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Kelley Bush
View Kelley Bush Profile
Kelley Bush
2015-06-18 16:07
Good afternoon. My name is Kelley Bush, and I am the head of radon education and awareness under Health Canada's national radon program.
Thank you, Mr. Chair and members of the committee, for inviting me to be here today to discuss radon as a cause of lung cancer and to highlight the work of the Canadian – National Radon Proficiency Program.
Through the ongoing activities of this program, Health Canada is committed to informing Canadians about the health risk of radon, better understanding the methods and technologies available for reducing radon exposure, and giving Canadians the tools to take action to reduce their exposure.
Radon is a colourless, odourless radioactive gas that is formed naturally in the environment. It comes from the breakdown of uranium in soil and rock. When radon is released from the ground in outdoor air, it gets diluted and is not a concern. However, when radon enters an indoor space, such as a home, it can accumulate to high levels and become a serious health risk. Radon naturally breaks down into other radioactive substances called progeny. Radon gas and radon progeny in the air can be breathed into the lungs, where they break down further and emit alpha particles. These alpha particles release small bursts of energy, which are absorbed by the nearby lung tissue and lead to lung cell death or damage. When lung cells are damaged, they have the potential to result in cancer when they reproduce.
The lung cancer risk associated with radon is well recognized internationally. As noted by the World Health Organization, a recent study on indoor radon and lung cancer in North America, Europe, and Asia provided strong evidence that radon causes a substantial number of lung cancers in the general population. It's recognized around the world that radon is the second leading cause of lung cancer after smoking, and that smokers also exposed to high levels of radon have a significantly increased risk of developing lung cancer.
Based on the latest data from Health Canada, 16% of lung cancers are radon-induced, resulting in more than 3,200 deaths in Canada each year. To manage these risks, in 2007 the federal government in collaboration with provinces and territories lowered the federal guideline from 800 to 200 becquerels per cubic metre. Our guideline of 200 becquerels per cubic metre is amongst the lowest radon action levels internationally, and aligns with the World Health Organization's recommended range of 100 to 300 becquerels per cubic metre.
All homes and buildings have some level of radon. It's not a question of “if” you have radon in your house; you do. The only question is how much, and the only way to know is to test. Health Canada recommends that all homeowners test their home and that if the levels are high, above our Canadian guideline, you take action to reduce.
The national radon program was launched in 2007 to support the implementation of the new federal guideline. Funding for this program is provided under the Government of Canada's clean air regulatory agenda. Our national radon program budget is $30.5 million over five years.
Since its creation, the program has had direct and measurable impacts on increasing public awareness, increasing radon testing in homes and public buildings, and reducing radon exposure. This has been accomplished through research to characterize the radon problem in Canada, as well as through measures to protect Canadians by increasing their awareness and giving them tools to take action on radon.
The national radon program includes important research to characterize radon risk in Canada. Two large-scale, cross-Canada residential surveys have been completed, using long-term radon test kits in over 17,000 homes. The surveys have provided us with a much better understanding of radon levels across the country. This data is used by Health Canada and our stakeholder partners to further define radon risk, to effectively target radon outreach, to raise awareness, and to promote action. For example, Public Health Ontario used this data in its radon burden of illness study. The Province of British Columbia used the data to inform its 2014 changes to their provincial building codes, which made radon reduction codes more stringent in radon-prone areas based on the results of our cross-Canada surveys. The CBC used the data to develop a special health investigative report and interactive radon map.
The national radon program also conducts research on radon mitigation, including evaluating the effectiveness of mitigation methods, conducting mitigation action follow-up studies, and analyzing the effects of energy retrofits on radon levels in buildings. For example, in partnership with the National Research Council, the national radon program conducted research on the efficacy of common radon mitigation systems in our beautiful Canadian climatic conditions. It is also working with the Toronto Atmospheric Fund to incorporate radon testing in a study they're doing that looks at community housing retrofits and the impacts on indoor air quality.
This work supports the development of national codes and standards on radon mitigation. The national radon program led changes to the 2010 national building codes. We are currently working on the development of two national mitigation standards, one for existing homes and one for new construction.
The program has developed an extensive outreach program to inform Canadians about the risk from radon and encourage action to reduce exposure. This outreach is conducted through multiple platforms targeting the general public, key stakeholder groups, as well as populations most at risk such as smokers and communities known to have high radon.
Many of the successes we've achieved so far under this program have been accomplished as a result of collaboration and partnership with a broad range of stakeholder partners. Our partners include provincial and municipal governments, non-governmental organizations, health professional organizations, the building industry, the real estate industry, and many more. By working with these stakeholders, the program is able to strengthen the credibility of the messages we're sending out and extend the reach and impact of our outreach efforts. We are very grateful for their ongoing engagement and support.
In November 2013 the New Brunswick Lung Association, the Ontario Lung Association, Summerhill Impact, and Health Canada launched the very first national radon action month. This annual national campaign is promoted through outreach events, website content, social media, public service announcements, and media exposure. It raises awareness about radon and encourages Canadians to take action. In 2014 the campaign grew in the number of stakeholders and organizations that participate in raising awareness. It also included the release of a public service announcement with television personality Mike Holmes, who encouraged all Canadians to test their home for radon.
To give Canadians access to the tools to take action, extensive guidance documents have been developed on radon measurement and mitigation. Heath Canada also supported the development of a Canadian national radon proficiency program, which is a certification program designed to establish guidelines for training professionals in radon services. This program ensures that quality measurement and mitigation services are available to Canadians.
The Ontario College of Family Physicians as well as McMaster University, with the support of Health Canada, have developed an accredited continuing medical education course on radon. This course is designed to help health professionals—a key stakeholder group—answer patients' questions about the health risks of radon and the need to test their homes and reduce their families' exposure.
