Evolving digital technologies are critical to the global economy and to Canada’s future
economic growth and prosperity. The rapid pace of innovation, along with shifting global
leadership in digital technology, are creating major challenges for Canada’s digital
industries, but also new opportunities. Canada’s future competitiveness and prospects for
economic growth are inextricably linked to our ability to seize the digital opportunity being
created. Creating Digital Opportunity (CDO) is a research partnership designed to produce
the knowledge required to assist Canada in moving toward global competitive advantage
by increasing the knowledge base needed to form effective policies. The partnership,
including over 20 investigators at 16 universities across Canada and thirteen committed
partner firms, cities and organizations, proposes to answer the question: how can Canada
best respond to the challenges posed by a rapidly changing digital landscape, while
benefiting from emerging opportunities to promote our economic prosperity? The proposed
panel will present initial case studies arising from the project that deal with a number of
different sectors of digital technologies from various regions across the country.
Takeaways and recommendations:
Urban centres with strong concentration of digital technologies are resilient to economic downturns, even when anchor firms fail
When large companies like Nortel Network or Blackberry fail, much of the talent they attracted to their respective regions remains
Strong, enduring industry-academic linkages are a key building block to achieving and maintaining economic growth
Long-term, company-specific data needed for effective policy decisions to sustain regional growth
Panel: Creating Digital Opportunity for Canada: Challenges and Emerging Trends
Organized by Innovation Policy Lab, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto
CSPC 2015: November 26, 2015
Moderator: David Wolfe, Co-Director, Innovation Policy Lab President and CEO, Cybera; Panelists: Catherine Beaudry,Professor, Department of Mathematics and Engineering, Polytechnique Montréal; Tijs Creutzberg, Program and Business Development Director, Council of Canadian Academies; Adam Holbrook, Associate Director, Centre for Policy Research on Science and Technology, Simon Fraser University; Tara Vinodrai, Associate Professor, School of the Environment, University of Waterloo
The policy issue:
Tech-based firms rise and fall, hiring or shedding thousands of skilled workers. Urban centres with strong industry-academic linkages and critical mass in key technology domains tend to retain critical mass, particularly in the area of information and communications technology (ICT). Urban centres are better able to weather business cycles and disruptions in ICT technology when there are policies and programs that enhance industry-academic collaborations. Panelists focused on the local context for global networks through an examination of four Canadian regions – Ottawa, Montreal, Vancouver and Waterloo.
These region’s experiences in developing collaborative relationships and building critical ICT feeds into ongoing research at the University of Toronto’s Innovation Policy Lab. The five-year research program is examining four broad themes: Canada’s position in global production networks; the local contexts for the growth of digital technology firms and their innovation environments; the application of digital technologies across a wide range of industrial sectors; and the role of digital infrastructure in building smart communities.
“Knowledge is sticky. Our studies show that scientists stay close to home and research capabilities remain embedded in the region,” said Wolfe. “There are lots of digital technologies that are bleeding across to other areas like medical technology … We need to think how about how all these sectors interrelate.”
The protracted decline and demise in the 2000s of Nortel Networks was a major blow to the ICT sector. Yet Creutzberg said preliminary results of his team’s research show that Nortel’s deep historical roots in the nation’s capital have enabled the region to withstand “transformative, disruptive change” as ICT transitions from hardware- to software-enabled networks.
Much of the ex-Nortel talent has remained in the region and hundreds of new firms have formed, often collaborating with long-time research organizations such as the National Research Council, the Communications Research Centre and intermediary organizations such as Invest Ottawa.
“Ottawa ICT has experienced big external shocks in the last 15 years. In six years, Nortel went from 95,000 employees to gone,” said Creutzberg. “But Ottawa has bounced back several times (and) Ottawa is going to be a player in the next iteration of networks … Nortel seeded capabilities for next generation networking shift.”
Waterloo is now experiencing a similar, albeit less severe shock with the dramatic downsizing of Blackberry. And Vinodrai said that – similar to Ottawa – preliminary results show that the region is retaining much of the talent shed by the company.
“Blackberry is similar to the story of Nortel. It couldn’t compete with others in the mobile space,” said Vinodrai. “Our study is grounded in understanding regional economics … Blackberry was critical for bringing in talent elsewhere (and) most of the talent stayed in the (Waterloo) region or in Toronto.”
The Montreal component of the Innovation Policy Lab study focuses on ICT hardware and university-industry linkages. Using historical data from several sources, including the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC), Beaudry identified a significant evolution in university-industry collaborations from studying hardware makers like Nortel to hardware users like Bell Canada during a 20-year period when manufacturing in the region declined. NSERC data also showed that the dollar value of grants to Montreal area universities dropped, while the number of grants awarded increased, as did the number of researchers.
As the same time, there was a significant decline in the number of university-industry research projects involving multiple companies. Partnering with single firms was becoming the new norm.
“There’s a fragmentation in collaboration on the academic side compared to what we had before … The move to one researcher, one firm is what I call the SME-ization of university-industrial research. Instead of benefitting from the team you go to one student on an R&D co-op or Mitacs (internship) grant,” said Beaudry. “That contrasts with the demand you can see in more fundamental research where you see much larger networks.”
Vancouver’s digital technology sector is divided into two distinct categories: games, animation and visual effects (GAV) software and everything else. Data are hard to come by but Holbrook says the Canadian branch of the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) program shows significant differences in innovation conditions in the region compared to other parts of Canada and the world.
“Closer linkages to certain elements in the Pacific Rim are important in the way any industry in Vancouver is going to be competitive … Vancouver prides itself on being Hollywood North and basically a branch of the entertainment software part of the world,” said Holbrook. “Policy has to have regional modifications to it but to what degree is open to discussion.”
Speaker:Bruce Archibald, DM Champion, Federal Science and Technology Community; President, Canadian Food Inspection Agency
The policy issue:
“We need to find ways to better integrate government science and technology with a broader science and innovation ecosystem,” Archibald told CSPC delegates.
Rapid technological advancements combined with an unprecedented growth in global S&T capacity has created a perfect storm for collaboration. But to take advantage of these opportunities, Archibald said we must “identify barriers to collaboration and find innovative solutions to overcome them”.
The Deputy Minister Science & Technology Committee (DMSTC) conducted a review of internal federal science, engineering and technology across all science-based departments and agencies. The Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Government S&T, just recently made public, provides options and recommendations for the future delivery of federal S&T.
The report found that federal S&T is highly fragmented, uses outdated human resources tools, has aging buildings and equipment, and is poorly integrated into the national science and innovation ecosystem. The shortcomings are making it difficult for federal science-based departments and agencies (SBDAs) to attain economies of scale, work effectively with other S&T players, adapt to the rapidly changing nature of science and pull together a critical mass of shared capabilities that contribute value to the entire S&T ecosystem.
The report includes seven recommendations on how the effectiveness of federal S&T can be improved (see list). “The federal science and technology community is taking that analysis to heart as we work with the new government to implement its agenda.”
Archibald added that efforts are already underway to take an “enterprise-wide approach to investments in government laboratories and other science and technology infrastructure.”
Open science is another priority, particularly one that focuses more broadly than simply making data publicly accessible. “Even more benefit will come from … science carried out and communicated in a manner that allows others to contribute and collaborate,” he said, with all kinds of data being made freely available at different stages of the research.
While more collaboration between departments is needed, Archibald said there have been successes, such as Canada’s leadership in fighting Ebola. “We developed a mobile laboratory with rapid diagnostic support which is now replicated around the world,” he said.
