Last updated on April 23, 2014 at 16:13 EDT

How to Help University Research Boost Canada’s Economy: C.D. Howe Institute

June 5, 2013

TORONTO, June 5, 2013 /CNW/ – Canadian universities lag behind their US
counterparts in generating technology transfer between academic
research and companies, and improved policies are needed to address the
problem, according to a report released today by the C.D. Howe
Institute. In “From Curiosity to Wealth Creation: How University
Research can Boost Economic Growth,” author Peter Howitt recommends how
governments can improve the incentives for universities and their
researchers to pursue research lines that can eventually be

Contrary to what the federal government has done recently, Howitt finds
the best way to promote technology transfer is not to target research
at business needs. Instead, he argues that the best approach is to let
the two sides of the partnership, academia and business, do what they
do best. “We need to promote a division of labour. Research grants
shouldn’t be tied directly to commercialization,” he says. “The
evidence shows that the best approach is to create first-rate
universities where first-rate scientists can pursue research that
appeals to their curiosity, and encourage business to invest in
commercializing their discoveries.”

The source of technological innovation is research and development
(R&D), most of which takes place in the private sector of the economy.
University research, however, is the source of the basic building
blocks of many of the core sectors of the economy, in everything from
information technology to pharmaceuticals and much more.

Improving the links between discoveries and commercialization is
crucial. Although the federal and provincial governments are taking
steps to encourage the commercialization of research, Howitt argues
that they should go further by:

        --  building on recent reforms to the National Research Council
            that make it more business-oriented, but with the eventual goal
            of making it a pan-Canadian technology transfer institution,
            leaving federal funding for research to granting organizations;
        --  requiring that all federally funded research papers appear in
            open access online repositories;
        --  developing a set of templates available to all university
            researchers that outline the terms of commercialization - such
            as intellectual property rights or revenues - between
            universities, researchers and their business partners; and,
        --  letting university researchers operate as "free agents" rather
            than tying them to their university's designated technology
            transfer office.

Rather than governments directing researchers to pursue business-related
research, says Howitt, the overarching priority for Canada should be to
attract the best researchers in the world. “Though it may seem
paradoxical, the evidence supports the view that the greatest benefit
to society will come from scientists for whom practical utility and
individual financial reward are minor considerations.”

“The best way to attract such scientists to Canada is to redirect our
research support towards the problems that are most challenging from a
scientific point of view, not towards those that bureaucrats view as
most likely to lead to commercial success,” he concludes.

For the report go to: http://www.cdhowe.org/from-curiosity-to-wealth-creation-how-university-research-can-boost-economic-growth/21899

SOURCE C.D. Howe Institute

Source: PR Newswire