The field of venture-backed investments into early-stage (preclinical to Phase 2a) biopharmaceuticals has seen a shift to a greater reliance on virtual models of drug development. This trend is based on the fact that expertise required for drug discovery and preclinical drug development differs in large part from that required for clinical development. Building R&D teams de novo for each asset can result in “feast and famine” for the local economies where teams of experts are hired, to be let go once the product moves along the drug development continuum. The virtual model of drug development provides for a more stable employment environment as it looks to engage the “best and brightest” from established companies and independent consultants to fill the resources required to take a product through the series of developmental hurdles. As well as “feeding” the local established economy, the model bolsters strong local capabilities by also sourcing internationally top key opinion leaders and established groups with long records of drug development. This model results in greater capital and timeline efficiencies, an increased likelihood of investing in “winners” and a process for drug development focused on getting innovative therapies to patients as quickly as possible.
Our esteemed panel of experts all contribute to this ecosystem;
Organizations like FACIT, work with academic groups to identify innovative medicines of highest interest and provide a link to the key opinion leaders in a specific field.
Investors like Teralys who invest both directly and indirectly into the model of virtual drug development; supporting the local and international ecosystems of expert drug developers.
Venture Capital teams, like TVM Capital, who understand the value of team building in later-stage companies and have applied the virtual model of drug development at early stages in order to support the ecosystem of service providers, academic key opinion leaders and expert consultants in Canada and internationally.
Takeaways and recommendations:
Rebalance innovation policies to incent emerging virtual model for drug development
Virtual model maximizes impact of top talent, regardless of location or sector
Public-private investment in venture capital enhances commercialization potential for university-based drug discovery
Virtual model helps to build large, multi-institutional, multi-year projects
How virtual models are driving innovations in drug discovery
Panel: Economic Impact of Innovative Financing Models
Organized by Eli Lilly & Company
CSPC 2015: November 27, 2015
Moderator: Dr Cynthia Lavoie, General Partner, TVM Capital Life Science; Panelists: Marc Rivière, General Partner, TVM Capital; Cedric Bisson, Partner, Teralys Capital and Head, Life Sciences Practice; Daniel Biuthillier, President and CEO, Kaneq Bioscience; Jeff Courtney, Chief Commercial Officer, Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust
The policy issue:
The pharmaceutical industry’s shift toward virtual models for drug development and commercialization is compelling all players in the innovation ecosystem to adapt. Government, industry and academia must explore new collaborative approaches to ensure these activities remain in Canada and have sufficient financing to grow companies and deliver effective new patient outcomes.
The stakes are high in this global economic battle to attract pharmaceutical financing and expertise. Bisson said strong policy support for venture capital is required to ensure Canada’s major pharma hubs thrive and prosper.
“It’s important to emphasize the need for strong support for venture capital and whatever is done in terms of public policy should emphasize the model,” said Bisson. “Canada could be stronger than it is right now. We have big life sciences hubs in in Ontario, Quebec, British Columbia and Western Canada so we should reinforce those and make a difference.”
The high cost of drug development and commercialization is prompting the shift to virtual company models. Kaneq Biosciences is an example of a company with no infrastructure, internal resources or wet labs. Yet Biuthillier described this lack of internal resources as an advantage that he hopes will translate into new commercially successful drugs. The secret to success: good project management.
“Everything is contracted out and it gives us access to the best resources from consultants and CROs (contract research organizations) and shorter development time for drug development,” said Biuthillier. “We can count on a sound team of experts for any challenge that comes up which is a cheaper approach than anything else I’ve seen or been involved with.”
The virtual approach also extends beyond companies to the research institutions that work with them. The Ontario Institute for Cancer Research (OICR) is a 10-year-old translational research institute takes a collaborative approach to cancer treatment and prevention. Its commercialization arm—the Fight Against Cancer Innovation Trust (FACIT)—bridges the gap between academia and the market.
“It’s a different model … We have 300 people inside the institute but we also support about 1,700 scientists across the province so we outsource as much as we do internally,” saidCourtney. “We build teams around very large multi-institutional, multi-year projects or themes and move it to a place where we can attract support from VCs or collaborate with strategic partners. We provide $10-12 million over four years and the teams have to be into clinical trials at the end of that period.”
A recent FACIT-supported project for leukemia attracted additional funding from Johnson & Johnson. If subsequent R&D proves successful, J&J has an option to acquire the product for $450 million. Courtney says the proceeds from this and other successful projects will be recycled back into research, allowing it to attract the best available scientific and entrepreneurial minds to bolster its R&D and commercialization capacity.
Public and private support for bridging the commercialization gap is essential for investors like Teralys and TVM Capital. The latter is a US$200-million fund which has already committed $90 million to six projects.
Rivière said that, as a “downstream” partner, he seeks out promising drug development candidates close to the clinical stage and funds development to phase III by creating virtual companies. Of the six established to date, five are headquartered in Canada and TVM has spent $25 million domestically on toxicology studies and clinical research.
“Geography is not important but these companies were created here … We’re an international group based in Canada which makes it easier to do things here and gain access to international expertise,” said Rivière, adding that TVM has strong collaborative ties to the Montreal Neurological Institute. “We use a whole series of experts from industry and academia who help us figure out the value of assets. When it comes to clinical trials, we support a number of collaborative groups which also follow the virtual model.”
This is an interactive session with participation of all CSPC delegates to discuss the future of science policy in Canada and the role CSPC can play.
Science policy is undergoing a fundamental shift in Canada. It is important for governments, businesses, and researchers to work together to create an effective science technology and innovation ecosystem. The Canadian Science Policy Conference (CSPC) meets an important need for a non-partisan, inclusive, national dialogue on science, technology and innovation policy and is well positioned to lead the discussions on the priorities and directions for the new Liberal Government. The CSPC vision is to ensure systematic connections between Canada’s diverse science policy stakeholders. This is an open mic session to discuss the future of science policy in Canada and the role CSPC can play. Please join us and engage in the discussion!