Canada also developed one of the leading Ebola vaccine candidates, VSV-EBOV, currently in trials in Canada, the United States, Europe and Western Africa. Those collaborations are continuing with the World Health Organization and the government of Ghana.
“That collaborative spirit is also reflected in the government’s genomics research and development initiative (GRDI),” said Archibald. This multi-departmental effort includes collaboration with universities and the private sector. Launched in 1999, the GRDI provides $19.9 million annually to eight departments and agencies, including the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Health Canada and Agriculture and Agrifood Canada (AAFC).
He said GRDI projects are already producing results. A team led by the Public Health Agency of Canada developed an approach to rapidly identify bacteria that is responsible for as many as 400,000 cases of food poisoning in Canada every year. The technology makes it possible to genetically fingerprint Campylobacter jejuni in hours rather than days, allowing front-line inspectors to pinpoint where specific strains originate which helps minimize transmission.
Another GRDI project, led by AAFC, developed a test to quickly detect a damaging parasite found in soybeans. The innovation has helped Canada to guarantee that its shipments are free of disease, which ensured continued access to a $50-million market in Malaysia.
Archibald said Canada has two more interdepartmental genomics projects launching in 2016-2017: an anti-microbial resistance project focusing on food production, and an eco-biometrics project that will develop tools to study freshwater biodiversity, monitor drinking water, and evaluate soil health for the agricultural and forestry industry.
“It’s our collaborations that put us in a strong position for this response and for future responses,” said Archibald. “The impact of science and technology on our citizens, economy and society over the two decades is going to be profound.”
Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Government S&T,
Summary of Recommendations
Report of the Expert Advisory Group on Government S&T
Leadership: Establish a new department — Science Canada —led by a Minister of S&T responsible for the intramural R&D needs as well as for the government’s support of the academic research community.
Create a Federal S&T Governance Board to provide leadership and coherence to federal support of the national science and innovation ecosystem. It should have subcommittees and prioritize and direct federal S&T activities.
Expand the One HR for Government Science initiative to all SBDAs, modernize S&T occupational classification system and develop new mechanisms for inter-departmental and inter-sectoral mobility.
Modernize and optimize federal S&T physical infrastructure to seize new opportunities and address emerging challenges. This includes developing an evergreen S&T infrastructure strategy and roadmap to guide investment decisions.
Embrace open innovation and deploy new digital technologies to deliver government S&T in more effective ways and work with Shared Services Canada to develop common computational platforms.
Launch Federated Anticipatory, Adaptive, Advanced S&T Networks (FA3STnets) to rapidly mobilize national S&T capacity for urgent, horizontal, public policy priorities and grand challenges.
Build a set of federal Centres of S&T Expertise to perform S&T foresight, intellectual property management, strategic S&T policy, knowledge mobilization, science culture promotion and S&T risk management. Centres would be attached to ScienceCan, consolidating internal capacity and linking to relevant external capacity.
A 90 minute interactive session that focuses on refining participants understanding of the strategic situation of Canada in the open science landscape, defining opportunities, gaps, and outlining options for Canada’s path forward in open science policy. The session will engage conference participants in developing science policy proposals that would feed into development of the federal government next round of commitments on open science that could be featured in the Open Government Action Plan 3.0 to be implemented starting in July of 2016.
Canadian Science, Technology and Innovation Policy: The Innovation Economy and Society Nexus
by G. Bruce Doern, David Castle, Peter W.B. Phillips
The book examines eight STI policy domains in Canada and the nature of STI agenda-setting. It presents new critical analysis about related developments such as significantly changed concepts of peer review, merit review, and the emergence of big data in the digital age and Internet information economy and society. The different ways in which federal versus provincial STI policies have impacted on both levels of government are examined, including STI as it relates to and impacts on Canada’s natural resources. Key STI departments and agencies are probed as they function increasingly in networked and partnership clusters and settings as Canada seeks to keep up and lead in a highly competitive global STI system. The book also examines numerous realms of technology across Canada in universities, business and government and various efforts to assess new technologies. These include biotechnology, genomics, and the Internet but also earlier technologies such as nuclear reactors, satellite technology, and evolving computer technologies. The authors assess whether an S&T-centered innovation economy and society nexus has been established in Canada. An innovation economy and society is one that aspires to, and achieves, some kind of moving and interacting balance between STI directed at commercial, private or market objectives and STI deployed to achieve social objectives, including delivering public goods and supporting values related to redistribution, fairness, and community and citizen empowerment. The nature of science advice across prime ministerial eras is also probed, including recent concerns in the Harper era about the claimed muzzling of government scientists in an age of continuous attack politics.
A Dangerous MasterHow to Keep Technology from Slipping Beyond Our Control
A Dangerous Master: How to keep technology from slipping beyond our controlprovides a entertaining primer on the emerging technologies with a little science, history, discussion of benefits, and special attention to the societal impact and risks posed by innovative tools and techniques. We are in the midst of a veritable Techstorm of new possibilities, all of which are being developed simultaneously.
While other books and news headline focus upon specific discoveries and innovations, A Dangerous Master presents a comprehensive overview of the societal impact of so many different means to alter human live, our society, our economy, and our environment. Among the challenges are radical life extension, technological unemployment, an arms race to produce autonomous robotic weapons, driverless cars, synthetic organisms, new methods to produce energy, and devices and drugs that enhance human capabilities. We may be on a path towards inventing the human species, as we have known it, out of existence.
Examining the players, institutions, and values that stand in the way of the regulation of everything from autonomous robots to designer drugs, A Dangerous Master proposes solutions for regaining control of our technological destiny. Wallach’s nuanced study offers both stark warnings and hope, navigating the middle ground between speculative fears about a dystopian future and the hype surrounding technological innovations. An engaging, accessible, and masterful analysis of the forces we must manage in our quest to survive as a species, A Dangerous Masterforces us to confront the practical—and moral—purposes of our creations.
“I come from your world”, new Science Minister tells CSPC delegates
Keynote speech: Hon. Kirsty Duncan, Minister of Science
CSPC 2015: November 26, 2015
It was standing room only when Canada’s freshly minted science minister spoke to the country’s largest gathering of professionals working in the fields of science, technology and innovation. The interest wasn’t unexpected. Canada’s scientific community rallied against the previous federal government for its lacklustre financial support for science, particularly basic science, its restriction on allowing government scientists to speak freely about their work, and for constraining or eliminating several high-profile research labs, scientific institutions and other data-gathering organizations, including the long-form census.
Under the new Liberal government, Dr. Duncan insisted there would be a new style of leadership and a markedly different approach to science and policy, one grounded in collaboration, openness and respect. She then thanked all the scientists present for their contributions. “It is respected. It is valued and it is celebrated.”
Duncan’s mandate letter, and those of her Cabinet colleagues released publicly for the first time, describes her overarching goal as supporting scientific research and the integration of scientific considerations into the government’s investment and policy choices.
“We are a government that fully embraces science and research. We believe good scientific knowledge should inform decision making.”
That knowledge doesn’t just come from applied, industry-focused science, she said, it also comes from “transformational discoveries”. “And, I would argue that, today, science matters more than ever before because the challenges we face, like climate change and shrinking biodiversity, are ever greater.”
