to a flotilla. About a dozen projects will continue to live on under the auspices of the European Commission’s Horizon Europe programme. Chalmers is going to coordinate a smaller CSA project called GrapheneEU, where CSA stands for ‘Coordination and Support Action’. It will act as a cohesive force between the research and innovation projects that make up the next phase of the flagship, offering them a range of support and services, including communication, innovation and standardisation.

The Graphene Flagship is about to turn ten. If the project had been a ten-year-old child, what kind of child would it have been?

‘It would have been a very diverse organism. Different aspirations are beginning to emerge – perhaps it is adolescence that is approaching. In addition, within the project we have also studied other related 2D materials, and we found that there are 6,000 distinct materials of this type, of which only about 100 have been studied. So, it’s the younger siblings that are starting to arrive now.’

Facts about the Graphene Flagship:

The Graphene Flagship is the first European flagship for future and emerging technologies. It has been coordinated and administered from the Department of Physics at Chalmers, and as the project enters its next phase, GrapheneEU, coordination will continue to be carried out by staff currently working on the flagship led by Chalmers Professor Patrik Johansson.

The project has proved highly successful in developing graphene-based technology in Europe, resulting in 17 new companies, around 100 new products, nearly 500 patent applications and thousands of scientific papers. All in all, the project has exceeded the EU’s targets for utilisation from research projects by a factor of ten. According to the assessment of the EU research programme Horizon 2020, Chalmers’ coordination of the flagship has been identified as one of the key factors behind its success.

Graphene Week will be held at the Svenska Mässan in Gothenburg from 4 to 8 September 2023. Graphene Week is an international conference, which also marks the finale of the ten-year anniversary of the Graphene Flagship. The conference will be jointly led by academia and industry – Professor Patrik Johansson from Chalmers and Dr Anna Andersson from ABB – and is expected to attract over 400 researchers from Sweden, Europe and the rest of the world. The programme includes an exhibition, press conference and media activities, special sessions on innovation, diversity and ethics, and several technical sessions. The full programme is available here.

Read the press release on Graphene Week from 4 to 8 September and the overall results of the Graphene Flagship. …

Ten years and €1B each. Congratulations to the organizers on such massive undertakings. As for whether or not (and how they’ve been successful), I imagine time will tell.

Comments on today’s (September 20, 2023) media briefing for the US National Science Foundation’s (NSF) inaugural Global Centers Competition awards

I almost missed the briefing but the folks at the US National Science Foundation (NSF) kindly allowed me to join the meeting despite being 10 minutes late. Before launching into my comments, here’s what we were discussing,

From a September 20, 2023 NSF media briefing (received via email),

U. S. National Science Foundation Media Briefing on the Inaugural Global Centers Awards  

Please join the U.S. National Science Foundation this Wednesday September 20th from 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. EST for a discussion and Q&A on the inaugural Global Centers Competition awards. Earlier this week, NSF along with partner funding agencies from Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom — announced awards totaling $76.4 million for the inaugural Global Centers Competition. These international, interdisciplinary collaborative research centers will apply best practices of broadening participation and community engagement to develop use-inspired research on climate change and clean energy. The centers will also create and promote opportunities for students and early-career researchers to gain education and training in world-class research while enhancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

NSF will have a panel of experts on hand to discuss and answer questions about these new Global Centers and how they will sync talent across the globe to generate the discoveries and solutions needed to empower resilient communities everywhere.

What: Panel discussion and Q&A on NSF’s Global Centers

When: 12:30 – 1:30 p.m. EST, Wednesday, September 20th, 2023

Where: This briefing [is over.]

Who: Scheduled panelists include…

Anne Emig is the Section Chief for the Programs and Analysis Section in the National Science Foundation Office of International Science and Engineering

Dr. Tanya Berger-Wolf is the Principal Investigator for the Global Centers Track 1 project on AI and Biodiversity Change as well as the Director of the Translational Data Analytics Institute and a Professor of Computer Science Engineering, Electrical and Computer Engineering, as well as Evolution, Ecology, and Organismal Biology at the Ohio State University

Dr. Meng Tao is the Principal Investigator for the Global Centers Track 1 project Global Hydrogen Production Technologies Center as well as a Professor, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering at Arizona State University

Dr. Ashish Sharma is the Principal Investigator for the Global Centers Track 1 project Clean Energy and Equitable Transportation Solutions as well as the Climate and Urban Sustainability Lead at the Discovery Partners Institute, University of Illinois System

Note: This briefing is only open to members of the media

I’m glad to have learned about this effort and applaud the NSF for its outreach efforts. By comparison, Canadian agencies (I’m looking at you, Natural Sciences and Engineering Council of Canada [NSERC] and Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada [SSHRC]) have a lot to learn.

There’s a little more about the Global Centers Competition awards in a September 18, 2023 NSF news release,

Today [September 18, 2023], the U.S. National Science Foundation — along with partner funding agencies from Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom — announced awards totaling $76.4 million for the inaugural Global Centers Competition. These international, interdisciplinary collaborative research centers will apply best practices of broadening participation and community engagement to develop use-inspired research on climate change and clean energy. The centers will also create and promote opportunities for students and early-career researchers to gain education and training in world-class research while enhancing diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility.

“NSF builds capacity and advances its priorities through these centers of research excellence by uniting diverse teams from around the world,” said NSF Director Sethuraman Panchanathan. “Global Centers will sync talent across the globe to generate the discoveries and solutions needed to empower resilient communities everywhere.”

Global Centers are sponsored in part by a multilateral funding activity led by NSF and four partner funding organizations: Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO), Canada’s Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC) and Social Science and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), and the United Kingdom’s UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

Both collectively and independently, the centers will support convergent interdisciplinary research collaborations focused on assessing and mitigating the impacts of climate change on society, people, and communities. Outcomes from Global Centers’ activities will inform and catalyze the development of innovative solutions and technologies to address climate change. Examples include: enhancing awareness of critical information; advancing and advocating for decarbonization efforts; creating climate change adaptation plans tailored to specific localities and groups; using artificial intelligence to study responses of nature to climate change; transboundary water issues; and scaling the production of next-generation technologies aimed at achieving net zero. Several projects include partnerships with tribal groups or historically Black colleges and universities that will broaden participation.

“The National Science Foundation Global Centres initiative provides students and researchers a platform to advance innovative and interdisciplinary research and gain education and training opportunities in world-class research while also enhancing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility,” said NSERC President Alejandro Adem. “We at NSERC look forward to seeing the outcomes of the work being done by some of Canada and the world’s best and brightest minds to tackle one of the biggest issues of our time.”

The awards are divided into two tracks. Track 1 are Implementation grants with co-funding from international partners. Track 2 are Design grants meant to provide seed funding to develop the teams and the science for future competitions. Many additional countries are involved in Track 2 and will increase global engagement.

There are seven Track 1 Global Centers that involve research partnerships with Australia, Canada, and the U.K. Each Track 1 Global Center will be implemented by internationally dispersed teams consisting of U.S. and foreign researchers. U.S. researchers will be supported by NSF up to $5 million over four to five years, while foreign researchers will be supported by their respective country’s funding agency (CSIRO, NSERC, SSHRC and UKRI) with a comparable amount of funds.

There are 14 Track 2 Global Centers that are at the community-driven design stage. These centers’ teams involve U.S. researchers in partnerships with foreign researchers from any country. NSF will provide the U.S. researchers up to $250,000 of seed funding over a two-year period. These multidisciplinary, international teams will coordinate the research and education efforts needed to become competitive for Track-1 funding in the future.

“Our combined investment in Global Centers enables exciting researcher and innovation-led international and interdisciplinary collaboration to drive the energy transition,” said UKRI CEO, Dame Ottoline Leyser. “I look forward to seeing the creative solutions developed through these global collaborations.”

Kirsten Rose, Acting Chief Executive of CSIRO, said as Australia’s national science agency, CSIRO is proud to be part of a strong national contribution to solving this critical global challenge. “Partnering with the NSF’s Global Centers means Australia remains at the global forefront of work to build a clean hydrogen industry, build integrated and equitable energy systems, and partnering with regions and industries for a low emissions future.”

Track 1 (Implementation)

  • Global Hydrogen Production Technologies (HyPT) Center
    Grant number: 2330525
    Arizona State University and U.S. partner institutions: University of Michigan, Stanford University and Navajo Technical University.
    Quadrilateral research partnership with Australia, Canada, and the U.K.
    Critical and Emerging Tech: green hydrogen (renewable energy generation).
     
  • Electric Power Innovation for a Carbon-free Society (EPICS)
    Grant number: 2330450
    The Johns Hopkins University and U.S. partner institutions: Georgia Institute of Technology, University of California, Davis, and Resources for the Future.
    Trilateral research partnership with Australia and the U.K.
    Critical and Emerging Tech: renewable energy storage.
     
  • Global Nitrogen Innovation Center for Clean Energy and Environment (NICCEE)
    Grant number: 2330502
    University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences and U.S. partner institutions: New York University and University of Massachusetts Amherst.
    Trilateral research partnership with Canada and the U.K.
    Critical & Emerging Tech: green ammonia (bioeconomy + agriculture).
     
  • Understanding Climate Change Impacts on Transboundary Waters
    Grant number: 2330317
    University of Michigan and U.S. partner institutions: Cornell University, College of the Menominee Nation, Red Lake Nation and University of Wisconsin–Madison.
    Bilateral research partnership with Canada.
    Critical and Emerging Tech: N/A.
     
  • AI and Biodiversity Change (ABC)
    Grant number: 2330423 
    The Ohio State University and U.S. partner institutions: University of Pittsburgh and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
    Bilateral Research partnership with Canada.
    Critical and Emerging Tech: AI.
     
  • U.S.-Canada Center on Climate-Resilient Western Interconnected Grid
    Grant number: 2330582                
    The University of Utah and U.S. partner institutions: University of California San Diego, The University of New Mexico, and The Nevada System of Higher Education.     
    Bilateral Research partnership with Canada.
    Critical and Emerging Tech: AI.
     
  • Clean Energy and Equitable Transportation Solutions
    Grant number: 2330565
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and U.S. partner institutions: University Corporation for Atmospheric Research and Arizona State University.
    Bilateral Research partnership with the U.K.
    Critical and Emerging Tech: N/A
     

Track 2 (Design)

  • Developing Solutions to Decarbonize Emissions and Fuels
    Grant number: 2330509              
    University of Maryland, College Park.
    International collaboration with Japan, Israel, and Ghana.             
     
  • Enhanced Wind Turbine Blade Durability
    Grant number: 2329911              
    Cornell University.
    International collaboration with Canada, the UK, Norway, Denmark, and Spain.
     
  • Building the Global Center for Forecasting Freshwater Futures
    Grant number: 2330211
    Virginia Tech.
    International collaboration with Australia.
     
  • Climate Risk and Resilience: Southeast Asia as a Living Lab (SEALL)
    Grant number: 2330308
    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
    International collaboration with Vietnam, Thailand, Singapore, and India.
     
  • Climate-Smart Food-Energy-Water Nexus in Small Farms
    Grant number: 2330505              
    The University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture.        
    International collaboration with Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala, Panama, Cambodia, and Uganda.
     
  • Center for Household Energy and Thermal Resilience (HEaTR)
    Grant number: 2330533              
    Cornell University.
    International collaboration with India, the U.K, Ghana, and Singapore.
     
  • Enabling interdisciplinary wildfire research for community resilience
    Grant number: 2330343              
    Oregon State University.
    International collaborations with Australia and the U.K.
     
  • SuReMin: Sustainable, resilient, responsible global minerals supply chain
    Grant number: 2330041              
    Northwestern University.
    International collaboration with Chile.
     
  • Nature-based Urban Hydrology Center
    Grant number: 2330413              
    Villanova University.
    International collaboration with Canada, the U.K, Switzerland, Ireland, Australia, Chile, and Turkey.
     
  • A multi-disciplinary framework to combat climate-induced desert locust upsurges, outbreaks, and plagues in East Africa
    Grand number: 2330452
    Georgia State University.
    International collaboration with Ethiopia.
     
  • US-Africa Research Center for Clean Energy
    Grant number: 2330437
    Georgia Institute of Technology.
    International collaborations with Rwanda.
     
  • Equitable and User-Centric Energy Market for Resilient Grid-interactive Communities
    Grant number: 2330504
    Santa Clara University.
    International collaboration with Canada.
     
  • Energy Sovereignty for Indigenous Peoples (ESIP)
    Grant number: 2330387
    University of North Dakota.
    International collaboration with Canada.
     
  • Blue Climate Solutions
    Grant number: 2330518              
    University of Rhode Island.
    International collaboration with Indonesia.

For Canadian researchers who are interested, there’s a National Science Foundation Global Centres webpage on the NSERC website, which answers a lot of questions about the programme from a Canadian perspective. The application deadline for both tracks was May 10, 2023 and there’s no information (as of September 20, 2023) about future competitions. Nice to see the social science and humanities included in the form of a funding agency. (I think this might be the one compliment I deliver to a Canadian funding initiative this year. 🙂

For American researchers, there’s the NSF’s Global Centers webpage; for UK researchers, there’s the United Kingdom’s Research and Innovation’s Global Centres in clean energy and climate change webpage; and for Australian researchers, there’s the CSIRO’s National Science Foundation Global Centers webpage. Application deadlines have passed for all of these competitions and there’s no information (as of September 20, 2023) about future competitions.

A few comments

News about local and international affairs (see Seth Borenstein’s September 20, 2023 Associated Press article “UN chief warns of ‘gates of hell’ in climate summit, but carbon polluting nations stay silent”) and one’s own personal experience with climate issues can be discouraging at times so it’s heartening to see these efforts. Kudos to the organizers of the Global Centers programme and I wish all the researchers success.

Given how new these centers are, it’s understandable that the panelists would be a little fuzzy about specific although they’ve clearly considered and are attempting to address issues such as sharing data, trust, and outreach to various stakeholders and communities.