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a global problem with efforts underway by individual countries, and by the G7 and WHO, to address the issues.
As global efforts advance, Canada must examine the challenges and opportunities in research and development around AMR. The purpose of this panel is to open the Canadian conversation around innovation: what is Canada currently doing and what are the considerations for moving forward both domestically and internationally.
Panelists from government and industry will discuss the current efforts underway globally and in Canada on AMR, and the role that innovation and partnerships in the health research community and industry will need to play to address the problems.
Takeaways and recommendations:
Create programs that help bridge the gaps between discovery, clinical testing, development and market
Consider a federal framework for AMR similar to U.S. and Europe
Incentivize and reward the sustainable use of antibiotics
Reward novel discoveries and approaches
Create more partnerships between academia and industry
Encourage international partnerships between various funders and AMR programs
Create partnerships that keep resources and talent within Canada
Incentives needed to drive innovation in antimicrobial resistance
Panel: The Role of Innovation in Addressing Antimicrobial Resistance
Organized by Industry Canada
CSPC 2015: November 27, 2015
Moderator:Dr. Roman Szumski, Vice-President of Life Sciences, National Research Council; Panelists:Patrice Allibert, CEO, GenePOC; Brigitte Nolet, Head of Global Health Policy, F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd.; Dr. Marc Ouellette, Scientific Director, Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR); Dr.Sameeh M. Salama, Vice President, Business Development, NAEJA Pharmaceutical Inc; Angela Wittlesberger, Scientific Officer, Innovative Medicines Initiative; Dr. Gerry Wright, Director, Michel G. DeGroote Institute for Infectious Disease Research, McMaster University
The policy issue:
Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) is a threat to global health, the World Health Organization has said. Antibiotics that we have relied on for years, such as colistin and carbapenem, are proving ineffective against new resistant strains of bacteria. At the same time, there is a dearth of new antibiotics being developed, resulting in the U.S. Centers for Disease Control describing the shortage as a global crisis.
“AMR is a race with the rules changing every day,” said Allibert. With a highly mobilized world, resistant strains can travel rapidly around the globe. “We need to react quickly with some easy tests and not wait months.”
The key question, said Nolet, is “how can you have a predictable and stable environment with bacteria that are neither predictable nor stable?”
Government programs, private and public companies, and academic institutions in Canada, the U.S. and Europe are organizing around this issue and defining the multi-layered challenges. “The commercialization landscape is very challenging,” said Wright, as there is a “limited receptor audience” and a low return on investment.
Wittlesberger added: “It is unattractive for pharmaceutical companies to develop an antibiotic because they need to spend a lot of money and effort to develop something that later should not be used, or only in very specific situations.”
Salama said there are few funding or partnering options within Canada that can help academic researchers and small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) maneuver the long and costly road from discovery through to clinical trials, regulatory approval and ultimately clinical use.
“We’ve lost a lot of talent going into the U.S. and into Europe with the closing down of several companies – AstraZeneca, Boehringer Ingelheim – in Canada,” said Salama. “What we are missing is a national strategy.”
“Antimicrobial resistance is getting very high on the political agenda,” said Ouellette. For example, the Canadian Institute for Health Research (CIHR) has invested $229 million over the last 15 years on AMR projects.
A recently released Federal Action Plan on Antimicrobial Resistance and Use in Canada maps out a coordinated and collaborative approach to combating the threat of antimicrobial resistance. It is a multi-department, said Ouellette, with areas of focus around surveillance for antimicrobial threats, stewardship and innovation.
But it may not be enough. Nolet said “we have to look at the framework around the federal action plan,” one that brings together regulators, academia, and provincial governments. “Innovation in antimicrobial resistance is critical but it must be supported by strong government policies that will ensure that it actually reaches the people who need them.”
In Europe, the Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI) has taken steps to address the AMR issue by creating a > 600 million Euro program that helps bridge the gaps between discovery, testing and development, and market. IMI’s New Drugs for Bad Bugs (ND4BB) program addresses four key challenges: the complexities of clinical testing, the scientific challenges of discovering new molecules, the movement of these molecules toward development, and the design of new economic models to drive innovation, sustainable use, and access.
Canada needs to offer similar opportunities for Canadian research and discovery around antibiotics, building on important learnings in the IMI program and exploring synergies and collaboration with IMI and other initiatives.
“We need to be able to put the technology in a de-risked position where a pharma company is seriously interested,” said Salama. Getting there requires partnerships, like the one between small biotech company Fedora and pharmaceutical giant Roche. But Salama noted that without support for small companies and academic researchers, these partnerships could become the exception in Canada.
Those partnerships require significant funding, more than programs like the Industrial Research Assistance Program can provide. Salma said Canada also needs a cohesive environment and culture between industry and academia. This will require incentives to partnering that make sense.
It’s also important that homegrown innovations benefit Canada, rather than being sold off to a foreign company that takes the technology out of the country. Nolet said this situation requires different partnership approaches, “from royalty payments, to co-marketing arrangements, and other joint commercialization partnerships that can keep some of that base power in Canada. It doesn’t just have to disappear into the global landscape.”
Partnerships will be key in ensuring that the novel molecules, approaches and ideas that come out of academia and SMEs advance quickly through the development pipeline.
It’s a similar story in the field of diagnostics where, to be effective, there needs to be a global network that monitors resistant strains. “We have to build a strong collection, because then we have to test it, and that’s a real challenge,” said Allibert. “The clinical trials must be crossed with different resistant strains.”
For example, Québec City-based GenePOC Inc. is developing a diagnostic test with a simple procedure anyone can do in an hour. “If we can bring the system closer to the patient,” said Allibert, “you can have an actionable result and make a treatment based on the status of the patient.”