The new government has already begun acting on some of its campaign promises. One of its first acts upon taking office was to reinstate the long-form census, “because the benefits of good quality data cannot be overstated for economic and social researchers, for policy-makers (and) for communities,” said Duncan. Departments have also begun sending memos to government scientists and experts making it clear that “they can and should speak freely about their work”.
As science minister, one of Duncan’s first jobs will be to travel the country meeting with researchers and other stakeholders to hear their priorities. “What investments have we been making in people, infrastructure and science, and how do we compare internationally? What is student interest in the STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines? These are the types of questions I am investigating.”
She is also tasked with establishing a new Chief Science Officer with a clear mandate and “the right mechanisms to make this work best”. “This position will be a key to ensuring that scientific communication is sustained across government in an effective way.”
Dr. Duncan is a medical geographer and former scientist whose research contributed to the UN climate-change panel that won a Nobel peace prize. In 1998, she assembled an expedition to an island north of Norway to discover the cause of the 1918 Spanish influenza—a pandemic that killed upwards of 50 million people in just one year. In 2003, she wrote a book about her expedition, entitled Hunting the 1918 Flu: One Scientist’s Search for a Killer Virus.
“Our goal was to learn as much as we could about the virus so that we could test drugs against history’s deadliest disease—and perhaps even help make a better flu vaccine.”
Unlike previous junior science ministers or parliamentary science secretaries, the science minister will be elevated to a full cabinet position, one that gives Duncan and other Ministers of State a coveted seat at the cabinet table.
The scientific community and policy makers are bombarded with information about Big Data, the Internet of Things, and the power of analytics to produce amazing insights. This session will describe a model whereby these topics are integrated into a single model. At base is the data layer with inputs from an ever growing array of sensors. Networks are needed to collect this data and give it context. Storage and access systems are needed to give it context and turn it into information. Computational resources are required for analytics to convert the information into knowledge. Finally policy and education are required to ensure the knowledge informs the decision making process and leads to wise policies and governance. The panel will bring together representatives from the fields of data collection, data access, networking, computation and policy to show the power of aligning all these fields to make better public policy through data driven decision making.
Takeaways and recommendations:
Establish a platform for tools and services to address the gap in Canadian infrastructure for digital research data management
Build awareness in government of the importance of data access and analysis to generate knowledge from existing and future data sets that benefit the greatest number of people
Extracting knowledge from big data requires different yet complementary skillsets working collaboratively
Ways of using data are changing as younger, computationally literate people enter the system
Privacy issues should only be cited for certain types of data, not all. Governments often hesitant to release data sets for research purposes.
New markets for data will emerge when the entrepreneurial community develops business cases for making data meaningful to more people
Canada needs to join other countries in establishing a national big data policy that informs both the research community and end users
To remain competitive, Canada must become a nation of digital citizens with high levels of digital literacy
Digital literacy, coordination key to maximizing benefits from big data
Panel: Data Driven Decisions: Putting IoT, Big Data and Analytics to Work for Better Public Policy
Organized by Cybera
CSPC 2015: November 26, 2015
Moderator: Ron Winsor, President and CEO, Cybera; Panelists: Janet Bax, Interim President, Council of Canadian Academies; Jim Ghadbane, President and CEO, CANARIE; Jill Kowalchuk, Consultant; Bonnie Schmidt, President and Founder, Let’s Talk Science; Shannon Wilson, Business Development Executive, IBM; Aaron Maxwell, Machine Learning Research Scientist, Makeplain Corporation
The policy issue:
There’s a growing need to integrate big data, the Internet of Things, and the power of analytics into a single model for use by policymakers. Sensors, networking, storage and access systems must work in tandem to convert information into knowledge and maximize the impact of data on decision making. Canada is a long way from possessing an optimal model but the discussion is starting and it must engage broadly, from schools and students to the research and policy communities and the private sector.
From the generation and dissemination of data to its analysis and ultimate use, the era of big data is posing challenges on several fronts. One of the more pressing challenges is the use of privacy concerns to restrict the access and use of data by researchers and policymakers, said Bax, who noted that the Council of Canadian Academies has been denied critical data for some of its expert surveys.
“Data is a critical component to building good evidence and it needs to be good data,” said Bax. “It’s so essential but there are many challenges to getting it … For my first (expert panel) assessment on the career trajectory of women researchers in Canada, data for women in government was not made available to us. It may exist but it was not made available to us.”
Privacy concerns usually arise over data involving the behaviour, condition and actions of people but, as the delegates heard, there are other types of data that can lead to solid evidence and knowledge for use by policymakers.
“We shouldn’t allow a discussion about protecting personal privacy to stop the sharing of data that isn’t sensitive, like astronomy,” said Kowalchuk. “There are lots of other data out there that don’t have those same challenges.”
A growing amount of data being generated today is in the hands of industry, especially in the health care sector. Those with the ability to combine data from multiple sources and deploy it efficiently can empower both commerce and positive patient health outcomes, said Wilson, who is responsible for business development at IBM Canada.
“We work with health research organizations and there’s a common need to understand what each other is doing,” said Wilson. “Gain from the insight that can be gained from analytics. The entrepreneurial community will figure out how to make data meaningful and that’s going to push change to the market.”
To enhance the benefit of big data collection, dissemination and analysis, the issue of computational literacy is a perennial problem faced by those engaged in education, research and end use. While Canada has a solid foundation in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, there is room for improvement to ensure that data usage is optimized in the future.
There’s also a need to better inform those in the research community lacking a firm grasp of the rapidly expanding role computers and digital literacy play in the economy and society.
“There’s a lot of fear over data due to a lack of understanding,” said Maxwell. “In the scientific community, I’ve used supercomputers at SHARCNET and CANARIE to move data to researchers all over the country and the world. Professors often didn’t understand what I was doing because they didn’t understand computers.”
Young digital citizens skilled in the use, interpretation and use of data will prompt change from within and open up opportunities for commercial applications, said Schmidt. Widespread computational literacy, she added, will require better coordination across provincial jurisdictions to enable the next generation of knowledge workers. But political leaders and civil leaders also need to be skilled in asking the right questions.
“The lack of alignment is challenging and trying to get data courses in schools is difficult,” said Schmidt. “Commonalities of fields and jurisdictions are essential.”
How big data informs decision making for the benefit of the end user remains the primary objective of policies informing their collection, analysis and use, making the need for coherent policies paramount.
“We live in a world where policies aren’t keeping up with the ways we use the data,” said Ghadbane. “How should policies evolve to meet the ongoing needs of this massive deluge of data we’re all contributing to?”
The global population is on track to reach 9 billion people by 2050. At the same time, climate change and a growing middle class are forcing the worlds’ farmers to grow more food on limited arable land. Biotechnology already plays a key role in modern agriculture. As our increased understanding of the technology allows us to boost food production and develop a limitless range of functional and value-added applications – and the tools become cheaper and more accessible – ag biotech will become increasingly important in tackling food security and malnutrition.
Yet 20 years after they were first commercialized, genetically modified (GM) foods remain a contentious issue in the global food system. The discord sown by the lack of a conciliatory approach is alienating a significant segment of the population and threatens to limit farmers’ access to safe technologies that can improve their incomes, provide sustainable solutions to environmental challenges, and help feed the world. In Canada, our approach to GM foods is centred on a regulatory system that focuses on strict, science-based safety criteria and leaves commercialization decisions to private industry. While this approach upholds health and safety and fosters an innovation-friendly business climate, we are faced with the absence of any clear system to address the range of socioeconomic impacts GM foods invariably have on stakeholders throughout the value chain. Fearmongering and baseless claims over the dangers of GMOs aside, growers, handlers, processors, retailers, and consumers all have legitimate concerns over the place of biotechnology in our food system, and our continued failure to address these issues has negative repercussions for both users and non-users of ag biotech. Calls for the government to intervene and “manage” these issues by moving away from a purely science-based approach and incorporating market-based considerations into the regulatory system invoke a whole range of policy challenges and will not provide a solution. If we are to develop a holistic and inclusive approach to biotechnology for the 21st century, all affected parties need to be a part of the conversation.