I wish I’d asked about cybersecurity when they were talking about data. Ah well, there was my question about outreach to people over the age of 50 or 55 as so much of their planning was focused on youth. The panelists who responded (Dr. Tanya Berger-Wolf, Dr. Meng Tao, and Dr. Ashish Sharma) did not seem to have done much thinking about seniors/elders/older people.

I believe bird watching (as mentioned by one of the panelists) does tend to attract older people but citizen science or other hobbies/programmes mentioned may or may not be a good source for seniors outreach. Almost all science outreach tilts to youth including citizen science.

With the planet is not doing so well and with the aging populations in Canada, the US, many European countries, China, Japan, and I’m sure many others perhaps some new thinking about ‘inclusivity’ might be in order. One suggestion, start thinking about age groups. In the same way that 20 is not 30, is not 40, so 55 is not 65, is not 75. One more thing, perhaps take into account life experience. Something that gets forgotten is that a lot of the programmes that people take for granted and a lot of the technology people use today was developed in the 1960s (e.g. Internet). That old person? Maybe it’s someone who founded the UN’s Environment Program (I was teaching a nanotechnology course in a seniors programme and asked students about themselves; I was intimidated by her credentials).

In the end, this Global Center initiative is heartening news.

Support Our Science and the mass student walkout of May 1, 2023

It’s hard to tell how many students and staff participated in yesterday’s (May 1, 2023) Canada-wide walkout. The University of British Columbia (UBC) counted 300 in their walkout (from a May 1, 2023 article by Amir Ali for The Daily Hive). The total number is not available but there is a Nationwide Walkout page on the Support Our Science website with a list of over 30 participating institutions.

I didn’t pay much attention to the concerns from the academic community about the lack of support for Canadian research in my April 24, 2023 posting “The 2023 Canadian federal budget: science & technology of the military and cybersecurity and some closing comments (2 of 2)”; see the”Always a little disappointment” subhead featuring excerpts from a Universities Canada response and Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences briefing on the 2023 federal budget.

Thankfully, others have filled in the gap. Brian Owens wrote an April 28, 2023 article for Nature about the then proposed walkout and the reasons for it, Note: Links have been removed,

“Pay for grad students hasn’t increased in 20 years, while there has been 50% inflation over the same period,” says Sarah Laframboise, a biochemistry PhD student at the University of Ottawa and executive director of Support Our Science, a student-led campaign group that is organizing the walkout.

Scholarships from the federal government provide an annual stipend of Can$17,500 (US$12,800) for master’s degree students, either $23,000 or $35,000 for PhD students, and $45,000 for postdoctoral fellowships. That leaves many researchers in a precarious financial position, says Laframboise. A survey that she and her colleagues conducted of more than 1,000 Canadian graduate students found that almost half of respondents either frequently struggled to make ends meet or were forced to make sacrifices to afford necessities, and 30% had considered leaving their studies because of financial hardship1.

Support our Science has three main demands. First, it wants master’s scholarships to increase in value to $25,900 (a rise of 48%), postdoctoral fellowships to increase to $59,200, and the two levels of PhD scholarship to be equalized at $35,000. Second, it wants a 50% increase in the number of scholarships funded each year, and a doubling in the number of fellowships. Finally, it wants the size of federal research grants to increase by 50%, to allow professors to increase pay for students and postdocs who do not have a federal scholarship. The organization says that these demands are in line with recommendations from the government’s own advisory panel on the research-support system, which published its report in March [2023].

You can find the March 2023 Report of the Advisory Panel on the Federal Research Support System mentioned in Owens’s article here.

That report and more are mentioned in a March 24, 2023 Support Out Science press release issued in response to the 2023 Canadian federal budget,

Support Our Science (SOS) has worked tirelessly over the last year to advocate for increased funding to graduate students and postdoctoral scholars. We are disappointed that the Government of Canada’s Budget 2023 does not include any new investments for the next generation of research and innovation leaders driving Canada’s economy. We recognize the fiscal challenges our nation is currently facing; however, Budget 2023 will have drastic impacts on current graduate and postdoctoral scholars in Canada and will negatively impact the retention and attraction of top talent for years to come.

Of the G7 nations, Canada already makes among the lowest investments in research, development and training. This is documented in the report by the Advisory Panel on the Federal Research Support System, the 2017 Fundamental Science Review, and the 2021 Degrees of Success Report by the Canadian Council of Academies. This budget puts Canada even further behind. Our ability to advance green technologies, cybersecurity, quantum technologies, disease prevention, and many other areas of critical and urgent need are being hampered by the Government of Canada’s lack of investment in the next generation of researchers.

A May 1, 2023 article (with files from Mike Crawley, Joel Ballard and Maurice Katz) on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s (CBC) news website details some of the hardships faced by graduate and postgraduate students, Note: Links have been removed,

A Canada graduate scholarship from one of the three federal research funding agencies is $17,500 per year for a master’s student or $21,000 per year for a doctoral student.

Luis Ramirez, a master’s student at Simon Fraser University (SFU), says the amount he is afforded is barely enough to cover his rent, tuition and food. 

“We’re getting less than $30,000 [per year], even the PhD students.

“We have to pay rent, we have to pay tuition, and we have to pay groceries and clothing and so on. So it’s almost impossible to continue with this. We are on the poverty line right now.” 

UBC graduate student Katrina Bergmann says the low scholarship amounts are “unacceptable.”

“We are the major workforce for Canadian science and innovation,” she said. 

Nancy Forde, a professor at SFU, said federal funding is not meant to make anyone rich but is instead there to ensure researchers can focus on their work without worrying about finances. 

But, she says no one can survive on the amount provided in these scholarship funds, adding that many are using food banks [emphasis mine] to get by. 

“I have students in my own research group who are leaving research because they can’t afford to live,” she said. “They came into the program with savings, and they’ve depleted their savings.”

“Only the privileged can survive.”

In December [2022], Champagne [François-Philippe Champagne, the minister of science, innovation and industry] said he was aware of the call for more funding for graduate researchers and that it would be part of discussions with the finance minister.

“It’s clear that if we want to own the podium, we need to do more to support the researchers, the students and the scientists,” Champagne said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the federal Science Ministry said it had provided $114 million over five years in the 2019 budget to granting agencies to create 500 master’s scholarships every year, in addition to an $813.6 million increase to student grants in the most recent budget.

The spokesperson did not specifically respond to a question about whether the scholarship amounts would increase. [emphases mins]

It seems students are not the only ones using food banks, from an April 23, 2023 article “UBC staff will no longer be able to access AMS Food Bank due to rising costs” by Nikitha Martins for The Daily Hive,

Kathleen Simpson is a Senior Manager at AMS [Alma Mater Society] and tells Daily Hive the student union’s decision to end support for UBC staff was not one it took lightly.

However, the rising cost of food has driven more people to need support from the AMS food bank and simultaneously made it more expensive to purchase food to operate the food bank.

Last year, the AMS food bank served 7,496 people. By the end of this policy year, the student union expects to help 15,861 people.

“In the last month alone, we saw a 1,000% spike over the previous month, quite unusual, but we are really facing some very high business numbers, and when you combine that with some of the costs of food that have been rising for some of our staple items,” Simpson explained.

AMS has put in a funding request to UBC for $350,000.

“Next year, our cost of groceries alone is projected to cost around $449,000,” Simpson said. “So we’re hoping to hear back… whether or not that full funding will be allocated.”

AMS is asking for nearly double what it received last year from UBC.

I wish them good luck in getting long overdue increases.For the curious, Support Our Science can be found here.

The 2023 Canadian federal budget: science & technology of the military and cybersecurity and some closing comments (2 of 2)

So far in part 1, the budget continues its focus on life sciences especially biomanufacturing, climate (clean energy, clean (?) manufacturing, mining, space, the forest economy, agriculture, and water. The budget also mentioned funding for the research councils (it’s been a while since I’ve seen them in a budget document).

Now, it’s time to focus on the military and cybersecurity. As noted in part 1 (third paragraph of my introduction), the military is often the source for technology (e.g., television, the internet, modern anesthesiology) that transforms society.

Chapter 5: Canada’s Leadership in the World

Finally, for this blog posting, there’s Chapter 5, from https://www.budget.canada.ca/2023/report-rapport/toc-tdm-en.html,

Key Ongoing Actions

In the past year, the federal government has announced a series of investments that have enhanced Canada’s security and our leadership around the world. These include:

  • $38.6 billion over 20 years to invest in the defence of North America and the modernization of NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command; emphasis mine];
  • More than $5.4 billion in assistance for Ukraine, including critical financial, military, and humanitarian support;
  • More than $545 million in emergency food and nutrition assistance in 2022-23 to help address the global food security crisis and respond to urgent hunger and nutrition needs;
  • $2.3 billion over the next five years to launch Canada’s Indo-Pacific Strategy [emphasis mine], including the further global capitalization of FinDev Canada [also known as Development Finance Institute Canada {DFIC}], which will deepen Canada’s engagement with our partners, support economic growth and regional security, and strengthen our ties with people in the Indo-Pacific;
  • $350 million over three years in international biodiversity financing, in addition to Canada’s commitment to provide $5.3 billion in climate financing over five years, to support developing countries’ efforts to protect nature;
  • $875 million over five years, and $238 million ongoing, to enhance Canada’s cybersecurity capabilities [emphasis mine];
  • Delivering on a commitment to spend $1.4 billion each year on global health, of which $700 million will be dedicated to sexual and reproductive health and rights for women and girls; and,
  • Channeling almost 30 per cent of Canada’s newly allocated International Monetary Fund (IMF) Special Drawing Rights to support low-income and vulnerable countries, surpassing the G7’s 20 per cent target.

Defence Policy Update

In response to a changed global security environment following Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the federal government committed in Budget 2022 to a Defence Policy Update that would update Canada’s existing defence policy, Strong, Secure, Engaged.

This review, including public consultations, is ongoing, and is focused on the roles, responsibilities, and capabilities of the Canadian Armed Forces. The Department of National Defence will return with a Defence Policy Update [emphasis mine] that will ensure the Canadian Armed Forces remain strong at home, secure in North America, and engaged around the world.

With this review ongoing, the Canadian Armed Forces have continued to protect Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic, support our NATO allies in Eastern Europe, and contribute to operations in the Indo-Pacific.

In the past year, the government has made significant, foundational investments in Canada’s national defence, which total more than $55 billion over 20 years. These include:

  • $38.6 billion over 20 years to strengthen the defence of North America, reinforce Canada’s support of our partnership with the United States under NORAD, and protect our sovereignty in the North [emphases mine];
  • $2.1 billion over seven years, starting in 2022-23, and $706.0 million ongoing for Canada’s contribution to increasing NATO’s [North Atlantic Treaty Organization] common budget [emphasis mine];
  • $1.4 billion over 14 years, starting in 2023-24, to acquire new critical weapons systems needed to protect the Canadian Armed Forces in case of high intensity conflict, including air defence, anti-tank, and anti-drone capabilities;
  • $605.8 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, with $2.6 million in remaining amortization, to replenish the Canadian Armed Forces’ stocks of ammunition and explosives, and to replace materiel donated to Ukraine;
  • $562.2 million over six years, starting in 2022-23, with $112.0 million in remaining amortization, and $69 million ongoing to improve the digital systems of the Canadian Armed Forces;
  • Up to $90.4 million over five years, starting in 2022-23, to further support initiatives to increase the capabilities of the Canadian Armed Forces; and,
  • $30.1 million over four years, starting in 2023-24, and $10.4 million ongoing to establish the new North American regional office in Halifax for NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic [emphasis mine].

In addition, the government is providing $1.4 billion to upgrade the facilities of Joint Task Force 2, Canada’s elite counterterrorism unit.

Establishing the NATO Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence in Montreal

Climate change has repercussions for people, economic security, public safety, and critical infrastructure around the world. It also poses a significant threat to global security, and in 2022, NATO’s new Strategic Concept recognized climate change for the first time as a major security challenge for the Alliance.

At the 2022 NATO Summit in Madrid, Montreal was announced as the host city for NATO’s new Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence, which will bring together NATO allies to mitigate the impact of climate change on military activities and analyze new climate change-driven security challenges, such as the implications for Canada’s Arctic.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $40.4 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, with $0.3 million in remaining amortization and $7 million ongoing, to Global Affairs Canada and the Department of National Defence to establish the NATO Climate Change and Security Centre of Excellence [emphasis mine].

Protecting Diaspora Communities and All Canadians From Foreign Interference, Threats, and Covert Activities

As an advanced economy and a free and diverse democracy, Canada’s strengths also make us a target for hostile states seeking to acquire information and technology [emphasis mine], intelligence, and influence to advance their own interests.

This can include foreign actors working to steal information from Canadian companies to benefit their domestic industries, hostile proxies intimidating diaspora communities in Canada because of their beliefs and values, or intelligence officers seeking to infiltrate Canada’s public and research institutions.

Authoritarian regimes, such as Russia, China, and Iran, believe they can act with impunity and meddle in the affairs of democracies—and democracies must act to defend ourselves. No one in Canada should ever be threatened by foreign actors, and Canadian businesses and Canada’s public institutions must be free of foreign interference.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $48.9 million over three years on a cash basis, starting in 2023-24, to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to protect Canadians from harassment and intimidation, increase its investigative capacity, and more proactively engage with communities at greater risk of being targeted. 
  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $13.5 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, and $3.1 million ongoing to Public Safety Canada to establish a National Counter-Foreign Interference Office.

5.4 Combatting Financial Crime

Serious financial crimes, such as money laundering, terrorist financing, and the evasion of financial sanctions, threaten the safety of Canadians and the integrity of our financial system. Canada requires a comprehensive, responsive, and modern system to counter these sophisticated and rapidly evolving threats.