The national radon program also includes outreach targeted to at-risk populations. For example, Erica already mentioned the three-point home safety checklist that we've supported in partnership with CPCHE. As well, to reach smokers, we have a fact sheet entitled “Radon—Another Reason to Quit”. This is sent out to doctors' offices across Canada to be distributed to patients. Since the distribution of those fact sheets began, the requests from doctors offices have increased quite significantly. It began with about 5,000 fact sheets ordered a month, and we're up to about 30,000 fact sheets ordered a month and delivered across Canada.
In recognition of the significant health risk posed by radon, Health Canada's national radon program continues to undertake a range of activities to increase public awareness of the risk from radon and to provide Canadians with the tools they need to take action. We are pleased to conduct this work in collaboration with many partners across the country.
Thank you for your attention. I look forward to any questions the committee members might have.
View Ted Hsu Profile
Lib. (ON)
Is this the only study that has picked out the difference between male and female trends in high radon regions over time?
Sarah Henderson
View Sarah Henderson Profile
Sarah Henderson
2015-06-18 17:28
To the best of my knowledge, this is the only study to look at temporal trends in lung cancer mortality related to radon over time. We couldn't find anything else in the literature that was like this when we published it.
As part of the end of the study, we really encouraged other regions where there is a lot of radon to try to do the same thing with their data, to make sure that what we're seeing is true and not just some strange artifact of what happens in British Columbia.
Jean-Marie De Koninck
View Jean-Marie De Koninck Profile
Jean-Marie De Koninck
2015-06-16 11:22
Thank you, Mr. Chair, for this invitation to appear before the committee.
I would like to begin by introducing myself and the person accompanying me. As some may know, I am a mathematician and professor at the Université Laval. I am also the Special Advisor of the scientific director of Mitacs. I identify myself as a researcher, educator and communicator.
I will now introduce Dr. Robert Annan, Chief Research Officer at Mitacs.
Rob has provided leadership at Mitacs in various roles for the last five years and he's a passionate advocate for the role training and innovation must play in Canada's economic success.
I will provide an opening statement and Rob will be available to assist in answering questions, particularly those related to Mitacs' philosophy and activities.
First, here's a short explanation of what Mitacs is and what it does. Mitacs is a national not-for-profit organization that delivers research and training programs in Canada. Representing over 60 universities, it works with thousands of companies and both federal and provincial governments to build partnerships that support industrial and social innovation in Canada. We do this through research internships and skills training programs. We do this because these internships and other forms of experiential learning can integrate academic strengths with public and private sector innovation needs. They also give graduate students and post-doctoral fellows the opportunity to gain essential professional skills and non-academic experience.
Disruptive technologies are having a huge and positive impact on our Canadian economy. I'd be surprised if anyone you speak to over the course of this study would disagree with that statement. However, I'd like to use my time today to focus on two specific ideas that I see as critical to this discussion. First, I believe the vast majority of disruptive technologies are driven by advances made in fundamental research. Second, in order to maximize the impact that disruptive technologies can have on our society and our quality of life, we must also focus on the concept of disruptive learning.
First, we are surrounded by countless examples of applied science in our lives. There's no doubt that applied research and development is essential to the creation of disruptive technologies. Unfortunately, we sometimes forget that many of these had their origins in fundamental research. One such example is the way we exchange confidential information and communicate data. For this we need modern cryptography techniques.
It turns out that one of the most powerful encryption methods, which ensures in particular that important financial transactions are totally secured, was created in 1977 by three young mathematicians from MIT. Their research was in the field of number theory, an area of mathematics with results that are, for the most part, of theoretical interest. Today, this most secure data encryption system, which has fundamentally changed our lives in the way business is done online, exists because mathematicians indulged in pure mathematics without being concerned about the applications it might have in our daily lives.
The second idea I would like to touch on is what I call disruptive learning. Some of you may have heard of Sir Ken Robinson. He is an English author who argues that education systems should foster curiosity through creative thinking. He sees education as an organic system, not a mechanical one. He even claims that our current education system is archaic and outdated.
While we don't necessarily endorse all of Ken Robinson's ideas, we are challenged by them. Given that we all live in a technology-driven world, one that would have been unfathomable even a generation ago, doesn't it make sense to reconsider or at least re-examine how people are being educated? I would suggest that it's at least worth asking the question: can we do more to provide broader and more relevant training experiences and opportunities for our children and students?
This idea of embracing a new disruptive education paradigm is likely beyond the scope of this committee, but it's an important concept nonetheless. What is relevant, however, given the ongoing changes in technology and how it is used, is the question of how we invest in talent and in Canada's greatest resource, its people, in order to take full advantage of the disruptive technologies that exist today and that will exist in the future. We need to reconsider how we train and teach our students to function optimally in a world full of disruptive technologies.
Mitacs gets this. By delivering programs that look at research and experiential learning in a different way, they are demonstrating that they get how innovation really works.
I understand that in previous meetings you discussed the importance of investing in disruptive technologies, and that is clearly important. The question of which ones are worthy of such investment is far harder to answer. However, we at Mitacs believe that even more important is investment in talent and the training of our next generation of innovation leaders. With support from the federal and provincial governments, Mitacs delivered more than 3,000 internships across the country last year, and with the commitment in the recent federal budget we are on track to double this number by 2020.
Let me take one minute to tell you about one recent Mitacs funding recipient, Andre Bezanson. While impressive, Andre is by no means a unique case as Canada is full of young, ambitious researchers like him. Andre is a Ph.D. student in the school of biomedical engineering at Dalhousie University. His research focuses on developing technology to miniaturize ultrasonic probes to about the size of a pencil eraser so that they can be used for endoscopic imaging applications.