As the innovation agenda grows globally, so does the need to ensure that entrepreneurship is strategically embedded into post-secondary institutions. Post-secondary institutions in Ontario, and across the globe, are offering an increasingly wide array of programs, services and resources to help young entrepreneurs explore options of starting their own technology-based business. Many of these initiatives have helped transform the entrepreneurial culture of their institutions, across all faculties and disciplines. This session will discuss the strategies adopted by post-secondary institutions to break down barriers and make on-campus entrepreneurship activities a strategic priority
Takeaways and recommendations:
Champion an institutional commitment to entrepreneurship
Provide exposure to entrepreneurship education, programs and services
Actively promote entrepreneurship as a career option
Build companies within the institution and link them to the broader business community
Entrepreneurship training now the norm at Ontario schools
Panel: The Role of Post-secondary Institutions in Building Ontario’s Entrepreneurial Class
Organized by the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI)
CSPC 2015: November 27, 2015
Moderator: Bill Mantel, Assistant Deputy Minister, MEDEI/MRI; Panelists: Tony Bailetti, Director, Technology Innovation Management, Carleton University; Steve Farlow, Lazaridis School of Business & Economics, Wilfrid Laurier University; Deepak Gupta, Director for Applied Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship Services, Centennial College; Francine Schlosser, Director, Research and Interdisciplinary Learning, Entrepreneurship, Practice, and Innovation Centre, University of Windsor; Abdullah Snobar, Executive Director, DMZ, Ryerson University
The policy issue:
As the innovation agenda grows globally, so does the need to ensure that entrepreneurship is strategically embedded into post-secondary institutions. That’s because “student entrepreneurs are the fastest growing vector of knowledge transfer,” said Mantel.
“One of our strategies is to build an army of entrepreneurs that takes inventive ideas and turns them into solutions people will pay for and build companies that make money … These types of activities have now become the norm on campuses.”
In 2014, the province launched the Campus-Linked Accelerators (CLA) and On-Campus Entrepreneurial Activities (OCEAs) programs as part of the Ontario Youth Jobs Strategy. Forty-two universities and colleges in Ontario participate in these programs, which help student entrepreneurs gain business skills, mentorship and hands-on experience to start and grow a business.
“You’re building an ecosystem on campus,” said Mantel, “but you’re linking that ecosystem to the off-campus community of entrepreneurs,” including the province’s 18 regional innovation centres. Tech start-ups use these hubs to access sophisticated programs and services as well as expert advisors, investors and researchers. “We believe this builds a more integrated entrepreneurship ecosystem city region by city region.”
In terms of results, the CLA has served about 36,000 young entrepreneurs, created some 1,300 jobs, helped launch over 730 new businesses, invested in over 105 youth-led companies, connected over 400 students with R&D internships and leveraged over $45.8 million in investment for new companies.
Bailetti said Carleton University has embraced an “ecosystem approach” that reaches out to undergraduate, master’s and Ph.D. students, and closely collaborates with the local business community and region’s the other three post-secondary institutions—University of Ottawa, Algonquin College and La Cité College. “Instead of being just a service provider, we wanted to create a venture creation machine that could be scaled up and scaled out.”
Carleton has 162 companies in the incubator phase, 35 in the accelerator phase and more than 200 that have “graduated”. Companies move into the university’s campus accelerator, based on their ability to generate $1 million in revenue within three years. Carleton takes no equity in the companies and makes no claim on the intellectual property.
“It’s all about talent, so attracting, developing and retaining talent to work with the ventures is very important,” said Bailetti.
Farlow lauded MRI’s “entrepreneurial institution” initiative, which has encouraged universities and colleges to be entrepreneurial throughout all faculties, and not just in business schools. “(Entrepreneurship) is now part of a strategic plan that’s being resourced. We’re hiring faculty and have an academic body of knowledge and applied experience and that has had an impact on the culture of the university, across all faculties.”
Students with further business ambitions can migrate to Laurier’s CLA called LaunchPad. “You have science students working with arts students working with business students, and lots of support from the regional innovation network, other public and private resources, and a network of mentors,” said Farlow. That support, he added, is helping students create meaningful, sustainable and profitable enterprises.
At the University of Windsor, Schlosser said few of her students were interested in starting companies because of a booming auto sector. But the recent recession killed many of those jobs, leaving Windsor with the highest jobless rate in Canada at about 9%; youth unemployment is even higher, hovering around 25%.
That economic reality changed the culture among both faculty and students. “Suddenly students were thinking about making their own job instead of taking a job,” said Schlosser.
At first, Schlosser said the previous entrepreneurship centre supported student business ventures like a restaurant or a car wash. “No technology, no science.”
The Odette faculty, with strong support from the president’s office, then worked with the university’s tech transfer office to build a multi-disciplinary CLA called the Entrepreneurship Practice and Innovation Centre (EPICentre). This created opportunities for business and law students to work with faculty and student inventors and scientists. “We also began a program called EPICentre Faculty Fellows that involved key professors in other faculties. The faculty helped us gain credibility with the president’s lead and helped us to translate entrepreneurialism in their own faculties.”
Ryerson’s DMZ (formerly the Digital Media Zone) is one of Canada’s largest business incubators for emerging tech startups. Launched six years ago as a small student-focused incubator, DMZ has evolved into a tech-based incubator housing 86 companies and over 500 people from across the world.
DMZ has helped create over 2,000 jobs and helped companies attract over $150 million in funding. The Stockholm-based research organization UBI Global recently ranked the DMZ number one among university-based incubators in North America and number three globally.
One of DMZ’s biggest assets, said Snobar, is the larger community it makes available to start-ups: the 500 people working at other start-ups, over 80 mentors and advisors, five full-time entrepreneurs in residence, and several “extremely involved and committed” government, business and industry officials, which drive about 10-15 tours a week”.
Other faculties have since jumped onboard. “Just two years ago we went from having one zone to 10,” including zones for biomedical, fashion, social ventures and transmedia, said Snobar.
“Ryerson has 40,000 students. The goal is not to create 40,000 entrepreneurs. The goal is to create 40,000 people who understand what it means to be creative, the role of entrepreneurship and how they can take those skill sets and experiential learning to an environment where they become ‘intrapreneurs’ and entrepreneurs. It is very much about building a culture of entrepreneurial thinking.”