Canada must not be a financial haven for oligarchs or the kleptocratic apparatchiks of authoritarian, corrupt, or theocratic regimes—such as those of Russia, China, Iran, and Haiti. We will not allow our world-renowned financial system to be used to clandestinely and illegally move money to fund foreign interference inside Canada. [emphases mine]

Since 2019, the federal government has modernized Canada’s Anti-Money Laundering and Anti-Terrorist Financing (AML/ATF) Regime to address risks posed by new technologies and sectors, and made investments to strengthen Canada’s financial intelligence, information sharing, and investigative capacity.

Canada’s AML/ATF Regime must continue to be strengthened in order to combat the complex and evolving threats our democracy faces, and to ensure that Canada is never a haven for illicit financial flows or ill-gotten gains.

In Budget 2023, the government is proposing further important measures to deter, detect, and prosecute financial crimes, protect financial institutions from foreign interference, and protect Canadians from the emerging risks associated with crypto-assets.

Combatting Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing

Money laundering and terrorist financing can threaten the integrity of the Canadian economy, and put Canadians at risk by supporting terrorist activity, drug and human trafficking, and other criminal activities. Taking stronger action to tackle these threats is essential to protecting Canada’s economic security.

In June 2022, the Government of British Columbia released the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia [emphasis mine], also known as the Cullen Commission. This report highlighted major gaps in the current AML/ATF Regime, as well as areas for deepened federal-provincial collaboration [emphasis mine]. Between measures previously introduced and those proposed in Budget 2023, as well as through consultations that the government has committed to launching, the federal government will have responded to all of the recommendations within its jurisdiction in the Cullen Commission report.

In Budget 2023, the federal government is taking action to address gaps in Canada’s AML/ATF Regime, and strengthen cooperation between orders of government.

  • Budget 2023 announces the government’s intention to introduce legislative amendments to the Criminal Code and the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) to strengthen the investigative, enforcement, and information sharing tools of Canada’s AML/ATF Regime.

These legislative changes will:

  • Give law enforcement the ability to freeze and seize virtual assets with suspected links to crime;
  • Improve financial intelligence information sharing between law enforcement and the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), and law enforcement and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC);
  • Introduce a new offence for structuring financial transactions to avoid FINTRAC reporting;
  • Strengthen the registration framework, including through criminal record checks, for currency dealers and other money services businesses to prevent their abuse;
  • Criminalize the operation of unregistered money services businesses;
  • Establish powers for FINTRAC to disseminate strategic analysis related to the financing of threats to the safety of Canada;
  • Provide whistleblowing protections for employees who report information to FINTRAC;
  • Broaden the use of non-compliance reports by FINTRAC in criminal investigations; and,
  • Set up obligations for the financial sector to report sanctions-related information to FINTRAC.

Strengthening Efforts Against Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing

In keeping with the requirements of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA), the federal government will launch a parliamentary review of this act this year.

This review will include a public consultation that will examine ways to improve Canada’s Anti-Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing (AML/ATF) Regime, as well as examine how different orders of government can collaborate more closely. This will include how governments can better use existing tools to seize the proceeds of crime, and the potential need for new measures, such as unexplained wealth orders. Other topics of consultation will include, but will not be limited to, measures to support investigations and prosecutions, enhance information sharing, close regulatory gaps, examine the role of the AML/ATF Regime in protecting national and economic security, as well as the remaining recommendations from the Cullen Commission [also known as, the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia].

  • Budget 2023 announces that the government will bring forward further legislative amendments, to be informed by these consultations, to give the government more tools to fight money laundering and terrorist financing.

Canada is also leading the global fight against illicit financial flows, having been chosen to serve for two years, effective July 2023, as Vice President of the Financial Action Task Force (from which Russia has been suspended indefinitely), as well as co-Chair of the Asia/Pacific Group on Money Laundering for two years, [emphases mine] beginning in July 2022. 

Implementing a Publicly Accessible Federal Beneficial Ownership Registry

The use of anonymous Canadian shell companies can conceal the true ownership of property, businesses, and other valuable assets. When authorities don’t have the tools to determine their true ownership, these shell companies can become tools of those seeking to launder money, avoid taxes, evade sanctions, or interfere in our democracy.

To address this, the federal government committed in Budget 2022 to implementing a public, searchable beneficial ownership registry of federal corporations by the end of 2023.

This registry will cover corporations governed under the Canada Business Corporations Act, and will be scalable to allow access to the beneficial ownership data held by provinces and territories that agree to participate in a national registry.

While an initial round of amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act received Royal Assent in June 2022, further amendments are needed to implement a beneficial ownership registry.

The government is introducing further amendments to the Canada Business Corporations Act and other laws, including the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act and the Income Tax Act, to implement a publicly accessible beneficial ownership registry through Bill C-42. This represents a major blow to money laundering operations and will be a powerful tool to strengthen the security and integrity of Canada’s economy.

The federal government will continue calling upon provincial and territorial governments to advance a national approach to beneficial ownership transparency to strengthen the fight against money laundering, tax evasion, and terrorist financing.

Modernizing Financial Sector Oversight to Address Emerging Risks

Canadians must be confident that federally regulated financial institutions and their owners act with integrity, and that Canada’s financial institutions are protected, including from foreign interference.

  • Budget 2023 announces the government’s intention to amend the Bank Act, the Insurance Companies Act, the Trust and Loan Companies Act, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Act, and the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) to modernize the federal financial framework to address emerging risks to Canada’s financial sector [emphasis mine].

These legislative changes will:

  • Expand the mandate of the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) to include supervising federally regulated financial institutions (FRFIs) in order to determine whether they have adequate policies and procedures to protect themselves against threats to their integrity and security, including protection against foreign interference;
  • Expand the range of circumstances where OSFI can take control of an FRFI to include where the integrity and security of that FRFI is at risk, where all shareholders have been precluded from exercising their voting rights, or where there are national security risks;
  • Expand the existing authority for the Superintendent to issue a direction of compliance to include an act that threatens the integrity and security of an FRFI;
  • Provide new powers under the PCMLTFA to allow the Minister of Finance to impose enhanced due diligence requirements to protect Canada’s financial system from the financing of national security threats, and allow the Director of FINTRAC to share intelligence analysis with the Minister of Finance to help assess national security or financial integrity risks posed by financial entities;
  • Improve the sharing of compliance information between FINTRAC, OSFI, and the Minister of Finance; and,
  • Designate OSFI as a recipient of FINTRAC disclosures pertaining to threats to the security of Canada, where relevant to OSFI’s responsibilities.

The government will also review the mandate of FINTRAC to determine whether it should be expanded to counter sanctions evasion and will provide an update in the 2023 fall economic and fiscal update. In addition, the government will review whether FINTRAC’s mandate should evolve to include the financing of threats to Canada’s national and economic security as part of the parliamentary review.

These actions will continue the strong oversight of the financial sector that underpins a sound and stable Canadian economy.

Canada Financial Crimes Agency

To strengthen Canada’s ability to respond to complex cases of financial crime, Budget 2022 announced the government’s intent to establish a new Canada Financial Crimes Agency (CFCA), and provided $2 million to Public Safety Canada to undertake this work.

The CFCA will become Canada’s lead enforcement agency against financial crime. It will bring together expertise necessary to increase money laundering charges, prosecutions and convictions, and asset forfeiture results in Canada. These actions will address the key operational challenges identified in both domestic and international reviews of Canada’s AML/ATF Regime.

Public Safety Canada is developing options for the design of the CFCA, working in conjunction with federal, provincial and territorial partners and external experts, as well as engaging extensively with stakeholders. Further details on the structure and mandate of the CFCA will be provided by the 2023 fall economic and fiscal update.

Protecting Canadians from the Risks of Crypto-Assets

Ongoing turbulence in crypto-asset markets, and the recent high-profile failures of crypto trading platform FTX, and of Signature Bank, have demonstrated that crypto-assets can threaten the financial well-being of people, national security, and the stability and integrity of the global financial system.

To protect Canadians from the risks that come with crypto-assets, there is a clear need for different orders of government to take an active role in addressing consumer protection gaps and risks to our financial system.

The federal government is working closely with regulators and provincial and territorial partners to protect Canadians’ hard-earned savings and pensions, and Budget 2023 proposes new measures to protect Canadians.

  • To help protect Canadians’ savings and the security of our financial sector, Budget 2023 announces that the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) will consult federally regulated financial institutions on guidelines for publicly disclosing their exposure to crypto-assets.

Secure pension plans are the cornerstone of a dignified retirement. While pension plan administrators are required to prudently manage their investments, the unique nature and evolving risks of crypto-assets and related activities require continued monitoring.

  • To help protect Canadians’ retirements, Budget 2023 announces that the government will require federally regulated pension funds to disclose their crypto-asset exposures to OSFI. The government will also work with provinces and territories to discuss crypto-asset or related activities disclosures by Canada’s largest pension plans, which would ensure Canadians are aware of their pension plan’s potential exposure to crypto-assets.

The federal government launched targeted consultations on crypto-assets as part of the review on the digitalization of money announced in Budget 2022. Moving forward, the government will continue to work closely with partners to advance the review, will bring forward proposals to protect Canadians from the risks of crypto-asset markets, and will provide further details in the 2023 fall economic and fiscal update.

Leadership in the world?

Maybe they should have titled chapter 5, “Shoring up Canada’s position in the world.” Most of the initiatives in this section of the budget seem oriented to catching up with the rest of world than forging new paths.

NORAD, NATO, and sovereignty in the North

It’s about time we contributed in a serious way to the “defence of North America and the modernization of NORAD [North American Aerospace Defense Command].” The same goes for NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), where we have failed to contribute our fair share for decades. For the latest NATO/Canada dustup, you may want to read Murray Brewster’s April 7, 2023 article (NATO is getting ready to twist Canada’s arm on defence spending) for CBC news online,

In late March [2023?], NATO published an annual report that shows Canada’s defence spending amounted to just 1.29 per cent of GDP in fiscal 2022-2023.

It’s not much of a stretch to say Canada has no plan to meet that 2 per cent target. There wasn’t one when the previous Conservative government signed on to the notion at the 2014 NATO leaders summit (when the goal was for allies to reach 2 per cent by 2024).

The Liberal government’s 2017 defence policy tiptoed around the subject. Whenever they’ve been asked about it since, Trudeau and his ministers have bobbed and weaved and talked about what Canada delivers in terms of capability.

In an interview with the London bureau of CBC News this week, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly was asked point-blank about Stoltenberg’s [NATO Sec. Gen. Jens Stoltenberg] assertion that allies would soon consider the two per cent benchmark the floor, not the ceiling.

She responded that Canada recognized the world changed with the war in Ukraine and that tensions in the Indo-Pacific [emphasis mine] mean “we need to make sure that we step up our game and that’s what we’ll do.”

“Step up our game” may be a relative term, because Joly went on to say that the government is engaged “in a very important defence policy review, which is required before announcing any further investments.”

That defence policy review was announced in the 2022 federal budget. A year later, shortly after presenting its latest fiscal plan, the government announced there would be public consultations on how best to defend Canada in a more uncertain world.

The best-case scenario, according to several experts, is the defence policy being delivered next year and the necessary investments being made at some indeterminate point in the future.

In fairness, the Liberals have committed to spending $19 billion on new fighter jets, starting in 2026. They have agreed to put $4.9 billion toward modernizing continental defence through NORAD.

The current Liberal government has followed a longstanding precedent of many Canadian governments (Liberal or Conservative) of inadequately funding national defence.

Getting back to NATO commitments, yes, let’s pull our weight. Further, I hope they follow through with protecting sovereignty in the North as there’s more than one jurisdiction interested in claiming to be an ‘Arctic” country of some kind, including Scotland (on behalf of the UK?). My November 20, 2020 posting features the Scottish claim. Interestingly, the closest Scottish land (Shetland Islands, which have a separatist movement of their own) is 400 miles south of the Arctic.

China too claims to be close to the Arctic despite being some 900 miles south at its closest point. Roslyn Layton’s August 31, 2022 article (Cold Front: The Arctic Emerges As A New Flashpoint Of Geopolitical Challenge) for Forbes magazine provides good insight into the situation, including this tidbit: ‘on August 26, 2022 the US appointed an Ambassador-At-Large for the Arctic’.

For a Canadian take on the challenges vis-à-vis China’s interest in the Arctic, there’s a January 12, 2021 posting on the University of Alberta’s China Institute website, “China in the Canadian Arctic: Context, Issues, and Considerations for 2021 and Beyond” by Evan Oddleifson, Tom Alton, and Scott N. Romaniuk. Note: A link has been removed,

Shandong Gold Mining Co., a Chinese state-owned enterprise, brokered a deal in May 2020 to acquire TMAC Resources, a Canadian gold mining company with operations in the Hope Bay region of Nunavut [emphasis mine]. At the time, observers voiced concern about the merits of the deal, speculating that Shandong Gold may be motivated by political/strategic interests rather than solely firm-level economic considerations.

I don’t see it mentioned in their posting, but the Shandong acquisition would be covered under the ‘Agreement Between the Government of Canada and the Government of the People’s Republic of China for the Promotion and Reciprocal Protection of Investments‘ (also known as Foreign Investment Protection Agreement (FIPA) or Foreign Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement (FIPPA). It was not a popular agreement in Canada when it was signed, from a September 12, 2014 opinion piece by Scott Harris for The Council of Canadians, Note: Links have been removed,

In the world of official government announcements, a two-paragraph media release sent out in the late afternoon on the Friday before Parliament resumes sitting is the best way for a government to admit, “We know this is really, really unpopular, but we’re doing it anyway.”

That’s the way the Harper government, by way of a release quoting Trade Minister Ed Fast, announced that it had decided to ignore widespread public opposition, parliamentary opposition from the NDP, Greens and even lukewarm Liberal criticism, an ongoing First Nations legal challenge, and even division at its own cabinet table and grassroots membership [emphases mine] and proceed with the ratification of the Canada-China Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA).