During his undergraduate degree in mechanical engineering, Andre discovered a passion for the engineering design process and for being able to see a project evolve from an idea to a tangible product. As part of his Mitacs-funded internship, Andre worked with Daxsonics Ultrasound Incorporated to develop high-frequency ultrasonic transducers and electronics for use in medical imaging. This new technology was adopted by Daxsonics and Andre was offered a key position in the company as a result of the success of this work. Upon completion of his degree he hopes to turn his new technology into a commercial product, opening up benefits of ultrasonic imaging to new clinical applications.
Andre's story is an example of how internships can have a profound impact on students and their success by expanding the way they learn. By investing in new models of experiential learning, we indirectly promote the creation and development of disruptive technologies.
I believe that the integration of experiential learning in graduate studies can change the landscape of research and innovation in Canada in three main ways. First, it builds collaborative research projects to leverage academic strengths and boost the innovation activities of the partner organization. Second, it expands the scope of research and development opportunities on Canadian university campuses. Third, and perhaps most important, it supplements traditional scholarships and training with experiential opportunities designed to expand creativity and innovation.
At Mitacs we use experiential learning to address complex issues and research challenges. At the same time, we provide Canadian students in post-docs, just like Andre, with opportunities that will broaden their skills and research experience.
We applaud the efforts of this committee in tackling such a challenging and complex issue. It will only be through such collaborative and cross-sectoral efforts that we can take full advantage of disruptive technologies here in Canada.
Indeed, there is a role for all of us to play if we truly hope to harness the power of disruptive technologies, and properly prepare our young Canadians to use them to their full potential and to develop the disruptive technologies of tomorrow.
Thank you for your attention.
Walter Di Bartolomeo
View Walter Di Bartolomeo Profile
Walter Di Bartolomeo
2015-06-16 11:31
Thank you, Mr. Chair and committee, for this opportunity to speak today.
Disruptive technologies are an important element but not the only element of an innovation process. They can lead to true breakthroughs in the design, function, and costs of products, and contribute to significantly increasing our competitiveness. They must be recognized and even encouraged as part of a company's, an industry's, and a country's innovation strategy.
That being said, I'll take a few minutes to provide a brief overview of our strategy at Pratt & Whitney Canada, which has led to a number of game-changing products and technologies that we like to say spark the imagination and move the world. Over 87 years, we have demonstrated a deep commitment to research and development. This has enabled us to emerge not only as a world leader in our markets but as a key player in the development of Canada's aerospace industry. We've produced 85,000 engines to date, and more than 50,000 are still in service today. We have 12,000 operators around the world, in more than 200 countries and territories—probably more than recognized by the United Nations, at that.
Every second, a Pratt & Whitney Canada powered aircraft takes off or lands somewhere in the world. These flights have a real and positive impact on thousands of human lives each and every day: humanitarian missions, emergency medical services, search and rescue, reuniting families, and creating jobs, to name a few. To that end, it must be realized that the most critical characteristic of the product that we design, produce, and service is reliability. As part of the flying public, we, our families, all count on successful flights every day.
To that end as well, we operate in an industry framework that is highly regulated—appropriately so—and for which the time scale for demonstrated innovation is measured in many years. In the last 25 years, we have successfully certified and brought to market over 100 new engines, a record that is unmatched in the industry. We've also forged strong R and D collaborations with universities, research institutes, and other partners across Canada to develop these technologies and products. No fewer than 9 of the 13 research chairs supported by NSERC in aerospace are in association with Pratt & Whitney Canada.
On our innovation journey, we've also been able to count on the support of the Canadian government and Industry Canada, which have shared our vision to build a strong and prosperous aerospace industry. These investments in cutting-edge materials, high-efficiency technologies to enhance engine performance and reduce fuel consumption, and combustion systems to reduce noise and emissions are a big part of our development.
We're also creating world-class centres of excellence for advanced manufacturing. These will be dedicated to manufacturing highly complex components and to supporting small and medium enterprises. The unique high-strength properties of the very complex materials that are used require fully integrated and ultra-efficient production lines equipped with automation, closed-loop process control, and high-precision machining technologies.
If we look back, our very first engine, which was first delivered in 1963, was the iconic PT6 engine. It was developed after numerous false starts, and at one point we had well over the net worth of the company invested in the program. That engine was game changing, and it was a step up from the traditional piston engine powered aircraft. It essentially created a new brand and market. Since that first model, we've developed more than 50 variants, and within the same size of engine we have increased its power by more than 400%.
Disruptions in markets can also lead to opportunities for innovative technologies that are technology ready. This was the case in the mid-eighties, with our PW100 turboprop market. In the eighties, we shifted direction in response to opportunities opened by airline deregulation in the United States, a deep economic recession, and a big spike in aviation fuel prices. These factors suddenly made fuel-efficient turboprops more competitive vis-à-vis jets, and we were there to leverage that. Today, those engine families are by far the leaders in that market.
Finally, I'll talk about the example of one of our most powerful disruptive technologies, and it's in our newest engine family, which is called the PurePower PW800. The genesis of this engine is the revolutionary and disruptive geared turbofan or GTF engine that powers the C-series aircraft. It was developed in concert with our parent company, Pratt & Whitney. This disruptive technology suite was more than 15 years in the making, and it reflects the rigour of effort, development, and validation that is sometimes required for flight critical technologies.
In the aerospace industry, disruptive does not necessarily equate to fast. Nevertheless, the geared turbofan increases efficiency and delivers significantly lower fuel consumption, emissions, and noise. The advances in aerodynamics, in materials, in combustion, will set a standard for many generations to come.
I'll speak more generically about disruptive technologies. They have an important place in our value stream, whether it's engineering, manufacturing, or services. However, there are many barriers to adoption, particularly in engineering and manufacturing, due to the regulation I spoke of, or market and economic contexts.