Canada is uniquely positioned to take the lead in this regard and set an example for the world –our vibrant biotech and organic sectors have been able to grow in tandem with each other, industry and grassroots organizations are collaborating to respond to evolving consumer demands, we have a robust science policy community, and Canadian citizens are eager to engage with their food system. We invite you to join us for this discussion that will bring together collaborative and forward-thinking experts to explore what roles government, industry, academia, and civil society groups can play in effectively managing the use of biotechnology to answer some of the major global challenges of our time.
Takeaways and recommendations:
Greater collaboration needed between industry, government and consumers
Review viable options for public information, including labelling
Make the risk assessment process more transparent
Reduce regulatory scrutiny for low-risk varieties
Ensure regulators have the necessary skills to evaluate the safety of new GM products
Ensure separation in CFIA’s dual mandate of protecting health and safety and promoting industry
Consumer perspectives remain biggest hurdle to GM foods
Panel: Addressing Concerns Over GMOs – Striking the Right Balance
Organized by Agriculture and Agri-food Canada (AAFC)
CSPC 2015: November 26, 2015
Moderator: Sylvain Charlebois, College of Business and Economics, University of Guelph; Panelists: Andrew Goldstein, Director General of Policy, Planning, and Integration, Agriculture and Agri-food Canada; Muffy Koch, Biotech Regulatory Affairs Manager, Simplot Plant Sciences; Elizabeth Nielsen, Board of the Consumers Council of Canada and the Consumer Policy Committee of ISO; Mike Peterson, Global Traits Lead, Forage Genetics International; Lucy Sharratt, Coordinator, Canadian Biotechnology Action Network
The policy issue:
Genetically modified (GM) foods are playing a growing role globally in tackling food security and undernutrition. Yet they remain a contentious issue some 20 years after they were first commercialized. Canada’s approach to GM foods centres on a regulatory system that focuses on strict, science-based safety criteria, without addressing a range of socioeconomic impacts.
“Canada exports a tremendous amount of our agricultural production, so we rely on scientific- and rules-based trade. If we move away from scientific regulatory approvals, that will undermine our ability to advocate for science-based rules around the world, and this can lead to market access issues for our own products,” said Goldstein.
Panelists agreed the issue is complex, with public education being one of the biggest challenges. “I don’t think anyone from governments to industry has done as good a job as they should in transparency and explaining things,” added Goldstein.
Sharrat explained that consumer resistance to GM foods is made worse by a lack of labelling and traceability. The Consumers Council of Canada has found that Canadians are concerned about the food they eat and want to know what’s in it and where and how it’s produced. The Council has called on the agri-food industry to respond with better, more complete and more accurate product information.
“The Canadian government does not actually track where genetically modified crops are grown, and there’s no listing or tracking of what traits are on the market,” said Sharrat.
The uncertainty around public acceptance puts a strain on the predictability of the process, from GMO development to market. “Corporations developing GMOs have as much to lose by not addressing the perceived risks raised by consumers,” said Nielsen.
Koch, who has spent 20 years studying consumer acceptance in developing countries, says misinformation is to blame. “I feel very strongly that if consumers are given good information they will be able to make informed decisions,” said Koch. “Choice is critical for consumers.”
The solution, panelists agreed, rests on a more holistic and inclusive approach to biotechnology that includes collaboration between industry, government and consumers.
As the pace of technology increases, Goldstein said “it will be a challenge for regulators to keep up with the level of new products coming forward, and a challenge for industry in how you sell into this environment.” He added that regulators will need the skills to evaluate the safety of these new products.
Concern was also expressed that the CFIA may face pressure when assessing GM foods. Although the agency is impartial and regulates products based on strict, science-based criteria, some of its operations are overseen by the Minister of Agriculture, who is also responsible for the well-being of the sector. “The auditor general a couple of years ago pointed out that this is an obvious conflict of interest which places the health and safety and the environment at risk,” said Neilsen.
“Innovation is really one of the foundations of our policy directions,” said Goldstein. “The innovation is critical first and foremost for the profitability and economic sustainability of the sector, but it can also help the sector adapt to an evolving range of opportunities and challenges.”
Goldstein noted that the regulatory process managed by Health Canada and CFIA offers “a framework and system that provides predictability to facilitate innovation in the sector while ensuring safety”.
Canada’s approach differs from the U.S. where regulators look at deregulating traits, said Peterson. “The Canadian regulatory system has a much better design to handle some of those newer types of technologies because they evaluate plant novel traits whereas the U.S. looks at the pest potential of a new trait.”
Goldstein agreed, saying “the novelty-trigger creates a more flexible system for Canada, while still looking at safety.”
Canada’s flexibility in addressing a wider range of products is useful as it ensures new biotechnologies are covered under the umbrella of the regulations, said Koch. However, she pointed out that Canadian regulators are more stringent, which can burden business and innovation if “every single clonal variety we transform we have to put through a full regulatory system, even if that transformation is identical in each variety.”
If regulators see an identical transformation in five varieties, then Koch suggests they only look at regulating new risks in later varieties.
One course of action, said Neilsen, is to require mandatory labeling and provide transparency around the assessment process. “Many states in the U.S. have legislation pending for mandatory labeling. And in Europe, of course, it’s being done on a regular basis now, not only for consumers to make an informed choice, but also for traceability of the product.”
When developing a new product, Koch added it should to beneficial, desirable, affordable and appropriate for the market, so working with customers is important. For example, in response to consumer concerns over black spot bruising in potatoes, Simplot Plant Sciences, which has operations in Canada and around the world, developed a new potato variety called “Innate”. It eliminates the unsightly spots and reduces the levels of a potentially harmful chemical called acrylamide.
Goldstein said these innovations have expanded the benefits of GMOs from industry to consumers. “When GMOs were first introduced, the benefits were for the industry. Now we see new products being developed, such as the non-browning potato and non-browning apple, where there is an actual benefit to the consumer.”
While genetically engineered crops are a growing industry in Canada, Goldstein said organic agriculture is also on the rise. “From AAFC’s perspective, that’s a good thing. We are there to support industry. If they choose to go the organic route, that’s great and if they choose to use biotechnology, that’s also great.”
For innovation to occur and succeed, it needs all parts of its anatomy to work in harmony as with the body, thebrain controls the thought process to bring forth ideas; it also controls the nerve system to make parts move andput such ideas to action; it enables the eyes to see what the rest of the members are doing and hence work in harmony while the heart produces the blood flow necessary to either walk, run or sprint to produce the desired outcome.
The author eloquently draws on the analogy and presents a fascinating discussion on the main partsof a successful innovation system. The book is written with many audiences in mind including students enrolled in entrepreneurship and innovation programs, administrators at higher education institutions; government S&Tdepartments; business people; and most of all entrepreneurs and economic development personnel. Each chapter ends with a set of questions to spur classroom and group discussions.