With China’s ratification of the deal long since signed, sealed, and delivered (and, really, when you can convince another government to sign a deal this lopsided in your favour, wouldn’t you ratify as quickly as possible too?) Canada’s ratification of the deal means it will enter into force on October 1 [2014]. …

The CBC published this sharply (unusual for them) worded September 19, 2014 article by Patrick Brown for CBC news online,

The secrecy shrouding the much-delayed Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (FIPA) with China makes it hard for experts, let alone average Canadians, to figure out what benefits this country will see from the deal.

While reporting on Prime Minister Stephen Harper for the first time, during his visit to China in early 2012, I wrote a column with the headline Great Glorious and Always Correct, which began: “If Stephen Harper ever gets tired of being Canada’s Prime Minister, he might like to consider a second career in China – he’d fit right in.” [Note: Our current Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, once indicated that he found some aspects of the Chinese Communist Government’s system appealing. November 8, 2013 (article) Trudeau under fire for expressing admiration for China’s ‘basic dictatorship’]

The government revealed the text of the FIPA agreement and signed [emphasis mine] it in Vladivostok not long after the Beijing trip, and gave a briefing to the parliamentary trade committee for one single hour in October 2012 [emphasis mine]. Then the cone of silence descended.

Then late Friday afternoon, the witching hour favoured by spinmeisters with stealthy announcements they hope everyone will forget by Monday, a press release revealed that the agreement with China, mysteriously unratified [emphasis mine] for almost two years, has been approved by cabinet. It goes into effect Oct. 1 [2014].

Critics of the agreement, such as Gus Van Harten, an Osgoode Hall law professor who has written two books on investment treaties, raise several key objections:

  • Canadian governments are locked in for a generation. If Canada finds the deal unsatisfactory, it cannot be cancelled completely for 31 years [emphasis mine].
  • China benefits much more than Canada, because of a clause allowing existing restrictions in each country to stay in place. Chinese companies get to play on a relatively level field in Canada, while maintaining wildly arbitrary practices and rules for Canadian companies in China.
  • Chinese companies will be able to seek redress against any laws passed by any level of government in Canada which threaten their profits.[emphasis mine] Australia has decided not to enter FIPA agreements specifically because they allow powerful corporations to challenge legislation on social, environmental and economic issues. Chinese companies investing heavily in Canadian energy will be able seek billions in compensation if their projects are hampered by provincial laws on issues such as environmental concerns or First Nations rights, for example [emphasis mine].
  • Cases will be decided by a panel of professional arbitrators, and may be kept secret at the discretion of the sued party [emphasis mine]. This extraordinary provision reflects an aversion to transparency and public debate common to the Harper cabinet and the Chinese politburo.
  • Differences between FIPA and the North American Free Trade Agreement may offer intriguing loopholes for American lawyers [emphasis mine] to argue for equal treatment under the principle of Most Favoured Nation.

It is a reciprocal agreement but it seems China might have more advantages than Canada does. So, we’ll be able to establish sovereignty in the North, eh? That should be interesting.

There doesn’t seem to be any mention of involving the indigenous peoples in the discussion around sovereignty and the North. Perhaps it’s in another chapter.

An updated defence policy, the Indo-Pacific region, and cybersecurity

Hopefully they will do a little more than simply update Canada’s defence policy as Paul T. Mitchell’s (Professor of Defence Studies, Canadian Forces College) September 23, 2021 essay (Canada’s exclusion from the AUKUS security pact reveals a failing national defence policy) for The Conversation suggests there are some serious shortcomings dating back at least 100 years, Note: Links have been removed,

The recently announced deal on nuclear submarines between Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, known as AUKUS, likely seems irrelevant to many Canadians.

But AUKUS is about far more than submarines. And Canada’s exclusion from the pact represents growing suspicions about the Canadian commitment to the rules-based international order.

The problem stems from Canada’s tacit “grand strategy” [emphasis mine] underlying our defence policy.

A country’s grand strategy typically outlines geopolitical realities alongside a plan to achieve its diplomatic goals.

In 1924, Liberal politician Raoul Dandurand famously said “Canada is a fire-proof house, far removed from flammable materials,” putting into words Canada’s approach to defence since 1867 [emphasis mine]. Simply put, three oceans and a superpower sufficiently shield us from having to think about how to achieve national security.

Canadian defence policy has never varied from three priorities — defend Canada, defend North America and contribute to international peace and security — that have appeared in every Defence Department white paper since the 1950s, regardless of the governing party. This attitude was evident in the recent election campaign, when discussions about defence were largely absent, despite growing threats from abroad and the turmoil within our own military.

Since the heydays of defence spending of the 1950s, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) have been gradually shedding fundamental capabilities — including long-range artillery, tanks, fighters that are now obsolete, submarine forces, destroyers and maritime logistics.

And while the CAF specifically faces new challenges in terms of diversity, its traditional approach to leadership has alienated thousands within the ranks, causing a rush to the exits, especially among the most experienced of personnel. The lack of support for modern equipment has also contributed to this problem.

We can continue to drag our heels, but eventually the bill will come due when our government commits our forces to a mission they can no longer fulfil because we thought we didn’t need to concern ourselves with the health of the military.

Just prior to the 2023 budget announcement, AUKUS (Australia, United Kingdom, and United States) moved forward on a security deal in the Indo-Pacific region. As far as I’m aware, the UK no longer has any exposure (colonies/territories) in the Indo-Pacific region while Canada, like the US, has one border (defined by the Pacific Ocean) on the region. Lee Berthiaume’s March 13, 2023 article for The Canadian Press can be found on both the CBC website and the CTV website,

Experts are warning that, as the U.S., Britain and Australia move ahead on an expanded military pact, Canada’s omission from that group suggests a larger problem with how this country is perceived by its friends. [emphasis mine]

U.S. President Joe Biden, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Australian leader Anthony Albanese were at a naval base in San Diego on Monday [March 13, 2023] to confirm the next steps of the trilateral agreement, known as “AUKUS” after the three countries involved.

Those next steps include formalizing American and British plans to help Australia develop a fleet of nuclear-powered submarines in response to growing concerns about China’s actions in the Indo-Pacific region.

The Trudeau government has downplayed [emphasis mine] the importance of AUKUS to Canada, saying Ottawa is not in the market for nuclear-powered submarines — even as others have lamented its absence from the pact.

One senior Canadian Armed Forces commander, Vice-Admiral Bob Auchterlonie, told The Canadian Press he worries about Canada not having access to the same cutting-edge technology [emphasis mine] as three of its closest allies.

Canada’s exclusion is seen by some as further evidence that its allies do not believe Ottawa is serious about pushing back against Chinese ambitions, despite the release of a new Indo-Pacific strategy late last year.

Canada’s strategy seeks to strike a balance between confronting and co-operating with China. It says Canada will challenge China “in areas of profound disagreement” while working together on areas of shared interest, such as climate change.

The U.S. is taking a very different approach. In a defence strategy released earlier this month, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin described “an increasingly aggressive China” as a “generational challenge” and the American military’s top priority.

Numbers remain uncertain, but Australia reportedly is poised to spend billions of dollars as part of the deal to purchase new submarines. Britain and the U.S. are also expected to put money into the agreement for technology development [emphasis mine], training and other areas.

Defence analyst David Perry of the Canadian Global Affairs Institute noted the U.S., Britain and Australia are all spending two per cent or more of their national gross domestic product on defence, compared to less than 1.3 per cent in Canada. [emphases mine]

They also have solid plans to build new submarines, while Ottawa has yet to even commit to replacing the Royal Canadian Navy’s four trouble-plagued Victoria-class vessels, let alone start work on plans to build or buy a new fleet.

Canadian military commanders — including chief of the defence staff Gen. Wayne Eyre — have repeatedly underscored the need for submarines.

Swiss cheese cybersecurity with a special emphasis on our research

While our defence spending is considered problematic, I suspect our cybersecurity is also in question, as I’ve noted previously in a September 17, 2021 posting (Council of Canadian Academies (CCA): science policy internship and a new panel on Public Safety in the Digital Age), scroll down about 45% of the way to the ‘What is public safety?’ subhead; look for the Cameron Ortis story (hints: (1) he was the top ranking civilian RCMP staff member reporting directly to the commissioner; (2) he was tasked with overseeing cybersecurity issues; and (3) he was fluent in Mandarin). You’ll also find information about the first AUKUS announcement and a link to a documentary about the Cameron Ortis affair further down under the ‘Almost breaking news’ subhead.

The Cameron Ortis story is shocking enough but when you include both the issues around the Winnipeg level 4 virology lab (see the Karen Pauls/Kimberly Ivany July 8, 2021 article for CBC online news for a summary and an analysis) and the National Research Council of Canada’s serious security breach (see the Tom Spears/Jordan Press July 29, 2014 article “Suspected Chinese cyber attack forces NRC security overhaul” for the Ottawa Citizen; it seems unbelievable and yet—it is.

This February 15, 2022 article for CBC news online by Catharine Tunney announces a report on a series of security breaches,

Gaps in Ottawa’s cyber defences could leave the government agencies holding vast amounts of data on Canadians and businesses susceptible to state-sponsored hackers from countries like China and Russia, says a new report from Parliament’s security and intelligence committee.

Their report, tabled late Monday in the House of Commons, shows previous mistakes have allowed state-sponsored actors to infiltrate and steal government information over the past decade.

“Cyber threats to government systems and networks are a significant risk to national security and the continuity of government operations,” says the report from the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians.

Intellectual property, advanced research already stolen

A year-long attack by China while Stephen Harper was prime minister served as a “wake-up call” for the federal government, said the report.

Between August 2010 and August 2011, China targeted 31 departments and eight suffered “severe compromises,” the report said. [emphases mine]

“Information losses were considerable, including email communications of senior government officials, mass exfiltration of information from several departments, including briefing notes, strategy documents and secret information, and password and file system data,” said the report.

In 2014 [emphasis mine], a Chinese state-sponsored actor was able to compromise the National Research Council.

“The theft included intellectual property and advanced research and proprietary business information from NRC’s partners. China also leveraged its access to the NRC network to infiltrate a number of government organizations,” said the report. [emphases mine]

You can find the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians Special Report on the Government of Canada’s Framework and Activities to Defend its Systems and Networks from Cyber Attack here. By the way, we have had a more recent ‘cyber incident’ at the National Research Council as reported in a March 21, 2022 article for CBC online news by Catharine Tunney.

Meanwhile, the 2022 budget (released April 7, 2022) made these announcements (from my April 19, 2022 posting; scroll down about 50% of the way to the ‘Securing Canada’s Research from Foreign Threats’ subhead),

To implement these guidelines fully, Budget 2022 proposes to provide $159.6 million, starting in 2022-23, and $33.4 million ongoing, as follows:

  • $125 million over five years, starting in 2022-23, and $25 million ongoing, for the Research Support Fund [emphasis mine] to build capacity within post- secondary institutions to identify, assess, and mitigate potential risks to research security; and
  • $34.6 million over five years, starting in 2022-23, and $8.4 million ongoing, to enhance Canada’s ability to protect our research, and to establish a Research Security Centre [emphasis mine] that will provide advice and guidance directly to research institutions.

The About page for the Research Support Fund on the SSHRC website (perhaps there’s another fund with the same name somewhere else?) doesn’t mention identifying, assessing, and/or mitigating risks to research security and I cannot find any mention of a Research Security Centre on the government of Canada website or from a Google search. The government doesn’t seem to be rushing to address these issues.

Cybersecurity for the rest of us

As a reminder, there’s this from Chapter 5,

Canada must not be a financial haven for oligarchs or the kleptocratic apparatchiks of authoritarian, corrupt, or theocratic regimes—such as those of Russia, China, Iran, and Haiti. We will not allow our world-renowned financial system to be used to clandestinely and illegally move money to fund foreign interference inside Canada. [emphases mine]

Money laundering and terrorist financing can threaten the integrity of the Canadian economy, and put Canadians at risk by supporting terrorist activity, drug and human trafficking, and other criminal activities. Taking stronger action to tackle these threats is essential to protecting Canada’s economic security.

In June 2022, the Government of British Columbia released the final report of the Commission of Inquiry into Money Laundering in British Columbia [emphasis mine], also known as the Cullen Commission. This report highlighted major gaps in the current AML/ATF Regime, as well as areas for deepened federal-provincial collaboration [emphasis mine]. Between measures previously introduced and those proposed in Budget 2023, as well as through consultations that the government has committed to launching, the federal government will have responded to all of the recommendations within its jurisdiction in the Cullen Commission report.

A March 29, 2023 article by Bob Mackin for The Breaker News comments on some of the government initiatives announced in the wake of the Cullen report about BC’s investigation into money laundering

In the wake of B.C. case collapse, Liberal government promises new regulation of money services businesses

The federal government has pledged to fill a gap in Canada’s anti-money laundering laws, less than a month after a special prosecutor’s report blamed it for the failure to bring a Richmond man to justice.

The Jin case had been one of the biggest organized crime investigations in B.C. history and was featured throughout the B.C. NDP government’s $19 million Cullen Commission public inquiry into money laundering. 

I want to emphasize that it’s not just the Chinese Communist Government that abuses our systems, there is other state-backed interference with various diaspora communities and other Canadian communities.

According to a February 14, 2023 article (The Canadian businessmen accused of helping Iran’s regime) for CBC news online by Ashley Burke and Nahayat Tizhoosh, it seems Iran has used Canada as a ‘safe haven’ for evading US sanctions and to conduct “… transactions on the Iranian regime’s behalf worth more than $750 million US.”

A February 15, 2023 followup article for CBC news online by Ashley Burke and Nahayat Tizhoosh reiterates the businessmen’s claims that the allegations are baseless and not proven in court. The article includes this,

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau says the government is working “very closely with American partners” and the Iranian diaspora in Canada to target people with ties to Iran’s regime.

Iranian-Canadians accuse the government of doing too little to ensure Canada isn’t a safe haven for the Iranian regime’s business transactions. [emphasis mine] Trudeau defended the government’s actions on Wednesday [February 15, 2023], citing the sanctions it has imposed since the fall on Iranian individuals and entities.