While fuel burn performance will continue to be a key indicator in the future, speed indicators such as speed in design, speed in manufacturing, and speed in service are dramatically evolving. Key future focuses will include disruptive technologies that address speed in manufacturing, for example, and we hear a lot about 3-D printing as an example of a dramatic evolution in such technologies.
You just heard about innovation and the Internet of things. Speed in customer service is another example where customer feedback and problem-solving will turn a new leaf with social media, and customer data will be transformed with evolving intelligence and predictive analytics for revolutionary service, offering a more connected world.
With respect to the basic propulsion technology, we firmly believe that we're starting to be at the cusp of cheating physics, and as such disruptive technology at this end will be more a rethink of the aircraft's system and architectural optimization. Though still very theoretical, the future is bright.
To conclude, it should be clear that Pratt & Whitney Canada has no intention of resting on its laurels. We already are well into the design of a new turboprop engine to replace that engine we started in the mid-1980s. We have several disruptive ideas still on the drawing board, from more electric solutions to significant architectural design innovations targeting 35% fuel burn improvements over current architectures. To put the number 35% in perspective, the industry considers that a 1% per year improvement in fuel burn is a general measure of successful innovation.
The future holds plenty of opportunities for more disruptive innovations. If we remain flexible in our technology choices, encourage our academic institutions and industry to collaborate closely, and continue to promote our industry, we'll continue our legacy of innovations and successful products and services within the country.
Thank you.
View Niki Ashton Profile
View Niki Ashton Profile
2015-06-16 11:52
On that note I represent a northern constituency and a number of the communities I represent do not have access to broadband. It's truly a daily struggle for something as basic as kids accessing the kinds of opportunities online that any other child in another Canadian community would have. Unfortunately while initial commitments were made in terms of the physical towers, that hasn't materialized in broadband connections the way it should have.
I do want to note, however, speaking of Pratt & Whitney, there is a highly technologically intensive operation in our region, a cold weather testing site, just minutes from my home. I think that's an example of a positive investment, and all levels of government were part of that in connecting IT opportunities in northern communities in a much greater way.
Mitacs, thank you for your presentation but also your insight into what we could be doing with respect to education. Obviously the federal government is more involved on the research intensive front and we see the need for greater involvement in post-secondary education and restoring dedicated funding on that front.
I wonder if you could perhaps speak to how to create a culture of innovation that encourages both basic research and commercialization. Is Canada able to strike a balance? How can we do that without giving preferential treatment to commercialization, for example, over anything else?
Robert Annan
View Robert Annan Profile
Robert Annan
2015-06-16 11:54
Yes, thanks for the question. It's a big question and it's one that we spend a lot of time thinking about and talking about.
I think the challenge is to try to reflect the reality. In science labs across the country people don't think about their research, necessarily, as applied and basic. The research is much more organic than that.
I did my Ph.D. at McGill in biochemistry, and we were working on mechanisms of protein folding inside of cells—how do proteins fold?—and there is a lot of mystery. Proteins have to fold and they do and we don't really know how. We developed certain tests to try different explanations and so on, and those tests ended up being really useful to screen for drugs for cystic fibrosis, which is a folding disease. So the tests we developed for basic science we started using to screen drugs, and we had an agreement with a major drug company to screen rapidly lots and lots of drugs to treat cystic fibrosis. Every time we'd get a hit from the drug screen we would then take it back to the basic side and ask, “What was the target? Does this explain why things are happening the way they do?” It was back and forth, and very fluid.
This has always been the way with science. It doesn't compartmentalize easily into these different areas.
Unfortunately it's tough to create mechanisms to reflect that kind of fluid reality. So we've been working with other research organizations like NSERC and SSHRC, the tri-council, and these other government-funded agencies, to try to find ways to integrate efforts to reflect that. Unfortunately I think we still have a lot of funding silos that say this should either be basic research or it should be applied research.
I think the more government can do to try to encourage either integration of effort and support, or to break down some of these silos and fund research, and encourage research to move in whatever direction is necessary to take us forward, that's really a positive step toward supporting innovation and getting away from this false dichotomy of it being either basic or applied.
View Cheryl Gallant Profile
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
First of all, Dr. Walker, you mentioned in your remarks about indicators you and your team had seen that government could not commoditize it or the people in the research lab were not able to commoditize it. Google and another company put it all together.
What can government do to help commoditize or create an environment that would be conducive to disruptive technologies when these indicators appear?
Robert Walker
View Robert Walker Profile
Robert Walker
2015-06-16 11:57
Ms. Gallant, if I had an answer to that, I'd probably be a rich man.
Let me say that among the issues that are out there, I believe one is that the tendency is for government to be engaged in a discussion of funding science, but there's another discussion around government being a customer of science. I think governments tend to be patient investors when they look at being a customer of science, which creates a platform where people have the opportunity to explore the what-if world of what might be around the corner, and with that to get those ideas socialized. If, in being a customer of science, the government also creates the opportunities for industry to look inside that science and to see what's emerging, industry will commoditize.
I think we're talking about new ways of connecting government science, not done inside government but where government's a customer, with industry that has the ideas to turn those emerging concepts into a bright idea that can enter the marketplace. It is the private sector that's far better to commoditize, but it needs to see the potential early on.
View John Carmichael Profile
Thank you, Chair.
Thank you to our witnesses for appearing today. It's a fascinating discussion. Primary school...?
Dr. Jean-Marie De Koninck: Yes.
Mr. John Carmichael: It's amazing.
I'd like to start with Pratt & Whitney and Mr. Di Bartolomeo. I wonder if you could just give us a quick look at CARIC, the consortium for aerospace research. It's a year since the funding began. We are in the first year. Are we seeing anything on the horizon that's going to assist us on some of today's discussion?