Disruptive technologies challenge existing business models – creating entirely new industries (think google) and destroying or transforming entire industries (think encyclopedia Britannica, think travel agents). A recent study by McKinsey outlined predicted dramatic impacts of technologies such as mobile, robotics, big data, and 3 D on virtually every sector. Another study by Fey and Osbourne The future of computerization concluded 47% of jobs in North America are at risk. Currently Canadian business under-investments in technologies contribute to the productivity gap, and it is not because the technologies are not available. Canada leads the world in consumer use of mobile technologies but corporate adoption of mobile has lagged. A recent study by the government of Ontario showed Small Medium Enterprises were generally laggards in the use of ecommerce. Electronic health records, have been promising to transform health care since the 1980’s but the impediments to use are systemic. To date, Canada’s innovation strategy has focused largely on the supply side – on research and development and commercialization of new technologies in the hopes that they will drive improvements in productivity, economic growth and quality of life. But increasingly the evidence is that we need to also focus on the demand for these technologies, for the factors shaping individual and organizational behavior that drive or impede their adoption. This panel will explore what the future holds with emerging technologies, their potential impacts, what factors shape their adoption and the implications for policy.
Takeaways and recommendations:
Disruptive technologies disrupt existing business models
Universities need new incentives to deliver the skills industry needs
Increase digital literacy and STEM education, from kindergarten to post-secondary
Encourage greater ICT adoption by companies
Disruption can be minimized through open science and science communication
Social sciences and humanities can help policymakers better prepare for these changes
Modernize regulations to support disruptive technologies
Disruptive technologies: the pitfalls and opportunities
Panel: Disruptive Technologies
Organized by Ryerson University
CSPC 2015: November 26, 2016
Moderator: Wendy Cukier, Vice-President Research and Innovation, Ryerson University; Panelists: Dr. Michelle Chrétien, Program Manager, Strategic Research, Xerox Research Centre of Canada; Mohamed Elmi, PhD Student/Research Associate, Information Systems, University of Cape Town/Ted Rogers School of Management’s Diversity Institute; Martin Lavoie, Director, Innovation, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters; Colin McKay, Head, Public Policy and Government Relations, Google Canada
The policy issue:
Disruptive technologies create entirely new industries (think Google) and destroy or transform entire industries (think Uber). Canada leads the world in consumer use of mobile technologies but corporate adoption information and communications technologies (ICT) has lagged. A recent study by the government of Ontario showed small- and medium-sized enterprises were generally laggards in the use of ecommerce. The transition to electronic health records has been promising to transform health care since the 1980’s but the impediments to use are systemic.
Technologies are not inherently disruptive, explained Lavoie, it’s how you use them. “The disruptive effect of innovation has to be closely linked to the notion of markets. An innovation will disrupt existing markets or a business model.”
That paradigm shift is a challenge for governments, industries and academic institutions. For example, Lavoie predicts the whole model of mass production will be disrupted by innovations in artificial intelligence and 3D printing.
“We can’t define manufacturing as we did 50 years ago. It is shifting value from the product to its functionalities or design. It no longer matters where you manufacture it,” said Lavoie, noting that the service associated with a product can often be more profitable than the product itself.
He added that 3D printing or additive manufacturing has the potential to reshape Canadian production by creating highly skilled designers who can use these new technologies to make products and parts locally. “This gets away from the race to the cheapest jurisdiction. This could be a niche for Canada,” said Lavoie.
Cukier said current approaches to education and skills development are misguided because they assume certain occupations and skillsets cannot be automated. Yet she pointed to companies like Associated Press which has begun using web ‘robots’ to churn out short articles on company corporate earnings—far faster and in greater volume than any human journalist can produce.
“Universities, for the most part, are medieval institutions,” that are financially rewarded for the number of “bums in seats”,” said Cukier. “If you want to do a new curriculum which is just-in time or blended learning, something that is other than three hours a week for 13 weeks, it’s much more challenging because of the structures.”
For universities to change, Cukier said governments need to intervene with policies and processes that incent innovation and relevant skills training. “Governments say they want innovation but if you look at the way they fund universities, there’s absolutely no incentive to do anything differently.”
Disruptive technologies will have a significant impact on social change and government priorities, said McKay. Self-driving vehicles, for example, respond to the high risks and costs we accept as part of a driving culture—some 30,000 people die annually from vehicle collisions in the U.S.
“There are incredible social costs with in the way that we drive, the decisions we make about investing in infrastructure, and the way that we force municipalities and provinces and the federal government to make decisions about financing hundreds of millions of dollars of concrete infrastructure in our country,” said McKay.
Similarly, advances in materials science will impact everything from healthcare to manufacturing through the development of new sensor technologies enabled by printable electronics and new approaches to energy capture and storage, said Chrétien. Some of the biggest changes are predicted for the energy sector.
“The future world of energy and the environment will look much different,” she said. Advances in new materials will improve the efficiency and economics of renewable energy like solar power. “It will result in changes in how we distribute, store and manage energy,” said Chrétien.
As part of his Ph.D. studies, Elmi is looking at how mobile technologies and other ICT are changing Africa. In just a decade, mobile phones have gone from being out of reach to nearly ubiquitous and ICT is one of the most productive sectors of the economy. “Companies like Google are now tripping over themselves in the rush to gain market share and access to the more than one billion Africans.”
Where does that leave a country like Canada? Despite having one of the world’s most education populations, Elmi said Canada is not responding quickly enough to disruptive technologies, which puts it at a competitive disadvantage on the global market.
“There are a set of interlocking responses that are required to avoid being left behind” he said, including changes in university structures and government policies that overcome barriers to ICT adoption, and support a responsive workforce that is increasingly globally distributed. “Those one billion Africans are going to need jobs as well and they’re going to be competing with 35 million Canadians for those jobs.”
Lavoie said many universities are still stuck in a silo mentality, despite the fact that industries like manufacturing require employees with experience working across disciplines. “Companies like Siemens created their own school for youth (the Seimens Mechatronics Academy) because universities and colleges don’t produce the skilled people they need. That’s a challenge for these institutions.”
Widespread access to the Internet is opening up new opportunities for innovation and scientific discovery. At the same time, online science platforms and network tools are reorganizing scientific practices and collaboration, allowing initiatives such as, crowd sourced data collection, citizen science, open access to research results, open educational resources,and open research data to converge.
The result is the growing trend of open science, which promises to speed up the process of discovery, while making research more transparent and reproducible. There is also growing support that publicly funded research should be publicly accessible and that open access and open data could maximize return on research investment through more inclusive and open innovation and other unintended benefits, while empowering citizens to be active knowledge seekers and knowledge producers. The recently announced Tri-Agency policy on Open Access and the government of Canada’s commitment to Open Science are clear signal of this converging trend.
In the development context, open science promises additional benefits, including the equitable participation of researchers from the global South, and the potential of more inclusive ways of knowing, as well as the equitable contribution by Southern researchers in both the framing and the search for solutions to relevant problems that have local impact.
Several advances and innovations, for instance in the field of mobile-health (m-health), have been driven by organizations from the global South where mobile connectivity is growing, offering opportunities to expand the reach of overburdened healthcare systems. Local participatory research such as that conducted by the New Rice for Africa (NERICA) project involved farmers at all stages and accelerated the experimentation phase to get improved crops out of the laboratory and into large-scale production by an average of seven years.