In October 2022 [emphasis mine], the government announced it would be spending $76 million to help enforce sanctions on Iran. Some of the money was earmarked for an additional 30 staff members at the RCMP. But the national police force confirmed it’s still working with the Department of Finance on receiving the funds. 

“The process is ongoing and its implementation is expected to start during next fiscal year [2024?],” wrote Robin Percival, a spokesperson for the RCMP.

If memory serves, the Iranian (Persian) diaspora communities like the Chinese communities in Canada have also warned of being targeted by overseas agents.

Coincidentally or not, the Council of Canadian Academies; Expert Panel on Public Safety in the Digital Age released its report, Vulnerable Connections on March 30, 2023. The expert panel was asked to answer these questions, from p. 17 (xvii) of the report,

How have activities relating to serious criminal activity (including organized crime and child sexual exploitation) and online harms (including disinformation, violent extremist and terrorist use of the internet) in Canada changed to exploit the evolving information and communications technologies (ICTs) landscape?

The headline for the CCA’s Vulnerable Connections March 30, 2023 news release highlights what the 2023 federal budget is tacitly confirming, “Advances in digital technology [are] outpacing efforts to address online harms: expert panel report” [emphasis mine].

As you can see from the budget, state-backed efforts extend from the financial sector to attempts to affect elections, intimidate various communities, and more. Let’s not forget the ‘average’ consumer; criminal enterprises are also active. So, the federal government is playing ‘catch up’ with a complex set of issues.

My final comments

As I noted, no splashy announcements but there are some interesting developments, especially with regard to military spending and a focus on cyber issues, and with the announcement of a Canada Water Agency. It all comes back to science and technology.

Always a little disappointment

There are a number of commentaries but I’m most interested in the ‘science and research’ aspect of the budget for which I found two.

First, Universities Canada issued a March 28, 2023 media release that states a position in its headline “Budget 2023 a missed opportunity to keep Canada competitive in science and research,”

“Canada’s universities are disappointed in Budget 2023’s lack of any significant support for Canadian research,” says Paul Davidson, President of Universities Canada. “With no new funding that matches the ambition of our peers, today’s budget is without the investments across Canada’s research ecosystem which are urgently needed to keep Canada competitive and ensure inclusive and sustainable growth.” 

Second, a March 28, 2023 Federation for Humanities and Social Sciences briefing note holds forth in a similar fashion,

Without a plan to attract and support our next generation of researchers, Budget 2023 is a missed opportunity for Canada. Despite a call for action from students, researchers, and our post-secondary sector, the Budget lacks urgently-needed investments in Canada’s graduate students and early-career researchers.

Over the past two decades, Canada’s graduate students and postdoctoral fellows have faced rising living costs and stagnating funding levels. Dedicated support is needed to reverse the declining value of this funding, and to ensure it remains competitive and keeps pace with rising inflation. Investment in Canada’s research talent and skilled workforce will bolster our capacity to solve our most important challenges here in Canada and internationally.

Disappointment is inevitable with any budget. The writers have a point but where will the money come from? We’re having to spend money on our military after ignoring it for decades. As well, we have security issues that are urgent not to mention the oncoming climate crisis, which faces everyone research scientists and graduate students included.

Will our money be well spent?

I don’t think I’ve ever addressed that question in any of my budget commentaries over the years.

The emphasis on the climate is encouraging as is the potential Canada Water Agency. and finally addressing some of our obligations to our military is a relief. (I have a friend who’s been in the regular Army and in the reserves and he’s been muttering about a lack of and outdated equipment for years.) Assuming the government follows through, it’s about time.

As for obligations to NATO and NORAD, our partners have rightly been applying pressure. It’s good to see money going to NORAD and perhaps the promised Defence Policy update will include policy that supports greater contributions to NATO and, since we’ve been left out of AUKUS, perhaps some fleshing out of the federal government’s new found interest in the Indo-Pacific Region. (This represents a seismic shift from the federal government’s almost exclusively eurocentric focus when looking beyond the border with our southern neighbour, the US.)

The greatest focus for election interference and influence on immigrant diaspora communities has been on the Chinese Communist Government (CCG) but there are others. The Trudeau government’s response has not been especially reassuring even with these budget promises. The best summary of the current situation regarding CCG interference that I’ve seen is an April 13, 2023 article by Frederick Kelter for Al Jazeera.

We definitely could do with a boost in our cybersecurity. The latest incident may have involved Russian hackers according to an April 13, 2023 article for CBC news online by Catharine Tunney, Note: A link has been removed,

One of Canada’s intelligence agencies says a cyber threat actor “had the potential to cause physical damage” to a piece of critical infrastructure recently, a stark warning from the Communications Security Establishment [CSE] amid a string of hits linked to pro-Russian hackers.

“I can report there was no physical damage to any Canadian energy infrastructure. But make no mistake — the threat is real,” said Sami Khoury, head of the CSE’s Canadian Centre for Cyber Security during briefing with reporters Thursday.

Earlier this week, leaked U.S. intelligence documents suggested Russian-backed hackers successfully gained access to Canada’s natural gas distribution network.

Defence Minsiter Anita Anand said Canada has seen a “notable rise in cyber threat activity by Russian-aligned” [sic] and issued a cyber flash on April 12 to let critical Canadian sectors know about an ongoing campaign.

Earlier Thursday [April 13, 2023], a pro-Russian hacking group claimed responsibility for a cyberattack on Hydro Quebec, the province’s state-owned electricity provider.

The same group took credit for knocking the Prime Minister Office website offline [emphasis mine] earlier this week in a distributed denial-of-service attack as Canada played host to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal.

Denial-of-service attacks flood the target website with traffic, triggering a crash. Earlier this week CSE said these types of attacks have very little impact on the affected systems.

Khoury said that state-sponsored cyber threat actors like to target critical infrastructure “to collect information through espionage, pre-position in case of future hostilities, and as a form of power projection and intimidation.”

My answer (will our money be well spent?) is yes, assuming at least some of it goes to the projects mentioned.

Shifting winds

The world seems an unfriendlier place these days, which is what I see reflected in this budget. Multiple references to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and a major focus on Canada’s financial system being used to support various state-sponsored hostile actions suggest the Canadian government is beginning to recognize a need to respond appropriately and, I hope, in a more time sensitive fashion than is usual for a government that is known for ‘dragging its feet’.

There’s a quite interesting April 19, 2023 article by Alexander Panetta for CBC news online, which highlights some of the tensions, Note: A link has been removed,

A massive leak of U.S. national security documents has now spilled over into Canada.

The Washington Post says it has seen a Pentagon document criticizing Canada’s military readiness among materials allegedly posted online by a Massachusetts Air National Guardsman arrested last week.

The purported document, which CBC has not seen, makes two broad claims, according to the Post.

First, it says that Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has told NATO officials privately that Canada will never reach the military spending target agreed to by members of the alliance.

Second, the document claims wide-ranging deficiencies in Canada’s military capabilities are a source of tension with allies and defence partners.

That US security leak is a good reminder that everyone has problems with security and (not mentioned in Panetta’s article) that the US spies on its ‘friends’. BTW, Canada does the same thing. Everyone spies on everyone.

The past and the future and the now

Strikingly, the 2023 budget went back in time to revisit the ‘staples theory’ when mining, agriculture, and forestry were Canadian economic mainstays.

It’s the first time I’ve seen a reference in a budget to a perennial R&D (research and development) problem, Canadian companies do not invest in research. We score low on investment in industrial research when compared to other countries. In fact, a 2018 report from the Council of Canadian Academies, “Competing in a Global Innovation Economy: The Current State of R&D in Canada; The Expert Panel on the State of Science and Technology and Industrial Research and Development in Canada” executive summary states this,

… The number of researchers per capita in Canada is on a par with that of other developed countries, and increased modestly between 2004 and 2012. Canada’s output of PhD graduates has also grown in recent years, though it remains low in per capita terms relative to many OECD countries.

In contrast, the number of R&D personnel employed in Canadian businesses dropped by 20% between 2008 and 2013. This is likely related to sustained and ongoing decline in business R&D investment across the country. R&D as a share of gross domestic product (GDP) has steadily declined in Canada since 2001, and now stands well below the OECD average (Figure 1). As one of few OECD countries with virtually no growth in total national R&D expenditures between 2006 and 2015, Canada would now need to more than double expenditures to achieve an R&D intensity comparable to that of leading countries. [p. xviii on paper or p. 20 PDF]

Our problems in this area will not be solved quickly. Nor will our defence issues; it’s about time we started paying our way with NORAD and NATO and elsewhere. By the way, I wasn’t expecting to find a “new North American regional office in Halifax for NATO’s Defence Innovation Accelerator for the North Atlantic” (innovation, in this case, being code for technology). This hearkens back to the military being a resource for scientific and technological advances, which affect us all.

More generally, it’s good to see some emphasis on the climate and on water and food security.

There was one odd note regarding the 2023 budget according to an April 18, 2023 CBC news online article by Janyce McGregor (confession: I missed it),

King Charles, Canada’s head of state, will no longer include the phrase “Defender of the Faith” in his official royal title in Canada.

The new language was revealed late Monday [April 17, 2023] when the Liberal government published its notice of the Ways and Means Motion for this spring’s budget implementation bill — the legislation that actually brings into force the measures Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland announced on March 28.

The new title will read: “Charles the Third, by the Grace of God King of Canada and His other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth.”

In addition to dropping the religious role, the revised title also deletes a reference to Charles as King of the United Kingdom — an update consistent with Canada’s status as an independent country among the 14 other countries that share the same monarch.

Getting back to the budget, I’m mildly optimistic.

The 2023 Canadian federal budget: science & technology of health, the clean economy, reconciliation, and more (1 of 2)

The Canadian federal government released its 2023 budget on Tuesday, March 28, 2023. There were no flashy science research announcements in the budget. Trudeau and his team like to trumpet science initiatives and grand plans (even if they’re reannouncing something from a previous budget) but like last year—this year—not so much.

Consequently, this posting about the annual federal budget should have been shorter than usual. What happened?

Partly, it’s the military spending (chapter 5 of the budget in part 2 of this 2023 budget post). For those who are unfamiliar with the link between military scientific research and their impact on the general population, there are a number of inventions and innovations directly due to military research, e.g., plastic surgery, television, and the internet. (You can check a November 6, 2018 essay for The Conversation by Robert Kirby, Professor of Clinical Education and Surgery at Keele University, for more about the impact of World War 1 and medical research, “World War I: the birth of plastic surgery and modern anaesthesia.”)

So, there’s a lot to be found by inference. Consequently, I found Chapter 3 to also be unexpectedly rich in science and technology efforts.

Throughout both parts of this 2023 Canadian federal budget post, you will find excerpts from individual chapters of the federal budget followed my commentary directly after. My general commentary is reserved for the end.

Sometimes, I have included an item because it piqued my interest. E.g., Canadian agriculture is dependent on Russian fertilizer!!! News to me and I imagine many others. BTW, this budget aims to wean us from this dependency.

Chapter 2: Investing in Public Health Care and Affordable Dental Care

Here goes: from https://www.budget.canada.ca/2023/report-rapport/toc-tdm-en.html,

2.1 Investing in Public Health Care

Improving Canada’s Readiness for Health Emergencies

Vaccines and other cutting-edge life-science innovations have helped us to take control of the COVID-19 pandemic. To support these efforts, the federal government has committed significant funding towards the revitalization of Canada’s biomanufacturing sector through a Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy [emphasis mine]. To date, the government has invested more than $1.8 billion in 32 vaccine, therapeutic, and biomanufacturing projects across Canada, alongside $127 million for upgrades to specialized labs at universities across the country. Canada is building a life sciences ecosystem that is attracting major investments from leading global companies, including Moderna, AstraZeneca, and Sanofi.

To build upon the progress of the past three years, the government will explore new ways to be more efficient and effective in the development and production of the vaccines, therapies, and diagnostic tools that would be required for future health emergencies. As a first step, the government will further consult Canadian and international experts on how to best organize our readiness efforts for years to come. …

Gold rush in them thar life sciences

I have covered the rush to capitalize on Canadian life sciences research (with a special emphasis on British Columbia) in various posts including (amongst others): my December 30, 2020 posting “Avo Media, Science Telephone, and a Canadian COVID-19 billionaire scientist,” and my August 23, 2021 posting “Who’s running the life science companies’ public relations campaign in British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada)?” There’s also my August 20, 2021 posting “Getting erased from the mRNA/COVID-19 story,” highlighting how brutal the competition amongst these Canadian researchers can be.

Getting back to the 2023 budget, ‘The Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy’ mentioned in this latest budget was announced in a July 28, 2021 Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada news release. You can find the strategy here and an overview of the strategy here. You may want to check out the overview as it features links to,

What We Heard Report: Results of the consultation on biomanufacturing and life sciences capacity in Canada

Ontario’s Strategy: Taking life sciences to the next level

Quebec’s Strategy: 2022–2025 Québec Life Sciences Strategy

Nova Scotia’s Strategy: BioFuture2030 Prince Edward Island’s Strategy:

The Prince Edward Island Bioscience Cluster [emphases mine]

2022 saw one government announcement concerning the strategy, from a March 3, 2022 Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada news release, Note: Links have been removed,

Protecting the health and safety of Canadians and making sure we have the domestic capacity to respond to future health crises are top priorities of the Government of Canada. With the guidance of Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy, the government is actively supporting the growth of a strong, competitive domestic life sciences sector, with cutting-edge biomanufacturing capabilities.

Today [March 3, 2022], the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, announced a $92 million investment in adMare BioInnovations to drive company innovation, scale-up and training activities in Canada’s life sciences sector. This investment will help translate commercially promising health research into innovative new therapies and will see Canadian anchor companies provide the training required and drive the growth of Canada’s life science companies.