Centennial College’s Accelerator for Centennial Community Entrepreneurs and Leaders (ACCEL) is focusing on 12 adjoining neighbourhood improvement areas in Toronto where the youth unemployment rate remains high. The program is designed for youth who are most in need and hardest to reach, often from diverse backgrounds or those facing multiple barriers.
Many of these youth are also “very enterprising” said Gupta, adding that Centennial has always been very engaged in entrepreneurship, especially with the community. Over the past 28 years, its Centre of Entrepreneurship has helped 3,600 previously unemployed individuals start up their own businesses with 97% start-up success rate.
He said Centennial has committed, as part of its strategic plan, to embed entrepreneurship, intrapreneurship and financial literacy in most of its 250 full-time and part-time programs across all its eight schools. “By 2018, nearly every one of our 19,000 full-time students will have exposure to entrepreneurship as part of their core curriculum at the college… It will teach them to be resilient, to be enterprising and to be more capable employees.”
The Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC) is using the occasion of the CSPC to release its State of the Nation (SON) 2014 report, which tracks Canada’s science, technology and innovation (ST&I) performance against international standards of excellence. Using the most recent international data available, the report identifies Canada’s key ST&I performance challenges and opportunities, offering a common evidence base from which governments, industry and academia can chart the path forward.
STIC Chair Kenneth Knox will launch State of the Nation 2014 at the CSPC plenary session that morning, by highlighting the report’s key findings and conclusions. This afternoon concurrent session, The Path to Science, Technology and Innovation Competitiveness, will allow conference participants the opportunity to engage in active discussion with panel members on the way forward – i.e., on concrete ways to enhance Canada’s business innovation performance and protect and grow our knowledge and talent advantages. The session will challenge participants to think about what all ST&I sectors can do, working in concert, to improve Canada’s ST&I performance.
Takeaways and recommendations:
STIC’s State of the Nation Report offers a data-rich foundation for moving the conversation on innovation to a new level
Government can be a catalyst or convenor for shifting from a national to a sector-based system of innovation
A Canadian SBIR program is a favoured approach to enhancing innovation. Current Canadian approach of incubators, accelerators and government procurement is not achieving the desired results
A culture change is required to reduce the levels of risk aversion endemic in all sectors
Policy needs to move from a dominant focus on start-up firms to the scaling of companies with the greatest potential for global competitiveness
Experts advocate for sector-based innovation strategy
Panel: So What Now? The Path to Science, Technology and Innovation Competitiveness
CSPC 2015: November 27, 2015
Moderator: Ken Knox, Chair Science, Technology, and Innovation Council (STIC) /and CEO, Knox-Vannest Inc.; Panelists: Bogdan Ciobanu,Vice-President, National Research Council of Canada’s Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP); Sophie Forest,Managing Partner, Brightspark; Marc Fortin,Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology, Department of National Defence (DND) and CEO, Defence Research and Development Canada (DRDC); Arvind Gupta, Professor and former President, University of British Columbia
The policy issue:
As a small nation, Canada must develop a systems approach to picking niches where it can succeed in a globally competitive environment. With hundreds of programs designed to stimulate innovation, there’s little coordination among them, resulting in assistance being spread over a wide spectrum of disciplines and technologies with less than optimum impact.
With its high level of public support for post-secondary research, policy makers need to encourage a structured sector-based approach to maximizing promising university discoveries and ideas, said Gupta.
“We are doing well but we’re slipping. Although we are investing, other countries are investing faster and we’re no longer in the top five in post-secondary expenditures on R&D. It’s something we have to watch,” said Gupta. “It’s a two-way flow. If we want our businesses to be more innovative we need good ideas to flow out of the universities and we need good talent … We have to take a systems approach and link together various players and be globally competitive”
The stakes are high. Canada is slipping in most of the innovation, productivity and competitiveness indicators, according to the latest data compiled by the Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC). Impetus must come from a recognition that the status quo is not good enough. Evolving towards a systems approach requires overcoming systemic risk aversion in business, government and academia and boosting collaboration internationally to access 95% of the world’s knowledge generated outside of our borders, said Ciobanu.
“It’s hard for a company to collaborate with another company on the other side of the world but this is one of the best ways to get access to market,” said Ciobanu. “We don’t partner internationally as well as we should. It starts with R&D and opens up to large commercial opportunities. That’s what we want for our companies.”
The wealth of base data and analysis in STIC’s biannual report—Stateof the Nation: Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation System—offers a solid basis for taking action. Fortin said policymakers and STI practitioners need to move past data collection and focus more on action.
“We’re going to have to roll up our sleeves and have a different conversation from the one where we’re not producing the right skill sets or business is not investing enough or that venture capital is too risk averse,” said Fortin. “We need to go past that … lock ourselves up in the same room for a little while and get out of our comfort zones to some extent.”
For those who contend that Canada lacks the entrepreneurial culture required for success, analyzing companies that have been successful in scaling and penetrating global markets is instructive. Forest says the common denominator among individuals helming successful firms is a healthy dose of paranoia.
“They need to be paranoid. The most successful people are afraid, they’re always running and they think they’re never going to be innovative enough. They may be way ahead of the pack but the CEO still doesn’t sleep at night,” said Forest, who has been investing in successful companies for more than 20 years. “Getting out of the comfort zone is a big problem. I visited Israel and was impressed with the level of innovation. They don’t have any choice. They don’t have energy or even water. We’re too comfortable with our natural resources. We need to lose sleep at night and be totally paranoid that … we’re missing that and that’s why we don’t build those big companies. We’re too comfortable.”
Canada, along with most other countries, has been implementing a range mechanisms for improving innovation and competitiveness. More recently, governments and universities have been establishing incubators and accelerators for small companies to take their products and processes to the next level. These are in addition to several programs managed by the Networks of Centres of Excellence. Not everyone agrees this is the best way forward.