Walter Di Bartolomeo
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Walter Di Bartolomeo
2015-06-16 12:15
Yes. April 2014 was the inauguration. Had you asked me at that point if we would be this far advanced, I would have not believed it. We have subscribed all the projects we expected to do in its first year of operation. It's pan-Canadian in terms of the pull. There was some concern that it would Quebec-centric. That is not the case. For the level of projects, I would say that the demonstrator programs being proposed at the level supported by CARIC are really leveraging, and one of the concepts is to build on small and medium-sized enterprises.
I would say certainly that success from a project perspective really was there as part of the Emerson report: go out and create a collaboration framework across Canada. The basis of that is education. It's using the universities to go and do work, but for the value of Canada. In other words, it's for something that at a point in time may succeed, and if it succeeds, it will be commercialized, recognizing that often success is surrounded by failure and that some of the best learning we have is actually embedded in failure.
Finally, I would say that it's been one year beyond our expectations in terms of what we've been able to accomplish, certainly in terms of pulling on small and medium-sized enterprises with the support of the larger OEMs. Also, the talent that's being pulled and supported is very strong, with some things that probably in five to seven years, I would say, will see the light of day in terms of market potential.
View John Carmichael Profile
I'm running out of time now, and I had another question for Mitacs.
Mr. Annan, talk to me briefly about the silos again, the funding silos that you talked about. We have a few seconds left.
Robert Annan
View Robert Annan Profile
Robert Annan
2015-06-16 12:24
Coming out of World War II, there was a sense that science and research had the potential to transform society in positive ways. There was the creation of a lot of funding agencies here, and in the States and Europe, that were designed to promote basic research or applied research and to have these things exist effectively independently. We're still living with the aftershocks of that.
I think there's a recognition of that within the community. Last week actually, we signed a sort of memorandum of understanding with NSERC, to make sure we're coordinating and collaborating, because we all have the same essential participation base: Canadian researchers at universities, Canadian companies engaged in research. We're all geared toward the same sorts of outcomes, which are innovation and research, and so on.
I think that collectively the community is trying to find ways to work together. I think the government can maybe accelerate that process by encouraging cross-sector collaboration, but looking at mechanisms in order to do a better job of coordinating the pieces or prevent duplication and overlap.
I know those are areas that have been a focus for the government for some time. They were areas that have been identified, for instance, in the Jenkins report on industrial R and D, which came out a couple of years ago. Anything in that regard is likely going to yield positive effects.
View Annick Papillon Profile
View Annick Papillon Profile
2015-06-16 12:25
Thank you, Mr. Chair.
My thanks to the witnesses for joining us today. It's really nice to hear from you.
I have several questions to ask, so I will try to be brief, while touching on all the topics I want to discuss.
There is a lot of talk about the perennial issue of balance between basic research and applied research. As we know, we need applied research because it is a key component of science.
I would like to take the time to quote David Robinson, executive director of the Canadian Association of University Teachers. He said the following:
When it comes to supporting university-based research, the federal government has an unbalanced approach. [...] The government continues to miss the fact that real innovation and scientific advancements are driven by long-term basic research, not short-term market demands.
Do you think more investments are needed in basic research? If so, how should those investments be made? I would also like you to talk about the role of education and basic research in stimulating innovation.
I saw our guests smiling.
Jean-Marie De Koninck
View Jean-Marie De Koninck Profile
Jean-Marie De Koninck
2015-06-16 12:27
I will start.
The federal government supports both avenues—basic research and applied research. I personally do basic research, and I receive assistance from NSERC for my research in mathematics.
I think the message we need to send, as Rob said a little earlier, is that the two should not be put at odds. Basic research fuels applied research, which challenges the people doing basic research to identify new results that can then be applied. Those two worlds can coexist.
However, it is true that, in an economically focused society like ours, quick and immediate economic impacts are sought. So there is a tendency to provide more support for applied research. We need to be conscious of that and constantly bring research managers into line. We need to support both types of research and not put them at odds.
Robert Annan
View Robert Annan Profile
Robert Annan
2015-06-16 12:28
Sorry, but I will answer in English, as I am a bit nervous.
I'm not comfortable necessarily commenting on how this specific government is achieving that balance. I will say, though, generally speaking, that this is a difficulty around the world—and it's true in the United States and in Europe—regarding how you balance the support for basic research with the view towards kind of planting seeds for long-term harvesting, and how you reap the rewards of those investments from the past.
Achieving that balance is difficult. There isn't good research. There isn't good evidence as to what kind of balance is maybe the most productive, either from a research output perspective, social output perspective, or an economic output perspective. It is an ongoing challenge.
I think it's one whereby it may be possible to have a rethink more generally about this idea that I mentioned before about silos. If we think about either making an investment in basic research or making an investment in applied research, you necessarily set up a competition. What I think we want to be doing is funding good ideas that span the spectrum. Then, at some point you get into the areas around commercialization and so on, which to my mind moves past where you're looking at R and D, in the university ecosystem anyway. Those are different sorts of discussions.
When it comes to applied and basic research, fighting one against the other isn't the most productive mechanism. If we can find new ways of funding good ideas, then I think we'll be making good steps forward.
Robert Fedosejevs
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Robert Fedosejevs
2015-06-09 11:40
Good morning. I am Bob Fedosejevs and my colleague is Kristin Poduska. We're from the Canadian Association of Physicists. We represent physicists across Canada, both academic and industrial. We're both university professors, just so you know where we're coming from.
What's the nature of disruptive technologies? They're unpredictable far in advance, and then they become somewhat predictable as the research results start to come in. Generally it's the front-line people in the research laboratories who first identify the new technologies that are coming. Some of these, of course, will be totally disruptive and wipe out previous technologies, and some are more additive and add new opportunities to a given field, displacing current ways of doing things.