The real action took place earlier this month (March 2023) just prior to the budget. Oddly, I can’t find any mention of these initiatives in the budget document. (Confession: I have not given the 2023 budget a close reading although I have been through the whole budget once and viewed individual chapters more closely a few times.)

This March 2, 2023 (?) Tri-agency Institutional Programs Secretariat news release kicked things off, Note 1: I found the date at the bottom of their webpage; Note 2: Links have been removed,

The Government of Canada’s main priority continues to be protecting the health and safety of Canadians. Throughout the pandemic, the quick and decisive actions taken by the government meant that Canada was able to scale up domestic biomanufacturing capacity, which had been in decline for over 40 years. Since then, the government is rebuilding a strong and competitive biomanufacturing and life sciences sector brick by brick. This includes strengthening the foundations of the life sciences ecosystem through the research and talent of Canada’s world-class postsecondary institutions and research hospitals, as well as fostering increased collaboration with innovative companies.

Today [March 2, 2023?], the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, announced an investment of $10 million in support of the creation of five research hubs [emphasis mine]:

  • CBRF PRAIRIE Hub, led by the University of Alberta
  • Canada’s Immuno-Engineering and Biomanufacturing Hub, led by The University of British Columbia
  • Eastern Canada Pandemic Preparedness Hub, led by the Université de Montréal
  • Canadian Pandemic Preparedness Hub, led by the University of Ottawa and McMaster University
  • Canadian Hub for Health Intelligence & Innovation in Infectious Diseases, led by the University of Toronto

This investment, made through Stage 1 of the integrated Canada Biomedical Research Fund (CBRF) and Biosciences Research Infrastructure Fund (BRIF) competition, will bolster research and talent development efforts led by the institutions, working in collaboration with their partners. The hubs combine the strengths of academia, industry and the public and not-for-profit sectors to jointly improve pandemic readiness and the overall health and well-being of Canadians.

The multidisciplinary research hubs will accelerate the research and development of next-generation vaccines and therapeutics and diagnostics, while supporting training and development to expand the pipeline of skilled talent. The hubs will also accelerate the translation of promising research into commercially viable products and processes. This investment helps to strengthen the resilience of Canada’s life sciences sector by supporting leading Canadian research in innovative technologies that keep us safe and boost our economy.

Today’s [March 2, 2023?] announcement also launched Stage 2 of the CBRF-BRIF competition. This is a national competition that includes $570 million in available funding for proposals, aimed at cutting-edge research, talent development and research infrastructure projects associated with the selected research hubs. By strengthening research and talent capacity and leveraging collaborations across the entire biomanufacturing ecosystem, Canada will be better prepared to face future pandemics, in order to protect Canadian’s health and safety. 

Then, the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada’s March 9, 2023 news release made this announcement, Note: Links have been removed,

Since March 2020, major achievements have been made to rebuild a vibrant domestic life sciences ecosystem to protect Canadians against future health threats. The growth of the sector is a top priority for the Government of Canada, and with over $1.8 billion committed to 33 projects to boost our domestic biomanufacturing, vaccine and therapeutics capacity, we are strengthening our resiliency for current health emergencies and our readiness for future ones.

The COVID-19 Vaccine Task Force played a critical role in guiding and supporting the Government of Canada’s COVID-19 vaccine response. Today [March 9, 2023], recognizing the importance of science-based decisions, the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, are pleased to announce the creation of the Council of Expert Advisors (CEA). The 14 members of the CEA, who held their first official meeting earlier this week, will advise the Government of Canada on the long-term, sustainable growth of Canada’s biomanufacturing and life sciences sector, and on how to enhance our preparedness and capacity to protect the health and safety of Canadians.

The membership of the CEA comprises leaders with in-depth scientific, industrial, academic and public health expertise. The CEA co-chairs are Joanne Langley, Professor of Pediatrics and of Community Health and Epidemiology at the Dalhousie University Faculty of Medicine, and Division Head of Infectious Diseases at the IWK Health Centre; and Marco Marra, Professor in Medical Genetics at the University of British Columbia (UBC), UBC Canada Research Chair in Genome Science and distinguished scientist at the BC Cancer Foundation.

The CEA’s first meeting focused on the previous steps taken under Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy and on its path forward. The creation of the CEA is an important milestone in the strategy, as it continues to evolve and adapt to new technologies and changing conditions in the marketplace and life sciences ecosystem. The CEA will also inform on investments that enhance capacity across Canada to support end-to-end production of critical vaccines, therapeutics and essential medical countermeasures, and to ensure that Canadians can reap the full economic benefits of the innovations developed, including well-paying jobs.

As I’m from British Columbia, I’m highlighting this University of British Columbia (UBC) March 17, 2023 news release about their involvement, Note: Links have been removed,

Canada’s biotech ecosystem is poised for a major boost with the federal government announcement today that B.C. will be home to Canada’s Immuno-Engineering and Biomanufacturing Hub (CIEBH).

The B.C.-based research and innovation hub, led by UBC, brings together a coalition of provincial, national and international partners to position Canada as a global epicentre for the development and manufacturing of next-generation immune-based therapeutics.

A primary goal of CIEBH is to establish a seamless drug development pipeline that will enable Canada to respond to future pandemics and other health challenges in fewer than 100 days.

This hub will build on the strengths of B.C.’s biotech and life sciences industry, and those of our national and global partners, to make Canada a world leader in the development of lifesaving medicines,” said Dr. Deborah Buszard, interim president and vice-chancellor of UBC. “It’s about creating a healthier future for all Canadians. Together with our outstanding alliance of partners, we will ensure Canada is prepared to respond rapidly to future health challenges with homegrown solutions.”

CIEBH is one of five new research hubs announced by the federal government that will work together to improve pandemic readiness and the overall health and well-being of Canadians. Federal funding of $570 million is available over the next four years to support project proposals associated with these hubs in order to advance Canada’s Biomanufacturing and Life Sciences Strategy.

More than 50 organizations representing the private, public, not-for-profit and academic sectors have come together to form the hub, creating a rich environment that will bolster biomedical innovation in Canada. Among these partners are leading B.C. biotech companies that played a key role in Canada’s COVID-19 pandemic response and are developing cutting-edge treatments for a range of human diseases.

CIEBH, led by UBC, will further align the critical mass of biomedical research strengths concentrated at B.C. academic institutions, including the B.C. Institute of Technology, Simon Fraser University and the University of Victoria, as well as the clinical expertise of B.C. research hospitals and health authorities. With linkages to key partners across Canada, including Dalhousie University, the University of Waterloo, and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization, the hub will create a national network to address gaps in Canada’s drug development pipeline.

In recent decades, B.C. has emerged as a global leader in immuno-engineering, a field that is transforming how society treats disease by harnessing and modulating the immune system.

B.C. academic institutions and prominent Canadian companies like Precision NanoSystems, Acuitas Therapeutics and AbCellera have developed significant expertise in advanced immune-based therapeutics such as lipid nanoparticle- and mRNA-based vaccines, engineered antibodies, cell therapies and treatments for antimicrobial resistant infections. UBC professor Dr. Pieter Cullis, a member of CIEBH’s core scientific team, has been widely recognized for his pioneering work developing the lipid nanoparticle delivery technology that enables mRNA therapeutics such as the highly effective COVID-19 mRNA vaccines.

As noted previously, I’m a little puzzled that the federal government didn’t mention the investment in these hubs in their budget. They usually trumpet these kinds of initiatives.

On a related track, I’m even more puzzled that the province of British Columbia does not have its own life sciences research strategy in light of that sector’s success. Certainly it seems that Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward are all eager to get a piece of the action. Still, there is a Life Sciences in British Columbia: Sector Profile dated June 2020 and an undated (likely from some time between July 2017 to January 2020 when Bruce Ralston whose name is on the document was the relevant cabinet minister) British Columbia Technology and Innovation Policy Framework.

In case you missed the link earlier, see my August 23, 2021 posting “Who’s running the life science companies’ public relations campaign in British Columbia (Vancouver, Canada)?” which includes additional information about the BC life sciences sector, federal and provincial funding, the City of Vancouver’s involvement, and other related matters.

Chapter 3: A Made-In-Canada Plan: Affordable Energy, Good Jobs, and a Growing Clean Economy

The most science-focused information is in Chapter 3, from https://www.budget.canada.ca/2023/report-rapport/toc-tdm-en.html,

3.2 A Growing, Clean Economy

More than US$100 trillion in private capital is projected to be spent between now and 2050 to build the global clean economy.

Canada is currently competing with the United States, the European Union, and countries around the world for our share of this investment. To secure our share of this global investment, we must capitalize on Canada’s competitive advantages, including our skilled and diverse workforce, and our abundance of critical resources that the world needs.

The federal government has taken significant action over the past seven years to support Canada’s net-zero economic future. To build on this progress and support the growth of Canada’s clean economy, Budget 2023 proposes a range of measures that will encourage businesses to invest in Canada and create good-paying jobs for Canadian workers.

This made-in-Canada plan follows the federal tiered structure to incent the development of Canada’s clean economy and provide additional support for projects that need it. This plan includes:

  • Clear and predictable investment tax credits to provide foundational support for clean technology manufacturing, clean hydrogen, zero-emission technologies, and carbon capture and storage;
  • The deployment of financial instruments through the Canada Growth Fund, such as contracts for difference, to absorb certain risks and encourage private sector investment in low-carbon projects, technologies, businesses, and supply chains; and,
  • Targeted clean technology and sector supports delivered by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada to support battery manufacturing and further advance the development, application, and manufacturing of clean technologies.

Canada’s Potential in Critical Minerals

As a global leader in mining, Canada is in a prime position to provide a stable resource base for critical minerals [emphasis mine] that are central to major global industries such as clean technology, auto manufacturing, health care, aerospace, and the digital economy. For nickel and copper alone, the known reserves in Canada are more than 10 million tonnes, with many other potential sources at the exploration stage.

The Buy North American provisions for critical minerals and electric vehicles in the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act will create opportunities for Canada. In particular, U.S. acceleration of clean technology manufacturing will require robust supply chains of critical minerals that Canada has in abundance. However, to fully unleash Canada’s potential in critical minerals, we need to ensure a framework is in place to accelerate private investment.

Budget 2022 committed $3.8 billion for Canada’s Critical Minerals Strategy to provide foundational support to Canada’s mining sector to take advantage of these new opportunities. The Strategy was published in December 2022.

On March 24, 2023, the government launched the Critical Minerals Infrastructure Fund [emphasis mine; I cannot find a government announcement/news release for this fund]—a new fund announced in Budget 2022 that will allocate $1.5 billion towards energy and transportation projects needed to unlock priority mineral deposits. The new fund will complement other clean energy and transportation supports, such as the Canada Infrastructure Bank and the National Trade Corridors Fund, as well as other federal programs that invest in critical minerals projects, such as the Strategic Innovation Fund.

The new Investment Tax Credit for Clean Technology Manufacturing proposed in Budget 2023 will also provide a significant incentive to boost private investment in Canadian critical minerals projects and create new opportunities and middle class jobs in communities across the country.

An Investment Tax Credit for Clean Technology Manufacturing

Supporting Canadian companies in the manufacturing and processing of clean technologies, and in the extraction and processing of critical minerals, will create good middle class jobs for Canadians, ensure our businesses remain competitive in major global industries, and support the supply chains of our allies around the world.

While the Clean Technology Investment Tax Credit, first announced in Budget 2022, will provide support to Canadian companies adopting clean technologies, the Clean Technology Manufacturing Investment Tax Credit will provide support to Canadian companies that are manufacturing or processing clean technologies and their precursors.

  • Budget 2023 proposes a refundable tax credit equal to 30 per cent of the cost of investments in new machinery and equipment used to manufacture or process key clean technologies, and extract, process, or recycle key critical minerals, including:
    • Extraction, processing, or recycling of critical minerals essential for clean technology supply chains, specifically: lithium, cobalt, nickel, graphite, copper, and rare earth elements;
    • Manufacturing of renewable or nuclear energy equipment;
    • Processing or recycling of nuclear fuels and heavy water; [emphases mine]
    • Manufacturing of grid-scale electrical energy storage equipment;
    • Manufacturing of zero-emission vehicles; and,
    • Manufacturing or processing of certain upstream components and materials for the above activities, such as cathode materials and batteries used in electric vehicles.

The investment tax credit is expected to cost $4.5 billion over five years, starting in 2023-24, and an additional $6.6 billion from 2028-29 to 2034-35. The credit would apply to property that is acquired and becomes available for use on or after January 1, 2024, and would no longer be in effect after 2034, subject to a phase-out starting in 2032.

3.4 Reliable Transportation and Resilient Infrastructure

Supporting Resilient Infrastructure Through Innovation

The Smart Cities Challenge [emphasis mine] was launched in 2017 to encourage cities to adopt new and innovative approaches to improve the quality of life for their residents. The first round of the Challenge resulted in $75 million in prizes across four winning applicants: Montreal, Quebec; Guelph, Ontario; communities of Nunavut; and Bridgewater, Nova Scotia.

New and innovative solutions are required to help communities reduce the risks and impacts posed by weather-related events and disasters triggered by climate change. To help address this issue, the government will be launching a new round of the Smart Cities Challenge later this year, which will focus on using connected technologies, data, and innovative approaches to improve climate resiliency.

3.5 Investing in Tomorrow’s Technology

With the best-educated workforce on earth, world-class academic and research institutions, and robust start-up ecosystems across the country, Canada’s economy is fast becoming a global technology leader – building on its strengths in areas like artificial intelligence. Canada is already home to some of the top markets for high-tech careers in North America, including the three fastest growing markets between 2016 and 2021: Vancouver, Toronto, and Quebec City.

However, more can be done to help the Canadian economy reach its full potential. Reversing a longstanding trend of underinvestment in research and development by Canadian business [emphasis mine] is essential our long-term economic growth.

Budget 2023 proposes new measures to encourage business innovation in Canada, as well as new investments in college research and the forestry industry that will help to build a stronger and more innovative Canadian economy.