“We have way too many incubators. The problem not the number, it’s the quality. They need to add value. We start a lot of companies in Canada, we don’t grow them and that’s where the problem lies,” said Forest. “We started an incubator at Brightspark and we stopped it because really good entrepreneurs don’t need them.”
A growing number of policymakers are advocating a Canadian version of the U.S. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program, which encourages small businesses to engage in federal R&D, enhancing their entrepreneurial spirit while meeting the needs of the government. They argue that a Canadian SBIR would be more effective than the procurement approach now being promoted by the federal Build in Canada Innovation Program.
There was caution, however, that a Canadian SBIR program should not be managed by the Industrial Research Assistance Program, as favoured by the new federal government.
There has been increased discussion of what institution or structure(s) should exist to act as a voice for science within parliament as well as provide science advice to parliamentarians and the public. One proposed solution is to create a Parliamentary Science Officer (PSO) that would provide lawmakers with background and analysis on science-related issues, serve as a watchdog over the government’s use of scientific evidence and encourage evaluation and coordination of research expertise across federal agencies.
Does Canada need a Parliamentary Science Officer? Is this the best way to ensure a voice for science is represented in government? What are the alternatives?
This outcome-oriented panel will examine different models for institutionalizing a voice for science within government in light of historical attempts to provide science capacity and science advice to Canada’s federal government, experiences with a similar institution in other jurisdictions, and the Canadian experience with the Parliamentary Budget Office.
Takeaways and recommendations:
CSO and PBO need a clear mandate and a large enough budget to support that mandate
Position must be independent and non-partisan
Learn from the experience and lessons of other countries
Consult widely before establishing the position, and review the scientific literature on science advice
If want oversight and accountability, establish a PSO which reports directly to Parliament
Determine how position fits within larger system of science advice
Does Canada need a chief scientist, a parliamentary science officer or both?
Panel: Who Should be the Voice for Science within government?
Organized by Evidence for Democracy
CSPC 2015: November 27, 2015
Moderator: Katie Gibbs, Executive Director, Evidence for Democracy; Panelists: Nicole Arbour, Senior International Advisor Government and International Relations, National Research Council of Canada; Patrick Fafard, Associate Professor, Graduate School of Public and International Affairs, University of Ottawa; Ted Hsu, former MP Kingston & the Islands, Liberal Party of Canada Science critic; Kevin Page, Jean-Luc Pepin Research Chair in the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Ottawa
The policy issue:
The new Liberal government in Ottawa has promised to appoint a Chief Science Officer (CSO) “who will ensure that government science is fully available to the public, that scientists are able to speak freely about their work, and that scientific analyses are considered when the government makes decisions.” The NDP also wants a Parliamentary Science Officer (PSO). Where should Canadian policymakers get their science advice?
Drawing on her experience as Team Lead for the UK’s Science and Innovation Network in Canada, Arbour told CSPC delegates that if you want a CSO and/or PSO that is long-term and non-partisan, “take the time necessary to ensure we get it right the first time”.
Start by studying the experience of other countries, and refer to the wealth of scientific literature published on the issue of science advice to government. For example, a recent OCED report includes a check-list to help governments design a process that enhances the efficiency and quality of science advice and builds trust between scientists, policymakers and the public. Such a checklist could be attached to all Cabinet briefing materials to help politicians demonstrate how evidence informed their decisions.
“A check list idea helps decision-makers know when they’ve fulfilled their promise of making sure decisions were informed by science,” said Hsu.
In the UK, Arbour said evidence-based decision-making is embedded across all of government, including a Parliamentary Office for S&T, a chief science officer, a House of Commons S&T committee and individual government departments. “There’s a lot we can learn from different parts of this system.”
Hsu said a CSO needs top-level support, which means reporting directly to the prime minister and Cabinet. He added that a CSO can help Cabinet ministers do their job by consulting with the right stakeholders to gather good science for informed policymaking—and then help politicians communicate the science simply, clearly and honestly.
Good science advice helps to build and maintain trust with the public, journalists and the scientific community, added Hsu. But this requires politicians having the information they need to easily explain and defend their choices with these audiences, thus avoiding what Hsu described as the “if you’re explaining, you’re losing” situation. “You must rely on public trust. You can never explain all the details.”
One challenge for a CSO, said Page, will be to resist political pressure; something he contends is inevitable under any political party. When establishing either a CSO or PSO, he said it’s essential to “right size the mandate with the budget”. As Parliamentary Budget Officer, he said they inherited weak legislation, a huge mandate and a small budget. “We suffered from low expectations in our office. They didn’t think we could do anything.” This led to conflicts with the governing party when the PBO began producing cost estimates that were often much higher than what the government presented.
Other big issues for Page are governance and independence. A CSO, as proposed by the Liberals, would likely report to Cabinet and the Prime Minister. However, if Canada wants an office that uses sciences to provide oversight and accountability, the position should report directly to Parliament. “Science for policy making and science for oversight are different.” And, if the science community thinks oversight is needed then, “Don’t be nice. Speak up.”
Fafard believes creating a PSO is a bad idea since it would report to Parliament—an institution more focused on holding the government of the day to account than policymaking. “If the goal is evidence-based policy, then don’t’ start with PSO.” However, a PSO may work, added Fafard, if the new government also introduces a package of democratic reforms, such as stronger House of Commons committees (e.g., including secret ballots for committee chairs and “reasonable” budgets), a reformed Senate, and more free votes in the House and Senate.
As for a CSO, he cautions against this position becoming nothing more than a cheerleader for science within government (e.g., more funding). Rather, he supports the idea of an “honest broker” between the scientific and political communities who can expand the range of choices available to decision makers.
He said it’s also important for a CSO “to understand how it fits within existing structures for how policy advice is provided” and to recognize that science is just one input into the decision-making process. “In a democracy, we want our politicians to take a lot of things into account. Evidence is one.”
“And,” added Fafard, “be darn sure that whatever role you put in place is engineered to fit with existing system of policy advice provided to the Prime Minister.”