It is against this background that the Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network (OCSDNet) was launched in July, 2014. Funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre and United Kingdom’s Department for International Development, the OCSDNet’s main objective is to gather evidence on whether, and if so how, open science could lead to new thinking and locally driven innovations for addressing persistent development challenges.
The proposed panel is designed to stimulate debate about the implications of open models of scientific practices for innovation in the contexts of both developing and developed countries, and to highlight how Canadian researchers are engaging in these issues. Key opportunities, including incentive and institutional and policy frameworks, will also be debated
Takeaways and recommendations:
Work with universities from the Global South help them acquire the tools and skills to establish online institutional repositories, open archives and local journals
Support a pan-African open archive based on open source software
Rethink the incentive and reward structure of research funding and who sets the standards for the tools and for the quality of research
Open Science is a commitment to the idea of science for the public good. This is particularly important for citizens in the Global South.
Open access and open science calls for new forms of governance, institutions and sustainability models
Article processing fees provide a sustainable business model for open access journals but there are challenges
Shifting the power structure of global scientific publishing
Panel: Role of Open Science in Innovation for Development
Organized by International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
CSPC 2015: November 26, 2015
Moderator: Naser Faruqui, Director of Technology and Innovation, IDRC; Panelists: Leslie Chan, Associate Director, Centre for Critical Development Studies, University of Toronto Scarborough; Suzanne Kettley, Executive Director, Canadian Science Publishing; Florence Piron, Professor, Department of Information and Communication, Université Laval
The policy issue:
Open science promises to speed up the process of discovery and innovation, while making research more transparent and reproducible. The recently announced Tri-Agency and IDRC policies on open access and the government of Canada’s commitment to open science are clear signals of this growing trend to open access and open data. But what are the implications of open models of scientific practices for innovation in developing countries?
It is against this background that the Open and Collaborative Science in Development Network (OCSDNet) was launched in July, 2014. Funded by IDRC and the U.K.’s Department for International Development, the OCSDNet is a network of 12 research projects led by teams in countries from the Global South. The teams are gathering evidence on how open science could lead to new thinking and locally driven innovations for addressing persistent development challenges.
French-speaking universities in Africa face more hurdles than most when it comes to adopting and benefiting from open access. Speaking in French, Piron said it was widely thought that “open access would change everything” for these universities, but problems persist, including the “cognitive injustice” behind world science.
Piron co-leads an OCSDNet project that is analyzing the barriers to the adoption of open science by graduate students. Open Science in Haiti and Francophone Africa (SOHA) believes open and collaborative science (open access to scientific publications, open access journals, open archives, data and bibliographies sharing, public engagement with civil society, citizen science, science shops) can become a major tool of empowerment for developing countries.
Piron explained how open science facilitates access to science by students, researchers, public officials, teachers, and among civil society. It also makes local knowledge and science produced in the Global South more visible and accessible, helping to build local research capacity and thus contributing to cognitive justice.
African universities face several challenges, including a dearth and/or underutilization of computers and collaborative platforms in academia, the high cost of journal subscriptions and high fees to publish scientific papers in open access journals (on average $2500).
“Article processing charges (APCs) are a new barrier, a new form of cognitive injustice,” she said. “Promoting APCs as an open access road is tantamount to once again forgetting about African researchers’ working conditions.”
SOHA proposes a different approach that sees researchers post their articles in “green” online institutional repositories (managed by university libraries) or open archives. For example, SOHA is working with the African and Malagasy Council for Higher Education to build a pan-African archive based on open source software and improve skills in areas like distance learning, open source software, blog writing, Wikipedia contributions and collaborative writing.
Chan is the primary investigator of OCSDNet which promotes more knowledge sharing with the north and between southern countries. He said it’s important to open up not just the literature, but the entire research process, including data, methods and collaboration tools. He also called for greater participation by citizens and non-specialists in the research process. “Incorporating people’s ideas into the research agenda is critical.”
New collaborative platforms are also changing how data are collected and shared. For example, a Kenyan tech innovation hub developed a crowdsourcing platform that allowed people to send texts on where violence was occurring after the 2007 election. That mapping technology, called Ushahidi, is now being used by aid agencies in other countries to help with disaster relief.
“The capacity to develop, use and create these kinds of platforms is absolutely important,” said Chan. “It’s a new approach that allows for local capacity building. The journal is a 17th century artifact. We should go beyond the old technology and take full advantage of what network technologies have to offer.”
Chan suggested new incentives are needed to entice researchers to adopt open access. “We need to think about how we can communicate in different ways with different channels and tools. For example, more researchers are blogging. Why can’t the system reward this type of information-sharing?”
Speaking as a not-for-profit journal publisher, Kettley contrasted the utopian vision of open access that sees publishers making research articles freely available, with the commercial realities of these, which rely on APCs to stay in business.
She admitted the model comes with challenges. Money for APCs is typically taken from existing research or library budgets, and publishers use a flat-fee model that sees the same fee charged whether the paper is long or short.
“The (APC) model has resulted in some collateral damage,” said Kettley. Unscrupulous predatory organizations claim their publications do peer review and may charge authors up to $500 for that non-existent service. Library budgets are also taking a hit as large commercial publishers bundle multiple titles. The price per title goes up if libraries pick-and-pay for only the journals they want. This “big deal” leaves very little money to pay for open access publishing.
Kettley said publishers, librarians, granting agencies and societies have begun working together on standards and sustainable solutions for open access. Examples include: SCOAP3, Open Library of Humanities, Open Access Network and CRKN/Érudit.
She added that her company, Canadian Science Publishing (CSP), is about to launch two open access journals with an APC model, though fees will be waived until July 1, 2016. However, she highlighted that CSP is interested in collaborative models to fund these journals in the long-term and “as a not-for-profit publisher, CSP wants to be part of the solution.”
« La science n’a pas de patrie, parce que le savoir est le patrimoine de l’humanité. » – Louis (Science knows no country, because knowledge belongs to humanity.)
Science has become increasingly globalized as research programs become ever-more sophisticated and ambitious. The Human Genome Project (HGP), the International Space Station (ISS), CERN’s Large Hadron Collider (LHC), the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT), the Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT) – these are just a few of the major research endeavours that require the expertise and collaboration of thousands of scientists from every corner of the world.
While the scale and cost alone of these projects often necessitate international cooperation, this globalized approach comes with innumerable scientific, social, and economic benefits. It can accelerate the pace of scientific and technological advances, lower costs, and facilitate the sharing of data and resources. It has an egalitarian effect, providing opportunities to countries that may not otherwise have access to top facilities and resources, and promoting collaboration between nations that might otherwise be separated by political or social differences
The goals of Big Science projects are driven by fundamental curiosities; the powerful applications and intersections with other disciplines are discernible. How can other disciplines and sectors become involved in these conversations at an early stage?
How does the continued internationalization of science, particularly regarding shared investments in state-of-the-art research infrastructure, align with the 2014 Federal STI Strategy? How does Canada demonstrate accountability for its participation in Big Science projects? How can Canada maximize the benefits of its participation, formal and informal, in major scientific collaborations, both at home and around the world? Does it make sense to consider a national framework for formally engaging and funding these collaborations?
The pace and process for political decision-making varies from country to country. Are clearer roadmaps needed internationally? How can Canada maintain its vitality in science without boundaries?