Time scales are a few decades for them to have a major impact, and then several decades for their lifetime. But I think every technology has a lifetime so we have to be aware that we can't be complacent and just assume that things going on today will continue for eternity. They represent a threat to existing technologies, but they're also an opportunity. I think most of the opportunities for new businesses and new successful enterprises are from initially disruptive technologies.
There are three aspects of strategy to deal with disruptive technology that we would like to highlight. First is that you have to be a leader in developing the technology to begin with, the research development phase, and being aware of what's coming up the pipeline. Second is then to identify these disruptive technologies and have a mechanism to say, “Okay, these are important, these are what we should focus on, and this is how we're going to do it.” Third is the capability to profit from these technologies, implementing strategies that will allow you to take advantage of them and/or mitigate their effect in disrupting current business and technology.
In terms of the first step, we need to maintain a strong program of fundamental research. I think that's critical. One of the major ingredients of that is the discovery grants program of NSERC, which has essentially fallen behind inflation over the last few years and has not kept up with the GDP or the growth of the population of Canada. That's something we need to nurture.
Also, it's broader than that. We should have strong, open research in the National Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Space Agency, government agencies, Canadian Nuclear Laboratories, and also the provincial research agencies that have also been shrinking from their fundamental research aspects. As well, within the government itself—departmental researchers—there should be some open and free research in all of the different departments to be aware of what's coming down the pipeline.
One of the missing aspects, and very important I think, is the industrial research laboratories. I think we've seen a shrinkage in them over the last several decades and that means two things. First, they are less aware themselves of what's coming. But second, they do not have the receptor capacity to even integrate new technology that's coming in because they don't have the people who understand how to do it and what impact it would have on them in the five- to 10-year time scale. To me that's a major part; the industrial acceptor capacity is not something we immediately have an answer for.
Another aspect, of course, in the awareness is training the brightest minds possible. The bright people, the highly qualified personnel we train, are the ones who will identify the new things as they're coming, and also come up with the new things. I think it's always been the case that you want to have a very strong, well-educated, leading-edge scientific community, so that means HQP training.
Next then, you need to be able to identify some of these. I think we need a national office of science, an advisory body to maintain awareness and assess the status of science and technology and new disruptive technologies. It would be good to have a think tank that would meet annually, perhaps, to assess the things that are happening, the new developments, and how we could prioritize a response to them. Essentially, then, they would recommend strategies to try to profit from these new technologies.
One of the strategies in the transition of the new ideas from the research to the industry is coordinated programs like the Networks of Centres of Excellence that we had and still have. I was the scientific director of the photonics network, and it was very effective in linking researchers to SMEs and companies, and transferring technology. Once identified you could set up a centre. You would want to coordinate the activity across the country, so that's why we need the Networks of Centres of Excellence and not just small institutional centres.
Perhaps I can highlight just a few of the disruptive technologies that are coming down the pipeline. I think some of them are familiar. Additive manufacturing—a new buzzword—I think is actually very important. It's using new techniques to manufacture things on demand. Climate change mitigation strategies might mean new ways of feeding animals, with new sources of feed and so on. Fusion energy, nanotechnology, coherent control of chemical reactions, and even things that are very forefront, such as the research going on into dark matter and dark energy, may lead to some new techniques and to results that will impact.
In the end, we recommend that we maintain a strong fundamental base through the NSERC discovery grant program; that we maintain strong HQP training and really strengthen it, as it's slipped by 40% over the last five years; and that we have a scientific advisory body for an awareness of what's coming so that we can prepare for it.
With that, I'll conclude. Thank you.
Jean Lévesque
View Jean Lévesque Profile
Jean Lévesque
2015-06-04 12:17
Mr. Chair, thank you for inviting us to your committee.
My name is Jean Lévesque. I am the president of the Association des pêcheurs de Lac St-Pierre. My colleague, Marcel Bouchard, is also a member of our association.
The Association des pêcheurs du Lac St-Pierre was created in response to the decision by the Quebec Ministère des Forêts, de la Faune et des Parcs (forests, wildlife and parks) to impose a five-year moratorium on fishing yellow perch. The anger was so great that after only two weeks, we had more than 1,000 members. For the first time, a democratically elected organization represents and provides a voice to professional, sport and commercial fishers, outfitters, fishing centres, retailers, traders and service providers, municipal officials and regional associations. We currently have almost 1,900 members.
Over the following winter, the Association des pêcheurs du Lac St-Pierre worked with its members on a study of the number of catch and releases per fishing licence for the following species: walleye, yellow perch, pike and eelpout. This information was used exclusively to develop a daily measurement of the impact of ice fishing on the resource, as well as to measure changes in the numbers of certain species in the entire lake. You will find the document in the package we sent you.
Lac St-Pierre is an extraordinary lake. It is large but not very deep and favours abundance of every kind. Fish, ducks, mammals of all sizes and clean water were part of everyday life. The quality of this environment made it an extremely rare treasure that must be conserved.
Total ignorance of the necessary precautions to prevent a deterioration in quality resulting from the discharge of grey, and even black, water from factories and municipalities. Negligence in monitoring discharges from ships using the St. Lawrence, not to mention the refineries in East Montréal. And then the federal Minister of Defence shamelessly decided to use this environmental gem as a dumping ground for shells.
Something like 400,000 projectiles of all sorts were fired into the lake. More than 8,000 of them are potentially dangerous because they were loaded with explosives but not discharged, or they were defective. These were simply noted in a registry. Today’s laws call action like that criminal, and liable to severe penalties and even imprisonment. Officials are proud to announce today that they recently recuperated 80 shells. At that rate, they will complete the recuperation process by the year 4975.