Optional box: OCED checklist for effective and trustworthy science advisory processes:
Have a clear remit, with defined roles and responsibilities for its various actors.
Involve the relevant actors – scientists, policy-makers and other stakeholders, as necessary.
Produce advice that is sound, unbiased and legitimate.
This plenary session will begin with a presentation by David Watters of Global Advantage and CSPC Board member, on the key roles played by each major stakeholder group (Federal Government, Provincial Governments, Higher Education, Not-for-Profits, Private Sector, Foreign Sector) in Canada’s S&T/Innovation Ecosystem, including the patterns of their activities and performance.
Three questions will be discussed:
1. Why is Canada’s S&T/Innovation system generally performing so poorly?
2. What are the key “risks” of a further deterioration in performance?
3. What are the key “opportunities” to improve performance and how might this be accomplished?
For 35 years since the passage of the US Bayh Dole Act (1980) and the subsequent growth of technology transfer in Canada (the Fortier Report, 1999), the predominant paradigm of university participation in Canada’s innovation agenda has been the commercialization of university technology and research collaborations with industry. With the termination of the Alliance for the Commercialization of Canadian Technology (ACCT) in March 2015 traditional concepts of technology transfer are broadening to include other forms of engagement between university researchers and non-academic research partners. These forms of collaboration include knowledge mobilization, graduate internships, experiential education, entrepreneurship and social innovation. Knowledge mobilization is emerging as a means to support not only economic impacts of university research but also social, environmental and health impacts and thus supporting broad notions of innovation.
The presence of social, environmental and health areas of focus in addition to traditional Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) priorities in Canada’s recent Science, Technology & Innovation Strategy (December 2014) calls for Canadian universities to collaborate across disciplines and across sectors to maximize the impacts of university research and contribute to Canada’s broader innovation agenda. As well as being the primary generator of graduate level talent, universities are partnering with public, private and non-profit organizations to develop new solutions to persistent social, economic and environmental challenges. This emerging orientation of partnered research is supported by new funding programs that embrace new models of collaboration. Mitacs and Ontario Centres of Excellence fund graduate student internships with eligible non-profits. Ontario Social Enterprise Development Fund created opportunities for investment in social enterprises. Ontario Regional Innovation Centres Communitech, ventureLAB and NORCAT are collaborating on supports for social ventures. Networks of Centres of Excellence in Knowledge Mobilization (NCE KM) are working with industry, government and health care partners on bullying prevention, cyber security, stem cells, child and youth mental health and children’s emergency medical care.
This panel will explore the gaps left unfilled by traditional notions of university industry collaboration and explore the potential of Canada’s universities to contribute to broader notions of innovation that create triple bottom line (economic, social, environmental) benefits for Canada. The panel will explore Canada’s existing assets and what we need to build in order to maximize the return on investments in university research?
Takeaways and recommendations:
Universities have diversified their interactions with industry with positive effects
Industry could benefit from more funding for technology development
Mitacs stands out as an effective vehicle for transferring skills from academia to industry
Industry engagement has overtaken technology transfer as the preferred model for knowledge translation and commercialization
Knowledge translation/mobilization including but beyond industry (with government and community) can be both profitable and socially beneficial
Collaborations expand beyond traditional tech transfer model
Panel: The Future of University Support for Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) Strategy
Organized by York University
CSPC 2015: November 27, 2015
Moderator: David Phipps; Panelists: Christine Tausig Ford, Vice President, Universities Canada; Ron Freedman CEO, Innovation Atlas Inc. and Research Infosource Inc.; Robert Hache, Vice-President Research and Innovation, York University; Cameron Ower, Chief Technology Officer for, MDA Robotics and Automation
The policy issue:
The predominant paradigm of university participation in Canada’s innovation agenda has been the commercialization of university technology and research collaborations with industry. Funding organizations have pushed to broaden that paradigm with new programs designed to enhance the social, economic and environmental impacts of new forms of collaboration through knowledge mobilization, graduate internships, experiential education, entrepreneurship and social innovation.
Academia and their external research partners are stepping up to the challenge, examining new ways to maximize the impact of post-secondary research expertise and talent. There is also a need to reprioritize the research disciplines typically engaged with industry and expand beyond the life and natural sciences to include the social sciences, humanities and creative arts.
“If we want social, economic and environmental benefits, we need to widen the focus and embrace the arts and humanities,” said Tausig-Ford. “Arts and humanities skills will be the most valuable to business and society going forward as technology gets more advanced and complex.”
This emerging holistic perspective of the post-secondary sector’s contribution to STI is driven by a constantly evolving policy framework aimed in large part at a greater alignment between industry and academia. Innovative firms are increasingly using research contracts and pre-competitive consortia to meet their technology requirements, increase their productivity and to become more competitive.
Ower said MDA Robotics and Automation (an operating unit of MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd.) has embraced academia’s new openness as well as government investments in leading-edge equipment.
“There are a lot more diverse ways we work with universities and that’s a positive thing. Licensing ideas from universities is a minor portion of what we do when developing products and services. Much more comes from research collaborations,” said Owers. “Contract research is often viewed negatively as a ‘contract job’. It’s not perfect but it enhances the knowledge transfer process, especially for specialized development like MDA does.”
There is still a need to adjust the balance of support for research collaborations, added Owers, with a greater weight on technology development and fewer support programs.
Freedman said the decrease in emphasis on technology transfer was inevitable after the golden age of university research in the 1990s, as the high costs shouldered by the universities coincided with negligible impact on industry. As industry engagement took on increasing emphasis in policy circles, new arm’s length organizations emerged—but only a handful have achieved anything more than moderate, sporadic success.
“We have created a vast and costly para-government QUANGO (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organizations) sector costing hundreds of millions of dollars a year but not a lot of success. We’ve run out of paradigms so where do we go from here. The real action is happening with researchers, research groups and students. Mitacs is the right way to go,” said Freedman. “The basic concept of knowledge is beginning to shift … The social sciences and humanities are also increasingly being recognized.”