Takeaways and recommendations:
Science can be an incredible platform to drive national and international collaboration. It is important to consider how we can better enable this
Consider academic structures that allow more cross-disciplinary opportunities
Create more partnerships between industry, government and academia
Look to address boundaries existing within Canada and how we might overcome these
Build capacity in Canada to retain talent and resources
Look carefully at the policy culture of international partners
Partner equally with science capacity in developing countries
Consider local issues when partnering to ensure inequalities are not exacerbated
Big science redefining the boundaries of collaboration
Panel: Science Without boundaries
CSPC 2015: Organized by TRIUMF
November 26, 2015
Moderator:Andrew Potter, Editor, The Ottawa Citizen; Panelists:Jonathan Bagger, Director, TRIUMF; Bob Crow, Executive in Residence, Institute for Quantum Computing, University of Waterloo; Mark Dietrich, President and CEO, Compute Canada; Heather Douglas, Waterloo Chair in Science and Society, University of Waterloo
The policy issue:
Big science is addressing questions that inherently cross boundaries, enabling collaborations that go beyond the science. The projects are sufficiently large and complex to require the expertise of scientists from around the world and from multiple disciplines. Yet these endeavours are challenged by systemic limitations. As delegates heard, challenges include administrative boundaries, budgetary limitations, and policy and economic factors that restrict risk-taking and create obstacles for cooperation, both at home and abroad.
Successes such as the Human Genome Project, CERN’s Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, SNOLAB in Sudbury, ON, and SESAME in Jordan have transcended competitive divides and political differences between international governments, and have united academic institutions and private industries. But such success has required extraordinary administrative efforts.
For Canada, some considerations include determining clear national priorities and overcoming provincial barriers.
The first hurdle any major science project has to overcome is capital, said Crow. He noted that “the international boundary basically vaporizes” when sufficient funding is available, not only for capital and operating costs but also for travel and student exchanges.
The large, private donations that helped launch Canadian science ventures like the Institute of Quantum Computing (IQC) and the Perimeter Institute in Waterloo ON, have lessened the financial burden and allowed for experimentation in terms of structures and approaches to doing science.
For example, the IQC takes a multidisciplinary approach to the field of quantum information processing. It draws on researchers based in six departments across three faculties at the University of Waterloo. “Faculty and students can be simultaneously appointed at IQC and in a traditional discipline, meaning some disciplinary boundaries are starting to disappear,” said Crow.
That collaborative approach extends to IQC’s funders as well: “We worked very hard to ensure that both federal and provincial governments, and University of Waterloo became equal partners in this venture,” added Crow. Public and private funders have come together with a shared vision as well.
“The end goal is to ultimately build capacity and an industry for Canada. We’re building something in which Canadians can be proud to have a leadership position in the world,” said Crow.
Facilities like the Vancouver-based TRIUMF—Canada’s national laboratory for particle and nuclear physics and accelerator-based science—represent huge opportunities for Canada, said Bagger. “They bring together talented people to address compelling questions. And to address those questions, they have to invent technologies—they don’t just buy them off the shelf.”
Of TRIUMF’s 500 annual users, 75% come from outside Canada. “Big science, I would say, is almost designed to cross boundaries. We cross boundaries of nationality. We cross boundaries of discipline,” said Bagger.
While these facilities require significant investments to build, Dietrich said what makes them successful is the people and the commitment to collaboration. “That collaboration occurs without boundaries and that’s what we see in all our international achievements, at SNOLAB, and ATLAS (experiment at CERN). These are multinational, multidisciplinary, multi-personal interactions.”
The international organizational structures help balance the funding demands and spread both the burden and the wealth, added Dietrich.
But the developed world has to find ways to partner equally with growing science capacities in the developing world. “Different science policy cultures exist in each nation, because of the different and distinct political cultures and histories,” said Douglas.
Douglas explained how each nation and each locality have a different policy culture. “You ignore these differences at your peril. Even if we set aside the local policy cultures, there’s still issues of how we tend to tie science and innovation to national economies, that we expect our investments in science in our particular nations to pay off for the economy in that particular nation.”
The panel agreed that it’s important to recognize each partner’s priorities and to ask how science can address them. As Douglas noted, “It is breaking down boundaries (and) thinking outside of the science.”
The mining industry has historically been resistant to try new technologies, but they can no longer afford to keep this stance. As mines go deeper to access ore deposits, they become more costly to operate. It is also hard to attract and retain new talent and mine closures have a negative effect on the Canadian economy, especially as small-to-medium sized enterprises (SME’s) are hit the hardest.
The Business -led Network Centres of Excellence Ultra-Deep Mining Network (UDMN) was created with these needs and challenges in mind. We have established services to assist with transferring new technologies to the mining industry. The benefits will be realized in three areas:
1. Increasing research and development (R&D) capacity through a networked solution team approach
Our network solution team strengthens the public private sector relationship by engaging the mining service and supply sector, industry, academia, research institutions and government,
creating the tools and highly qualified people that will meet the needs of the mining industry.
2. Change Management
Introducing change is always a challenge across most industries, especially in an established mining industry. Change management allows us to look at the existing process and review/rewrite this process to allow new technologies to be embedded into existing systems.
3. Increasing research and development (R&D) receptivity at the mine sites.
Increasing R&D receptivity within the mining industry ensures more support for projects that have industrial trials built into the deliverables. This also helps researchers lower the risk trials and increases market exposure.
The paper will further define how these three approaches have been applied under the Ultra-Deep Mining Network (UDMN), whose mandate is to help the mining industry to adopt commercially viable R&D project results, and the deployment of proven innovative technologies.
Takeaways and recommendations:
Mining innovation creates new businesses, particularly in the services supply sector
Technology development and adaptation key to mining extraction at greater depths
Strong correlation between market price of metals and the level of innovation in mining sector
Commercialization of technology in the mining sector is highly competitive
The services supply sector drives innovation as these companies are most interested in selling new technologies
Public-private collaboration can reduce time-to-market by half
Services supply firms key to success in deep mining sector
Panel: Challenges Associated with Transferring New Technologies to the Mining Industry
Organized by the Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation
CSPC 2015: November 26, 2015
Moderator: Adi Treasurywala, ArrowCan Partners Inc.; Panelists: Wayne Ablitt, President, Jannatec Technologies; Zachary Mayer, Manager, Mine Technical Services, Glencore’s Kidd Operations; Douglas Morrison, President & CEO, Holistic Mining Practices, Centre for Excellence in Mining Innovation; Sylvie Nadeau, Professor, École de technologie supérieure.
The policy issue:
Mining innovation becomes more challenging the deeper companies dig. For an industry that’s been historically resistant to adopting new technologies, public-private collaboration has now become essential to the sector’s survival. Organizations such as the business-led Ultra-Deep Mining Network (UDMN) are helping to develop technology-based solutions for resource extraction, and adopt information and communications technologies that enhance labour productivity, safety and mechanization. Services supply companies are particularly important in providing solutions to large mining companies but silos between academia and industry need to be effectively bridged.
The world of deep mining is like no other. The high cost and technological challenges associated with heat, ventilation, communications and safety increase as mining companies dig deeper to extract increasingly scarce resources. Compounded by depressed commodity prices, innovation has become critical to containing capital and operating costs while at the same time minimizing environmental impacts and improving safety conditions.
“No one wants to be the first to do something new and there are very few off-the-shelf technologies available. We need to see the big picture but there are a lot of silos and bottlenecks,” said Mayer, whose Glencore Kidd operations are three kilometres below the earth’s surface.