Attracting High-Tech Investment to Canada

In recent months, Canada has attracted several new digital and high-tech projects that will support our innovative economy, including:

  • Nokia: a $340 million project that will strengthen Canada’s position as a leader in 5G and digital innovation;
  • Xanadu Quantum Technologies: a $178 million project that will support Canada’s leadership in quantum computing;
  • Sanctuary Cognitive Systems Corporation: a $121 million project that will boost Canada’s leadership in the global Artificial Intelligence market; and,
  • EXFO: a $77 million project to create a 5G Centre of Excellence that aims to develop one of the world’s first Artificial Intelligence-based automated network solutions.

Review of the Scientific Research and Experimental Development Tax Incentive Program

The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax incentive program continues to be a cornerstone of Canada’s innovation strategy by supporting research and development with the goal of encouraging Canadian businesses of all sizes to invest in innovation that drives economic growth.

In Budget 2022, the federal government announced its intention to review the SR&ED program to ensure it is providing adequate support and improving the development, retention, and commercialization of intellectual property, including the consideration of adopting a patent box regime. [emphasis mine] The Department of Finance will continue to engage with stakeholders on the next steps in the coming months.

Modernizing Canada’s Research Ecosystem

Canada’s research community and world-class researchers solve some of the world’s toughest problems, and Canada’s spending on higher education research and development, as a share of GDP, has exceeded all other G7 countries. 

Since 2016, the federal government has committed more than $16 billion of additional funding to support research and science across Canada. This includes:

  • Nearly $4 billion in Budget 2018 for Canada’s research system, including $2.4 billion for the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the granting councils—the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research; [emphases mine]
  • More than $500 million in Budget 2019 in total additional support to third-party research and science organizations, in addition to the creation of the Strategic Science Fund, which will announce successful recipients later this year;
  • $1.2 billion in Budget 2021 for Pan-Canadian Genomics and Artificial Intelligence Strategies, and a National Quantum Strategy;
  • $1 billion in Budget 2021 to the granting councils and the Canada Foundation for Innovation for life sciences researchers and infrastructure; and,
  • The January 2023 announcement of Canada’s intention to become a full member in the Square Kilometre Array Observatory, which will provide Canadian astronomers with access to its ground-breaking data. The government is providing up to $269.3 million to support this collaboration.

In order to maintain Canada’s research strength—and the knowledge, innovations, and talent it fosters—our systems to support science and research must evolve. The government has been consulting with stakeholders, including through the independent Advisory Panel on the Federal Research Support System, to seek advice from research leaders on how to further strengthen Canada’s research support system.

The government is carefully considering the Advisory Panel’s advice, with more detail to follow in the coming months on further efforts to modernize the system.

Using College Research to Help Businesses Grow

Canada’s colleges, CEGEPs, and polytechnic institutes use their facilities, equipment, and expertise to solve applied research problems every day. Students at these institutions are developing the skills they need to start good careers when they leave school, and by partnering with these institutions, businesses can access the talent and the tools they need to innovate and grow.

  • To help more Canadian businesses access the expertise and research and development facilities they need, Budget 2023 proposes to provide $108.6 million over three years, starting in 2023-24, to expand the College and Community Innovation Program, administered by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council.

Supporting Canadian Leadership in Space

For decades, Canada’s participation in the International Space Station has helped to fuel important scientific advances, and showcased Canada’s ability to create leading-edge space technologies, such as Canadarm2. Canadian space technologies have inspired advances in other fields, such as the NeuroArm, the world’s first robot capable of operating inside an MRI, making previously impossible surgeries possible.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $1.1 billion [emphasis mine] over 14 years, starting in 2023-24, on a cash basis, to the Canadian Space Agency [emphasis mine] to continue Canada’s participation in the International Space Station until 2030.

Looking forward, humanity is returning to the moon [emphasis mine]. Canada intends to join these efforts by contributing a robotic lunar utility vehicle to perform key activities in support of human lunar exploration. Canadian participation in the NASA-led Lunar Gateway station—a space station that will orbit the moon—also presents new opportunities for innovative advances in science and technology. Canada is providing Canadarm3 to the Lunar Gateway, and a Canadian astronaut will join Artemis II, the first crewed mission to the moon since 1972. In Budget 2023, the government is providing further support to assist these missions.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $1.2 billion [emphasis mine] over 13 years, starting in 2024-25, to the Canadian Space Agency to develop and contribute a lunar utility vehicle to assist astronauts on the moon.
  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $150 million [emphasis mine[ over five years, starting in 2023-24, to the Canadian Space Agency for the next phase of the Lunar Exploration Accelerator Program to support the Canada’s world-class space industry and help accelerate the development of new technologies.
  • Budget 2023 also proposes to provide $76.5 million [emphasis mine] over eight years, starting in 2023-24, on a cash basis, to the Canadian Space Agency in support of Canadian science on the Lunar Gateway station.

Investing in Canada’s Forest Economy

The forestry sector plays an important role in Canada’s natural resource economy [emphasis mine], and is a source of good careers in many rural communities across Canada, including Indigenous communities. As global demand for sustainable forest products grows, continued support for Canada’s forestry sector will help it innovate, grow, and support good middle class jobs for Canadians.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $368.4 million over three years, starting in 2023-24, with $3.1 million in remaining amortization, to Natural Resources Canada to renew and update forest sector support, including for research and development, Indigenous and international leadership, and data. Of this amount, $30.1 million would be sourced from existing departmental resources.

Establishing the Dairy Innovation and Investment Fund

The dairy sector is facing a growing surplus of solids non-fat (SNF) [emphasis mine], a by-product of dairy processing. Limited processing capacity for SNF results in lost opportunities for dairy processors and farmers.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $333 million over ten years, starting in 2023-24, for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to support investments in research and development of new products based on SNF, market development for these products, and processing capacity for SNF-based products more broadly.

Supporting Farmers for Diversifying Away from Russian Fertilizers

Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine has resulted in higher prices for nitrogen fertilizers, which has had a notable impact on Eastern Canadian farmers who rely heavily on imported fertilizer.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $34.1 million over three years, starting in 2023-24, to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s On-Farm Climate Action Fund to support adoption of nitrogen management practices by Eastern Canadian farmers, that will help optimize the use and reduce the need for fertilizer.

Providing Interest Relief for Agricultural Producers

Farm production costs have increased in Canada and around the world, including as a result Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine and global supply chain disruptions. It is important that Canada’s agricultural producers have access to the cash flow they need to cover these costs until they sell their products.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $13 million in 2023-24 to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada to increase the interest-free limit for loans under the Advance Payments Program from $250,000 to $350,000 for the 2023 program year.

Additionally, the government will consult with provincial and territorial counterparts to explore ways to extend help to small agricultural producers who demonstrate urgent financial need.

Maintaining Livestock Sector Exports with a Foot-and-Mouth Disease Vaccine Bank

Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) is a highly transmissible illness that can affect cattle, pigs, and other cloven-hoofed animals. Recent outbreaks in Asia and Africa have increased the risk of global spread, and a FMD outbreak in Canada would cut off exports for all livestock sectors, with major economic implications. However, the impact of a potential outbreak would be significantly reduced with the early vaccination of livestock. 

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $57.5 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, with $5.6 million ongoing, to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to establish a FMD vaccine bank for Canada, and to develop FMD response plans. The government will seek a cost-sharing arrangement with provinces and territories.

Canadian economic theory (the staples theory), mining, nuclear energy, quantum science, and more

Critical minerals are getting a lot of attention these days. (They were featured in the 2022 budget, see my April 19, 2022 posting, scroll down to the Mining subhead.) This year, US President Joe Biden, in his first visit to Canada as President, singled out critical minerals at the end of his 28 hour state visit (from a March 24, 2023 CBC news online article by Alexander Panetta; Note: Links have been removed),

There was a pot of gold at the end of President Joe Biden’s jaunt to Canada. It’s going to Canada’s mining sector.

The U.S. military will deliver funds this spring to critical minerals projects in both the U.S. and Canada. The goal is to accelerate the development of a critical minerals industry on this continent.

The context is the United States’ intensifying rivalry with China.

The U.S. is desperate to reduce its reliance on its adversary for materials needed to power electric vehicles, electronics and many other products, and has set aside hundreds of millions of dollars under a program called the Defence Production Act.

The Pentagon already has told Canadian companies they would be eligible to apply. It has said the cash would arrive as grants, not loans.

On Friday [March 24, 2023], before Biden left Ottawa, he promised they’ll get some.

The White House and the Prime Minister’s Office announced that companies from both countries will be eligible this spring for money from a $250 million US fund.

Which Canadian companies? The leaders didn’t say. Canadian officials have provided the U.S. with a list of at least 70 projects that could warrant U.S. funding.

“Our nations are blessed with incredible natural resources,” Biden told Canadian parliamentarians during his speech in the House of Commons.

Canada in particular has large quantities of critical minerals [emphasis mine] that are essential for our clean energy future, for the world’s clean energy future.

I don’t believe that Joe Biden has ever heard of the Canadian academic Harold Innis (neither have most Canadians) but Biden is echoing a rather well known theory, in some circles, about Canada’s economy (from the Harold Innis Wikipedia entry),

Harold Adams Innis FRSC (November 5, 1894 – November 9, 1952) was a Canadian professor of political economy at the University of Toronto and the author of seminal works on media, communication theory, and Canadian economic history. He helped develop the staples thesis, which holds that Canada’s culture, political history, and economy have been decisively influenced by the exploitation and export of a series of “staples” such as fur, fish, lumber, wheat, mined metals, and coal. The staple thesis dominated economic history in Canada from the 1930s to 1960s, and continues to be a fundamental part of the Canadian political economic tradition.[8] [all emphases mine]

The staples theory is referred to informally as “hewers of wood and drawers of water.”

Critical Minerals Infrastructure Fund

I cannot find an announcement for this fund (perhaps it’s a US government fund?) but there is a March 7, 2023 Natural Resources Canada news release, Note: A link has been removed,

Simply put, our future depends on critical minerals. The Government of Canada is committed to investing in this future, which is why the Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy — launched by the Honourable Jonathan Wilkinson, Minister of Natural Resources, in December 2022 — is backed by up to $3.8 billion in federal funding. [emphases mine] Today [March 7, 2023], Minister Wilkinson announced more details on the implementation of this Strategy. Over $344 million in funding is supporting the following five new programs and initiatives:

  • Critical Minerals Technology and Innovation Program – $144.4 million for the research, development, demonstration, commercialization and adoption of new technologies and processes that support sustainable growth in Canadian critical minerals value chains and associated innovation ecosystems. 
  • Critical Minerals Geoscience and Data Initiative – $79.2 million to enhance the quality and availability of data and digital technologies to support geoscience and mapping that will accelerate the efficient and effective development of Canadian critical minerals value chains, including by identifying critical minerals reserves and developing pathways for sustainable mineral development. 
  • Global Partnerships Program – $70 million to strengthen Canada’s global leadership role in enhancing critical minerals supply chain resiliency through international collaborations related to critical minerals. 
  • Northern Regulatory Initiative – $40 million to advance Canada’s northern and territorial critical minerals agenda by supporting regulatory dialogue, regional studies, land-use planning, impact assessments and Indigenous consultation.
  • Renewal of the Critical Minerals Centre of Excellence (CMCE) – $10.6 million so the CMCE can continue the ongoing development and implementation of the Canadian Critical Minerals Strategy.

Commentary from the mining community

Mariaan Webb wrote a March 29,2023 article about the budget and the response from the mining community for miningweekly.com, Note: Links have been removed,

The 2023 Budget, delivered by Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland on Tuesday, bolsters the ability of the Canadian mining sector to deliver for the country, recognising the industry’s central role in enabling the transition to a net-zero economy, says Mining Association of Canada (MAC) president and CEO Pierre Gratton.

“Without mining, there are no electric vehicles, no clean power from wind farms, solar panels or nuclear energy, [emphasis mine] and no transmission lines,” said Gratton.

What kind of nuclear energy?

There are two kinds of nuclear energy: fission and fusion. (Fission is the one where the atom is split and requires minerals. Fusion energy is how stars are formed. Much less polluting than fission energy, at this time it is not a commercially viable option nor is it close to being so.)

As far as I’m aware, fusion energy does not require any mined materials. So, Gratton appears to be referring to fission nuclear energy when he’s talking about the mining sector and critical minerals.

I have an October 28, 2022 posting, which provides an overview of fusion energy and the various projects designed to capitalize on it.

Smart Cities in Canada

I was happy to be updated on the Smart Cities Challenge. When I last wrote about it (a March 20, 2018 posting; scroll down to the “Smart Cities, the rest of the country, and Vancouver” subhead). I notice that the successful applicants are from Montreal, Quebec; Guelph, Ontario; communities of Nunavut; and Bridgewater, Nova Scotia. It’s about time northern communities got some attention. It’s hard not to notice that central Canada (i.e., Ontario and Quebec) again dominates.

I look forward to hearing more about the new, upcoming challenge.

The quantum crew

I first made note of what appears to be a fracture in the Canadian quantum community in a May 4, 2021 posting (scroll down to the National Quantum Strategy subhead) about the 2021 budget. I made note of it again in a July 26, 2022 posting (scroll down to the Canadian quantum scene subhead).

In my excerpts from the 3.5 Investing in Tomorrow’s Technology section of the 2023 budget, Xanadu Quantum Technologies, headquartered in Toronto, Ontario is singled out with three other companies (none of which are in the quantum computing field). Oddly, D-Wave Systems (located in British Columbia), which as far as I’m aware is the star of Canada’s quantum computing sector, has yet to be singled out in any budget I’ve seen yet. (I’m estimating I’ve reviewed about 10 budgets.)

Canadians in space

Shortly after the 2023 budget was presented, Canadian astronaut Jeremy Hansen was revealed as one of four astronauts to go on a mission to orbit the moon. From a Canadian Broadcasting (CBC) April 3, 2023 news online article by Nicole Mortillaro (Note: A link has been removed),

Jeremy Hansen is heading to the moon.