Freedman added that the dominant programmatic focus on small firms needs to shift to medium-sized firms with existing product lines and supply chains. He said they will have a far better chance than start-ups of becoming Canada’s large, globally competitive companies of the future.
Technology transfer offices remain a legitimate academic endeavour for many who see social innovation as a key intermediary for transferring knowledge into society—on par with the private sector. At York University, knowledge mobilization and social responsibility are considered valid ways to look at the role of universities in knowledge generation and translation.
“How can we ensure that the many good ideas from universities bring benefits to the broad society through commercialization or other means?,” asked Haché. “We try to emphasize that social innovation and social benefits don’t have to be a loss leader. There can be profitable entities doing work for the benefit of the community.”
Blogging and other forms of social media can increase engagement among scientists, government and the public. How can it better be used, or used in new ways to influence science policy and how can Canadians use it to effectively participate in policy debates?
Science blogs serve many communities, including research, policy, the mainstream media and the public at large. They validate successful science, challenge weak conclusions, and are an increasingly important tool for providing valuable context and understanding of research via an open and public forum that encourages debate. Further, science blogging fills the void left by the changing media landscape with fewer resources invested in science writing and reporting. Policy makers are looking to trusted blogs and social channels for insight and information.
This session will provide an in-depth and hands-on look at science blogging and its impact on the Transformation of Science, Society and Research in the Digital Age. With a particular focus on tools and platforms, best practices, the current Canadian blogging landscape, and some predictions for the future, this interactive session will demonstrate how blogs are a platform for engagement, discussion and sharing of science.
Canada has many talented science bloggers, representing both the science reporting and documentary approaches. Our science blogging community has strengthened and grown in recent years, with Science Borealis, launched at the 2013 CSPC, providing a cohesive platform for discussion, discovery and delivery. The proposed panel will address how science blogs are useful for both policymakers and scientists.
Tapping into the power of the crowd, the session will interactively engage the audience in the creation of a quality, high-impact, policy-oriented blog post that will later be published on Science Borealis. The panel will provide audience members with hands-on experience in good blogging practice: goals, approaches, dos and don’ts — and more — to create a well-designed post accessible to government, the broader scientific community, industry and the public.
The panel will discuss the current state of science blogging in Canada showcasing best examples and demonstrating their impacts on the public perception of science and the transformation of science and research and. It will briefly explore this type of digital engagement with an eye to the future.
Blogging and social media bring public voice to policy issues
Panel: Science Blogging: The Next Generation
Organized by Science Borealis
CSPC 2015: November 27, 2015
Moderator:Brian Owens, General Science Editor, Research Canada / Science Borealis; Panelists:Amelia Buchanan, Blogger, Journalism Student, Algonquin College; Christopher Buddle, Associate Professor and Associate Dean, McGill University; Sabrina Doyle, New Media Editor, Canadian Geographic; Paul Dufour, Principal / Adjunct professor, PaulicyWorks / University of Ottawa; Lisa Willemse, Senior Communications Advisor, Ontario Institute for Regenerative Medicine
The policy issue:
The media landscape is changing, leaving a gap in professional science reporting and writing. With the speed of scientific innovation increasing in many fields, more effective ways are needed to attract the public’s interest and attention.
A growing population of science bloggers is helping to fill this void. More scientists are also turning to new media platforms as a way to disseminate their research to the broader public and create communities of interest.
For policymakers, these online communities provide a new window to engage the public and gauge the public’s reaction—in real-time—to various issues. But the value of this interface depends on the trustworthiness of the science being communicated, as well as the audience or community being engaged.
At issue is how this platform can be used effectively to engage the public, scientists, policy analysts and government in meaningful policy debates.
The Canadian public is interested in the work of our researchers, said Buddle. “I have direct experience in knowing that because of the effects of a blog and a tweet and whether a journalist picks that up.”
A recent media analysis conducted by Dufour revealed that the words ‘science’ and ‘muzzling’ began appearing together in local and international media in 2013 largely because of the work of bloggers and social media organizations (e.g. Unmuzzledscience and Evidence for Democracy).
“I was intrigued by the incredible rise of advocacy groups using social media to trigger a debate in this country around a very important issue,” said Dufour. “The power of that has led to what we have seen yesterday,” he added, referring to Science Minister Kirsty Duncan’s CSPC speech that the new Liberal government will value and respect science and scientists and rely on evidence-based decision making.
Blogging and social media are among the easiest ways to do outreach today, Buddle said. He noted that scientists who lift the curtain on how research works help to “humanize the process of science.”
If scientists are going to participate in science policy, Buddle said “they have to move from behind pay walls and ivory towers and talk to people about their work.” We cannot rely on media offices to do all the work as “they have their own agendas and priorities.”
The audience generally agreed that social media and online communities are useful for gauging public attitudes to science and science-based issues. But as one delegate cautioned, “anecdotes don’t make policy.”
Building trust with the public is important and this starts with transparency. Since Single-author blogs are often unedited, Willemse said “the onus is then on the reader to assess the veracity of that blog, so you want to make sure that you … present your facts in a way that people can actually understand where you’re getting your research from.”
Understanding your audience is also key. “If the whole point is to get more people to interact with you and pay attention to your words then make it easy for them,” said Doyle. Avoid jargon, write clearly, think visually, and try to make it as interesting as you can, while staying within the bounds of facts, she said.
Delegates told the panel that it’s important to provide information that can be reproduced so that someone who works with that data will end up with the same findings.
Buchanan, who runs a single author blog called Lab Bench to Park Bench, said she references all sources in each post. As an unedited blog, she said she knows the importance of being open with the public.
Buchanan is also affiliated with Science Borealis, a science blogging hub launched at CSPC 2013. It is a growing community that connects science bloggers to the public, policymakers and media. Her submissions are reviewed by an editorial team, which helps validate her work.
But Buchanan’s science education did not prepare her for the world of communication. “As someone who is trained as a scientist, we’re not given any communication education whatsoever,” said Buchanan, who decided to top-up her biology degree with a journalism degree.