Next came a period of erosion along island shorelines and the banks of tributaries. The causes are known: agricultural drainage is one, as is failure to respect and enforce the basic regulations governing commercial navigation and pleasure crafting. A typical pleasure craft today causes as many waves as a lot of large ships. Those responsible are not reprimanded, much less punished. The main consequence is the obstruction of river mouths, reduced current, and the accumulation of polluted sediment, creating a dream environment for cyanobacteria.
In the 80s, a new “necessity” was born. This was to unblock rivers as early as possible in the spring using the famous Coast Guard hovercrafts. Of course, cottages and homes that had been built in the flood zones were protected. This practice brought disastrous consequences, however. The Lac St-Pierre flood plain, as its name suggests, needs these spring floods to eliminate decomposing vegetation in bays and river entrances. As a result, bays that were once attractive to wildlife are being lost, having rapidly filled up in the last 10 years. Glaring examples include Lavallière bay and St-François bay, which are both in a pitiful state.
The commercial and artisanal fishery practised on Lac St-Pierre in the 40s, 50s and even 60s was easily tolerated by the lake at the time, and had no consequences for fish populations. Then along came the demand for sturgeon, particularly smoked sturgeon, and with it, high prices. The Americans discovered the north just beyond the border, and the wonderful finesse of yellow perch, especially filleted. And so it began: bigger boats, more powerful engines, much larger nets for greater capacity, and fishing on the spawning grounds where catches were easy and abundant.
Suddenly, stocks began to decline. Techniques were improved and catch sizes maintained, and the alarms were ignored. In the 80s, surveys and studies began to be conducted with sports fishermen, while statistics from commercial fishers were provided on a voluntary basis. But the quality of the fishery continued to decline. Commercial fishermen reported that spring fishing for yellow perch in streams, holes and river entrances, where this species traditionally reproduced, was no longer producing results.
It became necessary to fish further offshore to be successful during a period that had previously been so easy.
What are the causes of the destruction of these special places? The main one is well known: the complete transformation of agricultural practices around the lake. Rather than growing fodder or straw cereals, the trend is now corn, rotated with soybeans. The requirement for ethanol, production orders and attractive selling price destroyed our traditional agriculture in favour of industrial agriculture. This required pulling out all the stops: excessive drainage, elimination of ditches, use of herbicides, fungicides, insecticides and chemical fertilizer, and so on and so forth. Yield per acre of “modern” land has been improved to at least double what it was 20 years ago. Farmers haven’t done anything they weren’t allowed to do. The blame lies with managers who looked the other way for fear of demands from the powerful well-known union. Too bad for the environment, the fish can go somewhere else.
That's when provincial officials responsible for the environment, wildlife, fisheries, food, and so on, finally wake up. Late as usual, because the tradition in Quebec is to react, but not to act. And so the fishery is more strictly regulated, but the studies show no improvement. Licences are bought back and 80% of the pressure from the commercial fishery reduced with the same results. Fishing is banned during the spawning season, but nothing changed. Despite dramatic opposition, a community wildlife area is imposed on sports fishermen. Finally, miracle workers have been found; they will save the lake, the fish and the fishery. This absurdity is costing us fishermen several thousand dollars a year for absolutely nothing.
Archaic regulations are put in place, such as minimum length. In fact, fishermen were told to keep the largest mature brood stock and to put back the medium and small ones, even if the risk of mortality is very high. Many believe that the opposite should have been proposed. These measures did absolutely nothing to improve the situation. In fact, a wildlife area has no place in an open body of water such as the St. Lawrence River, where there are so many obstacles to local wildlife management and where there is not the capacity, budget, authority or commitment to address the real environmental problem in Lac St-Pierre. The then minister was completely fooled by the promoters of this concept and in fact gave us the impression that he wanted rid of the hot potato that Lac St-Pierre had become in its lamentable state.
So, studies are ordered, luminaries are hired at great expense and further studies are requested on specific topics. Was it so they could be told what they wanted to hear? We will never know, but we do know that this so-called expertise was used to punish the guilty, the fishermen. It’s so simple: no more fishing. Too bad for the local economy and the economic impact of this decision. But there is a but: first of all, the ministry does not even think about its creation, the wildlife area, before taking such decisions, it just goes ahead. And the decisions are admittedly useless. Then it is reported that scientific studies are predicting the collapse of fish stocks.
I mentioned earlier that I have been fishing the lake for over 50 years. I have never fished in places where the devices to measure and capture have been installed over the years. Want to know why? Because those places are just not worth it. Yellow perch are very selective about their living environment. But I have never seen this equipment in favourable locations. Why? It’s a mystery. The scientists are too busy, too full of themselves and far too capable and knowledgeable to consult those who went to the school of nature and who know at least as much as anyone else about the environment they have been spending time in for many years. Do you not believe that such cooperation would have been helpful?
In a document published when the moratorium on fishing for yellow perch was announced, the ministry itself states that there are multiple reasons for the deterioration of the lake’s habitat, including climate change, the low water level, the favourable environment for bacterial growth and the overpopulation of cormorants, which consume a lot of yellow perch. This is proof that they were well informed about the situation.
Why did they not act when there was still time? Nowhere in their statements is there mention of overfishing, or even fishing. Yet the only action was the panicked closing of the commercial fishery, as well as the sports fishery, which contributes even more to the economy.
In response to my question during an informative meeting last spring on the guarantees that this measure offered for improving the situation, the answer was “none, we do not know.” But they penalize anyway; those “responsible” must be punished, even if the ministry admits openly and in writing that they are not responsible.
There was a lot of smoke and mirrors when it came to the subject of cormorants. Ministry employees undertook a slaughter of 600 nesting cormorants, mainly on the islands, and analyses of the stomach contents indicated that 60% was composed of perch aged about two years. During the migration period from mid-August to late September, there are between 5,000 and 6,000 cormorants at Lac Saint-Pierre. We therefore estimate that about 30 tons of two-year-old yellow perch are consumed by cormorants annually.