“WiFi is new to underground mines (and) ventilation is expensive,” he added. “If you can create a business case for something, mine operators are open to entertaining new ideas from suppliers or internally. Companies need the right management team to create justification for new technologies and know how to implement them.”
Morrison said services supply companies working in conjunction with multidisciplinary research teams are essential to ensure that technical innovations are effectively adopted and implemented in a timely fashion.
“It’s unrealistic and unreasonable to ask researchers to do innovation. They should focus on research and identify the other pieces of the puzzle that have to be done by other people,” said Morrison “We look to service supply companies to see what innovations they have that we’d like to move forward with. They often don’t have all the technical pieces to solve our problems. That’s what CEMI helps them do.”
A close working relationship with academia and intermediary organizations like CEMI is critical for services supply companies that drive innovation by seeking out profitable niches for their products. Ablitt said Jannatec Technologies has been successful in controlling the market for communications systems for deep mining by conducting R&D and using patents “so I can have a monopolized product”.
“With a monopoly, we can get a big share of a small market … I own the Northern Ontario market controlling 85% of business. It’s a niche market that I’ve been able to develop,” said Ablitt. “But you also need a marketing side to sell the product, as well as a distribution chain. If not, the product will sit on the shelf.”
Ablitt said the time required to develop Jannatec’s wearable thermal technology for miners was cut from six years to less than three through matched funding and collaboration with CEMI, which manages the UDMN, a Business-led Network of Centres of Excellence.
Mining innovation holds unique challenges for academics participating in product R&D, said Nadeau, whose research at École de technologie supérieure spans the manufacturing, mining, nanotechnology and aeronautics industries. Solutions to the challenges facing the mining sector are complex requiring interdisciplinary teams that need to find a common vocabulary and a clear understanding of industry requirements. But when commodity prices drop, companies are less willing to devote time and energy for collaboration.
“You need to get access to tacit knowledge so the new knowledge you’re building matches properly. If you don’t, you are losing a lot of information,” said Nadeau. “You’ve got to have dynamic exchanges with the end users. If it’s not what they wanted or expected, it won’t be used and will stay in the university.”
CSPC shares ideas for governing and funding big science facilities
Plenary Session: International Perspectives on Big Science in Canada: Where Should Canada Go?
Organized by Canada Foundation for Innovation
CSPC 2015: November 26, 2015
Moderator: Gilles Patry, President and CEO, Canada Foundation for Innovation; Panelists: Catherine Ewart, Head of Stakeholder and International Relations, Science and Technology Facilities Council, U.K.; Rolf Heuer, Director General, CERN; Nigel Lockyer, Director, Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory
The policy issue:
Canada is home to several “big science” research facilities that cost upwards of $100 million, take years to build and operate on decade-long time scales. While these facilities have a powerful impact on the quality and competitiveness of Canadian science, there is no national policy framework considering, evaluating and overseeing large-scale research infrastructures.
Funding is another issue, noted Patry: “How can we make sure that the limited resources available for big science investments, both here and abroad produce the maximum benefits for Canada and the rest of the world?”
The panelists provided their perspectives on what other countries are doing on this front, and how Canada might learn from their experiences.
The European Union Council of Research Ministers responded to these challenges with the creation in 2002 of the European Strategy Forum on Research Infrastructures. The ESFRI does not fund research infrastructures; rather, it provides a forum for coordination, information sharing, help and best practices.
Ewart describes ESFRI as a “top-down process that complements the bottom-up processes within the member states”.
One of its jobs is to prioritize research infrastructures and develop roadmaps, based on best practices, transparency, strict evaluation and excellent science. The roadmaps identify new pan-European research infrastructures or major upgrades to existing ones to meet the European research community’s needs over the next 10 to 20 years. The current roadmap contains 48 projects and work is underway to launch a new roadmap in March 2016, which Ewart said will be more of a strategy document and contain fewer and more mature projects (about 25).
“The proposals not only have to present a science case, but a technical case, a business case, and they have to say something about the maturity of the infrastructure and external peer review is extremely important,” said Ewart, adding that projects will be audited every two-to-three years.
Overall, she said ESFRI resulted in better coordination between member states, less duplication and reduced fragmentation.
Increasingly, countries also share costs that are too large for any country to manage on its own. For example, the U.K. is one of 21 member states that contribute to the governance and costs of the CERN particle physics laboratory, which accommodates the research of over 12,000 visiting scientists from over 70 countries. (Oddly, though Canada is involved in several experiments at CERN, in particular the largest one, it has yet to join the four associate members.)
The CERN council, with support from a scientific policy committee and a finance committee, decides on infrastructure development and research directions proposed by CERN management. Fairness, flexibility and mutual understanding are central to CERN’s model: each country gets one vote, and each contributes according to their means.
Besides having long -term plans, CERN has a rolling five-year plan which helps the facility to avoid “fiscal cliffs and aid seamless financial management”, said Heuer, who is responsible for the day-to-day operations of CERN.
CERN brings all the funding agencies to the table to agree on a plan and oversee its execution. He described CERN as “the most successful model for international scientific collaboration the world has yet seen”. The key to its success, he added, is how it accommodates the needs of diverse communities with different levels of resources, different needs and different priorities.
“The CERN model is based on consensus, collaboration and competition. If you can bring those together you have a recipe for multi-stakeholder success … Canada can learn from this model,” said Heuer.
Lockyer brought both a Canadian and American perspective on research infrastructure, as the former director of the TRIUMF particle physics lab in British Columbia and current director of the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory near Chicago. The big funder of big science in the U.S. is the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Science. The US$5-billion organization funds basic research and 10 national labs, including FERMI.
“The funding agencies are like parents and are committed to your success and that’s different from how it’s done in Canada,” said Lockyer. “When I go to CERN and talk to Rolf (Heuer), my funding agency goes with me.”
Unlike the National Science Foundation in the U.S. which is proposal-driven, DOE is mission-driven and top-down, but driven by the grassroots scientific community. “DOE won’t go out on a limb unless everyone is behind the idea.”
Governance is also key. DOE conducts upfront reviews of management and their experience as part of a “layman review” process.
To ensure stable and ongoing funding, DOE uses a Total Project Cost (TPC) system, which takes into account things like inflation, labour and contingency costs—the latter can cost 30-35% for large projects. But the money isn’t given without accountability. Each lab’s Performance Evaluation and Measurement Plan (PEMP), based on such criteria as operations, safety and efficiency, is appraised and graded, with annual “report cards” made publicly available.
Labs are also operated as Government Owned/Contractor Operated (GOCO). “They get a fee for running the lab, like Chalk River (nuclear) Labs (north of Ottawa). If you score lower on the report card, you get less money so there’s motivation for doing a good job,” said Lockyer.
When asked what advice he would give Canada, Lockyer said it’s important for a country to develop a vision and a roadmap for big science that sees big science facilities “working together as a unit and be more mission-driven”.
Ewart said it’s important for funding organizations to agree on a coordinated approach. Heuer urged individual disciplines to develop their own roadmaps first before bringing all the different roadmaps together. “Then you can look internationally to see the best way to proceed. Is Canada leading in this area, or is another country or continent overtaking you. It might make sense to join them and do it there and not here.”
Despite the challenges, Lockyer is optimistic. He met Trudeau at TRIUMF years ago and unlike many politicians, he said Canada’s newest prime minister understands the importance of big science. “He knew what CERN was and knew what particle physics are. He said ‘I love that stuff’. It’s an opportunity and a special moment for Canada.”