Buddle agreed that there are few incentives for academic scientists to do outreach. “Without support for these activities, only small number of academics will take any time to think about science blogging…and to link their work to science policy.”
If we solve this issue around incentivizing outreach, Buddle said, “I think the landscape of Canadian science policy will shift rapidly and in many positive and productive ways.”
Plenary: The Outlook for Canada’s S&T/Innovation (STI) ecosystem: Risks and Opportunities
CSPC 2015: November 27, 2015
Moderator: Janet Halliwell, Principal, JE Halliwell Associates Inc.; Panelists: Gerard Kennedy, CEO, Alpha Healthcare; Ken Knox, Chair, Science, Technology, and Innovation Council (STIC), CEO, Knox-Vannest Inc.; John Knubley, Deputy Minister, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada; Roseann O’Reilly Runte, President, Carleton University; Dave Watters, President and CEO, Global Advantage Consulting Group Inc.
The policy issue:
There has been no shortage of high-level reports raising the alarm about Canada’s innovation challenges and lacklustre investments in R&D. Over the past 10 years Canadian R&D investments have consistently declined and are now 35% less than the OECD average. In addition, the number of Canadian research-related jobs has declined 14% in just the past four years, including the loss of over 40,000 research personnel in the private sector. The decline in Canada’s overall expenditures on R&D is now the second worst among 34 OECD countries. Only Luxemburg ranks lower.
“I think we need to worry about Canada’s poor and declining innovation performance … Our OECD competitors are really leaving us in the dust. We need to understand more deeply the reasons underlying our competitors’ better performance and their practices and try to remedy the situation,” said Watters, who had held senior Assistant Deputy Minister positions in several government departments, including Finance Canada.
Canada currently spends about $30.6 billion annually on R&D, or about 1.55% of its GDP. Where other OECD countries have increased R&D spending by 13% over the past decade, Canada’s has seen its investments plunge 23%.
It’s a message Knox said elected officials need to hear. “We can continue to spend the same amount as we have but if we don’t do that as a percentage of our own growth we’re falling behind, and if we don’t do that as a percentage of what our competitors are we’re really falling behind.”
To match the OECD average of 2.4% of GDP, Watters said Canada would need to increase R&D spending by 35%, or $81 billion over the next five years. This would require increased investments of $32.4 billion by the higher education sector, $40.5 billion by the private sector and $8.1 billion by governments and not-for-profits. “Obviously, financially we can’t support that, and have to manage expectations as we seek to improve the system,” said Watters.
The first step to addressing these challenges is for Canada to adopt an innovation strategy that is an export strategy, one that grows Canadian technology-based companies in global markets and creates jobs, said Watters. International trade agreements are an important component of this, he added, but now we need to identify specific new markets to exploit them, particularly for Canada’s SMEs.
“My view when considering improvements to Canada’s innovation ecosystem is to give a priority to job creation, especially for youth and other disadvantaged groups.”
On the good news front, Canada ranks highest among OECD nations for the proportion of adults with a college or university degree. Unfortunately, as Knox pointed out, “we’re not hiring the graduates we’re producing.”
Despite the scale of the challenge, Halliwell said having a science-friendly government is a good first step. “I believe there’s a renewed sense of optimism that we can and should do better.”
Knubley said an innovation strategy needs to link both science and economic objectives, and is encouraged by the government’s decision to change the name of the Industry Canada department to Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED).
Knox said government has an important role to play in supporting the innovation ecosystem, especially in striking the right investment balance. “We’re saying as a council (STIC) to the elected officials we need to address this indirect and direct funding of business (research) because clearly what we have done for the last decade around SR&ED (Scientific Research and Experimental Development tax credit) and other things hasn’t worked to get our businesses to where they need to be,” said Knox.
For Kennedy, a former Ontario cabinet minister turned entrepreneur, public investments in innovation need to produce meaningful and measureable outcomes—the most important outcome being “durable jobs”, particularly in new sectors such as clean tech. “You want a startling figure, stop looking at innovation and look at how many of our natural resources are running out … We can’t live off those resources for much longer.”
Creating durable jobs will require innovation policies that incent companies to invest and Canadians to become more entrepreneurial, he said. “Innovation has to be about enterprising … With no offence to the folks who invent things, the part that matters more now is getting this stuff into practice, and it has to happen here.”
Too often, Canadian R&D investments lead to the innovation or company being sold to another country which creates little or no value here over the long term, said Kennedy. “If we paid for it through Genome Canada or somewhere else, what are we able to get as a durable return? … And unless we know that upfront, there isn’t going to be an agenda that (ISED) Minister Navdeep Bains can sell to Canadians.”
The big issue for Canada is one of culture, and Kennedy said we’ll fail by just trying to mimic the “extremely profit-driven” approach of the U.S. He said Canada needs a culture that fits our mixed economy, and a government that is willing to take both risks and responsibility for outcomes. “We need enterprising that is done everywhere,” including the not-for profit sector.
Post-secondary institutions are playing a bigger role in promoting entrepreneurship. “Every single strategic mandate agreement submitted by a university in Ontario a year ago to the provincial government included entrepreneurship and activities, like the one we have at Carleton where in every major faculty students can minor in entrepreneurship,” said O’Reilly Runte.
She said government needs to create conditions that encourage entrepreneurship. That means adopting proven approaches, such as locating incubators on campuses “where action is happening” and supporting networks that bring institutions together to work on big challenges. Incentives can also work, such as national competitions that reward entrepreneurship, particularly in priority areas such as the environment, clean tech and digital technology.
That “carrot approach” also needs to come with a few sticks, added O’Reilly Runte. For example, students should be required to take mathematics in their final year of secondary school, which gives them more options in university to pursue science, engineering or physics. “Don’t close the door before they even have the chance to peek behind it and see what’s behind that door.”
State of the Nation 2014 – Science, Technology and Innovation Council; www.stic-csti.ca