The 47-year old Canadian astronaut was announced today as one of four astronauts — along with Christina Koch, Victor Glover and Reid Wiseman — who will be part of NASA’s [US National Aeronautics and Space Administration] Artemis II mission.

Hansen was one of four active Canadian astronauts that included Jennifer Sidey-Gibbons, Joshua Kutryk and David Saint-Jacques vying for a seat on the Orion spacecraft set to orbit the moon.

Artemis II is the second step in NASA’s mission to return astronauts to the surface of the moon. 

The astronauts won’t be landing, but rather they will orbit for 10 days in the Orion spacecraft, testing key components to prepare for Artemis III that will place humans back on the moon some time in 2025 for the first time since 1972.

Canada gets a seat on Artemis II due to its contributions to Lunar Gateway, a space station that will orbit the moon. But Canada is also building a lunar rover provided by Canadensys Aerospace.

On Monday [April 3, 2023], Hansen noted there are two reasons a Canadian is going to the moon, adding that it “makes me smile when I say that.”

The first, he said, is American leadership, and the decision to curate an international team.

“The second reason is Canada’s can-do attitude,” he said proudly.

In addition to our ‘can-do attitude,” we’re also spending some big money, i.e., the Canadian government has proposed in its 2023 budget some $2.5B to various space and lunar efforts over the next several years.

Chapter 3 odds and sods

First seen in the 2022 budget, the patent box regime makes a second appearance in the 2023 budget where apparently ‘stakeholders will be engaged’ later this year. At least, they’re not rushing into this. (For the original announcement and an explanation of a patent box regime, see my April 19, 2022 budget review; scroll down to the Review of Tax Support to R&D and Intellectual Property subhead.)

I’m happy to see the Dairy Innovation and Investment Fund. I’m particularly happy to see a focus on finding uses for solids non-fat (SNF) by providing “$333 million over ten years, starting in 2023-24, … research and development of new products based on SNF [emphasis mine], market development for these products, and processing capacity for SNF-based products more broadly.”

This investment contrasts with the approach to cellulose nanocrystals (CNC) derived from wood (i.e., the forest economy), where the Canadian government invested heavily in research and even opened a production facility under the auspices of a company, CelluForce. It was a little problematic.

By 2013, the facility had a stockpile of CNC and nowhere to sell it. That’s right, no market for CNC as there had been no product development. (See my May 8, 2012 posting where that lack is mentioned, specifically there’s a quote from Tim Harper in an excerpted Globe and Mail article. My August 17, 2016 posting notes that the stockpile was diminishing. The CelluForce website makes no mention of it now in 2023.)

It’s good to see the government emphasis on research into developing products for SNFs especially after the CelluForce stockpile and in light of US President Joe Biden’s recent enthusiasm over our critical minerals.

Chapter 4: Advancing Reconciliation and Building a Canada That Works for Everyone

Chapter 4: Advancing Reconciliation and Building a Canada That Works for Everyone offers this, from https://www.budget.canada.ca/2023/report-rapport/toc-tdm-en.html,

4.3 Clean Air and Clean Water

Progress on Biodiversity

Montreal recently hosted the Fifteenth Conference of the Parties (COP15) to the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, which led to a new Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. During COP15, Canada announced new funding for biodiversity and conservation measures at home and abroad that will support the implementation of the Global Biodiversity Framework, including $800 million to support Indigenous-led conservation within Canada through the innovative Project Finance for Permanence model.

Protecting Our Freshwater

Canada is home to 20 per cent of the world’s freshwater supply. Healthy lakes and rivers are essential to Canadians, communities, and businesses across the country. Recognizing the threat to freshwater caused by climate change and pollution, the federal government is moving forward to establish a new Canada Water Agency and make major investments in a strengthened Freshwater Action Plan.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $650 million over ten years, starting in 2023-24, to support monitoring, assessment, and restoration work in the Great Lakes, Lake Winnipeg, Lake of the Woods, St. Lawrence River, Fraser River, Saint John River, Mackenzie River, and Lake Simcoe. Budget 2023 also proposes to provide $22.6 million over three years, starting in 2023-24, to support better coordination of efforts to protect freshwater across Canada.
  • Budget 2023 also proposes to provide $85.1 million over five years, starting in 2023-24, with $0.4 million in remaining amortization and $21 million ongoing thereafter to support the creation of the Canada Water Agency [emphasis mine], which will be headquartered in Winnipeg. By the end of 2023, the government will introduce legislation that will fully establish the Canada Water Agency as a standalone entity.

Cleaner and Healthier Ports

Canada’s ports are at the heart of our supply chains, delivering goods to Canadians and allowing our businesses to reach global markets. As rising shipping levels enable and create economic growth and good jobs, the federal government is taking action to protect Canada’s coastal ecosystems and communities.

  • Budget 2023 proposes to provide $165.4 million over seven years, starting in 2023-24, to Transport Canada to establish a Green Shipping Corridor Program to reduce the impact of marine shipping on surrounding communities and ecosystems. The program will help spur the launch of the next generation of clean ships, invest in shore power technology, and prioritize low-emission and low-noise vessels at ports.

Water, water everywhere

I wasn’t expecting to find mention of establishing a Canada Water Agency and details are sketchy other than, It will be in Winnipeg, Manitoba and there will be government funding. Fingers crossed that this agency will do some good work (whatever that might be). Personally, I’d like to see some action with regard to droughts.

In British Columbia (BC) where I live and which most of us think of as ‘water rich’, is suffering under conditions such that our rivers and lakes are at very low levels according to an April 6, 2023 article by Glenda Luymes for the Vancouver Sun (print version, p. A4),

On the North American WaterWatch map, which codes river flows using a series of coloured dots, high flows are represented in various shades of blue while low flows are represented in red hues. On Wednesday [April 5, 2023], most of BC was speckled red, brown and orange, with the majority of the province’s rivers flowing “much below normal.”

“It does not bode well for the fish populations,” said Marvin Rosenau, a fisheries and ecosystems instructor at BCIT [British Columbia Institute of Technology]. …

Rosenau said low water last fall [2022], when much of BC was in the grip of drought, decreased salmon habitat during spawning season. …

BC has already seen small early season wildfires, including one near Merritt last weekend [April 1/2, 2023]. …

Getting back to the Canada Water Agency, there’s this March 29, 2023 CBC news online article by Bartley Kives,

The 2023 federal budget calls for a new national water agency to be based in Winnipeg, provided Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government remains in power long enough to see it established [emphasis mine] in the Manitoba capital.

The budget announced on Tuesday [March 28, 2023] calls for the creation of the Canada Water Agency, a new federal entity with a headquarters in Winnipeg.

While the federal government is still determining precisely what the new agency will do, one Winnipeg-based environmental organization expects it to become a one-stop shop for water science, water quality assessment and water management [emphasis mine].

“This is something that we don’t actually have in this country at the moment,” said Matt McCandless, a vice-president for the non-profit International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Right now, municipalities, provinces and Indigenous authorities take different approaches to managing water quality, water science, flooding and droughts, said McCandless, adding a national water agency could provide more co-ordination.

For now, it’s unknown how many employees will be based at the Canada Water Agency’s Winnipeg headquarters. According to the budget, legislation to create the agency won’t be introduced until later this year [emphasis mine].

That means the Winnipeg headquarters likely won’t materialize before 2024, one year before the Trudeau minority government faces re-election, assuming it doesn’t lose the confidence of the House of Commons beforehand [emphasis mine].

Nonetheless, several Canadian cities and provinces were vying for the Canada Water Agency’s headquarters, including Manitoba.

The budget also calls for $65 million worth of annual spending on lake science and restoration, with an unstated fraction of that cash devoted to Lake Winnipeg.

McCandless calls the spending on water science an improvement over previous budgets.

Kives seems a tad jaundiced but you get that way (confession: I have too) when covering government spending promises.

Part 2 (military spending and general comments) will be posted sometime during the week of April 24-28, 2023.

Are we spending money on the right research? Government of Canada launches Advisory Panel

it’s a little surprising that this is not being managed by the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) but perhaps their process is not quite nimble enough (from an October 6, 2022 Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada news release),

Government of Canada launches Advisory Panel on the Federal Research Support System

Members to recommend enhancements to system to position Canadian researchers for success

October 6, 2022 – Ottawa, Ontario

Canada’s success is in large part due to our world-class researchers and their teams who are globally recognized for unleashing bold new ideas, driving technological breakthroughs and addressing complex societal challenges. The Government of Canada recognizes that for Canada to achieve its full potential, support for science and research must evolve as Canadians push beyond what is currently imaginable and continue to find Canadian-made solutions to the world’s toughest problems.

Today [October 6, 2022], the Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and the Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health, launched the Advisory Panel on the Federal Research Support System. Benefiting from the insights of leaders in the science, research and innovation ecosystem, the panel will provide independent, expert policy advice on the structure, governance and management of the federal system supporting research and talent. This will ensure that Canadian researchers are positioned for even more success now and in the future.

The panel will focus on the relationships among the federal research granting agencies—the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research—and the relationship between these agencies and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

As the COVID-19 pandemic and climate crisis have shown, addressing the world’s most pressing challenges requires greater collaboration within the Canadian research community, government and industry, as well as with the international community. A cohesive and agile research support system will ensure Canadian researchers can quickly and effectively respond to the questions of today and tomorrow. Optimizing Canada’s research support system will equip researchers to transcend disciplines and borders, seize new opportunities and be responsive to emerging needs and interests to improve Canadians’ health, well-being and prosperity.

Quotes

“Canada is known for world-class research thanks to the enormous capabilities of our researchers. Canadian researchers transform curiosity into bold new ideas that can significantly enhance Canadians’ lives and well-being. With this advisory panel, our government will ensure our support for their research is just as cutting-edge as Canada’s science and research community.”
– The Honourable François-Philippe Champagne, Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry

“Our priority is to support Canada’s world-class scientific community so it can respond effectively to the challenges of today and the future. That’s why we are leveraging the expertise and perspectives of a newly formed advisory panel to maximize the impact of research and downstream innovation, which contributes significantly to Canadians’ well-being and prosperity.”
– The Honourable Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Health

Quick facts

The Advisory Panel on the Federal Research Support System has seven members, including the Chair. The members were selected by the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry and the Minister of Health. The panel will consult with experts and stakeholders to draw on their diverse experiences, expertise and opinions. 

Since 2016, the Government of Canada has committed more than $14 billion to support research and science across Canada. 

Here’s a list of advisory panel members I’ve assembled from the Advisory Panel on the Federal Research Support System: Member biographies webpage,

  • Frédéric Bouchard (Chair) is Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at the Université de Montréal, where he has been a professor of philosophy of science since 2005.
  • Janet Rossant is a Senior Scientist Emeritus in the Developmental and Stem Cell Biology Program, the Hospital for Sick Children and a Professor Emeritus at the University of Toronto’s Department of Molecular Genetics.
  • [Gilles Patry] is Professor Emeritus and President Emeritus at the University of Ottawa. Following a distinguished career as a consulting engineer, researcher and university administrator, Gilles Patry is now a consultant and board director [Royal Canadian Mint].
  • Yolande E. Chan joined McGill University’s Desautels Faculty of Management as Dean and James McGill Professor in 2021. Her research focuses on innovation, knowledge strategy, digital strategy, digital entrepreneurship, and business-IT alignment.
  • Laurel Schafer is a Professor at the Department of Chemistry at the University of British Columbia. Her research focuses on developing novel organometallic catalysts to carry out difficult transformations in small molecule organic chemistry.
  • Vianne Timmons is the President and Vice-Chancellor of Memorial University of Newfoundland since 2020. She is a nationally and internationally recognized researcher and advocate in the field of inclusive education.
  • Dr. Baljit Singh is a highly accomplished researcher, … . He began his role as Vice-President Research at the University of Saskatchewan in 2021, after serving as Dean of the University of Calgary Faculty of Veterinary Medicine (2016 – 2020), and as Associate Dean of Research at the Western College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan (2010 – 2016).

Nobody from the North. Nobody who’s worked there or lived there or researched there. It’s not the first time I’ve noticed a lack of representation for the North.

Canada’s golden triangle (Montréal, Toronto, Ottawa) is well represented and, as is often the case, there’s representation for other regions: one member from the Prairies, one member from the Maritimes or Atlantic provinces, and one member from the West.

The mandate indicates they could have five to eight members. With seven spots filled, they could include one more member, one from the North.

Even if they don’t add an eighth member, I’m not ready to abandon all hope for involvement from the North when there’s this, from the mandate,

Communications and deliverables

In pursuing its mandate, and to strengthen its advice, the panel may engage with experts and stakeholders to expand access [emphasis mine] to diverse experience, expertise and opinion, and enhance members’ understanding of the topics at hand.

To allow for frank and open discussion, internal panel deliberations among members will be closed.

The panel will deliver a final confidential report by December 2022 [emphasis mine] to the Ministers including recommendations and considerations regarding the modernization of the research support system. A summary of the panel’s observations on the state of the federal research support system may be made public once its deliberations have concluded. The Ministers may also choose to seek confidential advice and/or feedback from the panel on other issues related to the research system.

The panel may also be asked to deliver an interim confidential report to the Ministers by November 2022 [emphases mine], which will provide the panel’s preliminary observations up to that point.

it seems odd there’s no mention of the Pan-Canadian Artificial Intelligence Strategy. It’s my understanding that the funding goes directly from the federal government to the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research (CIFAR), which then distributes the funds. There are other unmentioned science funding agencies, e.g., the National Research Council of Canada and Genome Canada, which (as far as I know) also receive direct funding. It seems that the panel will not be involved in a comprehensive review of Canada’s research support ecosystem.

Plus, I wonder why everything is being kept ‘confidential’. According the government news release, the panel is tasked with finding ways of “optimizing Canada’s research support system.” Do they have security concerns or is this a temporary state of affairs while the government analysts examine the panel’s report?