Given all the other factors that reduce the yellow perch's maximum reproduction, this excessive predation will not permit the recovery of perch stocks. In our opinion, it is critical that there be an even more intensive slaughter than in 2012 to control and reduce this predation. Before spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to set up reproduction areas, we should first systematically reduce the population of cormorants. It's ridiculous that Quebec is unable to take the bull by the horns when it comes to resolving problems.
Fishing is permitted at either end of the lake without a size restriction. The only restriction is a general limit of 50 yellow perch. Studies have shown, however, that yellow perch from Saint-Nicolas near Quebec City go upriver as far as Lac Saint-Pierre, so we can certainly assume that those downstream do as well.
About four tons of adult yellow perch are caught annually. There is a quota of 10 per day per licence, generating badly needed economic spinoffs of $4 million for the region. The specialists and researchers are unfortunately not able to see the absurdity of this.
In conclusion, we have witnessed a game of ostrich, with authorities burying their heads in the sand as the water pollution rate reached intolerable levels in the lake, as National Defence used the lake as if there were no communities or people around it, as agriculture was completely transformed, as construction was permitted in most of the flood zones around the lake, as the essential spring flooding was prevented, as the population of cormorants—whose numbers double every two years—was maintained, as we inherited substandard wildlife management, monitoring and protection mechanisms, and so on.
Is it too late? It's never too late. Just look at the spectacular results achieved in the Great Lakes, particularly Lake Erie. We want to have it, though. It isn't absolutely necessary to spend astronomical amounts every year to achieve our purpose, but we have to want it and we have to ensure the cooperation of all stakeholders and users.
Penalizing without guarantee of success will not earn the favour of fishers for their willing cooperation. We have to be convinced that helping the environment can reap political rewards. We have to convince our fellow citizens so they will elect politicians who care about the environment. The same politicians have to use the authority delegated to them to command obedience from their employees, who were not chosen by the taxpayers.
View François Lapointe Profile
Thank you, gentlemen, for being with us today.
I am the member for Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup. I'd like to speak with Mr. Plourde first.
Congratulations on your outfitters' success: 425,000 users and 256,000 fishers. The economic spinoffs are tremendous. Many of our previous witnesses have talked about their concerns over invasive species. You touched on that when you discussed Asian carp and your concerns in that regard.
Witnesses said they had two main concerns. First of all, they are appalled by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' withdrawal of investment in research that could provide a better framework for dealing with invasive species. Second of all, border resources and oversight are lacking, making it impossible to ensure that, when an American comes into Canada on their boat, they aren't inadvertently bringing in an invasive species.
Do you share those concerns?
Jacqueline Dubé
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Jacqueline Dubé
2015-06-04 11:04
Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for receiving me today.
I will try to stay within the six or seven minutes that I have, but since I am a little passionate about the subject, I might go over time. Please signal me if that is the case.
CEFRIO is a centre that supports research in social and organizational innovation. Simply put, we research and assess how technologies are used and implemented. We work with 80 associate researchers on how to change the ways of doing things using digital technology. We work in all industry sectors, whether in health, education, or with SMEs, in the transfer of digital competencies, for example.
For over 25 years, we have developed a research model that makes it possible to work systematically on the ground, that is, directly in companies, hospitals and schools. The transfer is continuous. Every time new knowledge is created, it is systematically integrated into the work process and professional practices. As a result, no change management is needed subsequently.
The researchers are experts in the area of the project we are working on. They need to stick to the expected “deliverables”, not to do broad research. We like to say that we have researchers who find, not just researchers who research. We have a network of experts and everyone works systematically together.
Today, let me give you our definition of the word “digital”. For us, digital technology is the Internet, the Internet of things, 3D printing, big data, the advanced manufacturer. When we talk about digital technology, we refer to all those aspects, not just the information and communication technologies.
I really like the two photos on slide 4 of the presentation. In the top right image, from the election of the pope in 2005, we can see only one smartphone. Eight years later, at the election of the new pope, what we see is not candles, but smartphones. Those photos show us the speed of the changes coming our way in the next few years.
The concept of disruptive technologies is captivating, because all these technologies are disruptive to the extent that they require a complete overhaul of the business models that companies have. They are very demanding for a simple reason: they require organizations to have a capacity for innovation.
The fascinating part is that citizens, users and consumers adapt very quickly. However, there is a problem. The digital competencies of individuals are not being used in businesses or institutions, which has a significant impact on Canada's productivity and development. The main reasons that explain this difference between citizens—
Patrick Horgan
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Patrick Horgan
2015-06-04 11:13
Mr. Chair, it looks as if the IBM person here is going to be the lowest tech person on the panel, but there you go. I'll try to make this succinct so I can get within the timeframe.
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman, and members of the committee, for this opportunity.
As you know, IBM is one of the country's largest private enterprises in R and D, and Madam Dubé was pointing out how others maybe should do as much. We try to do a lot. We've spent $4 billion in R and D in the last 10 years and $500 million in collaborative investments. I want to tell you a little bit about that this morning. I'm going to talk about two different dimensions of disruptive innovation.
The first is it's happening to the IT industry itself, and I'll talk about that. The second is how this R and D in commercialization is a bit of the issue that we were just talking about and how we are trying to make strides to make that better in Canada.
Let's talk about the IT industry itself. Analysts are pointing out quite often that Uber is the largest taxi company in the world but owns no vehicles. Facebook is the world's largest content provider, but it has no content. Alibaba is the largest retailer, but it has no inventory. Airbnb is the largest accommodation provider and has no rooms, no real estate. Each of these examples is an example of disruptive innovation. They are rapidly transforming traditional industries, and there are more examples coming.
It's important to understand that these disruptive business models, whether you're discussing Airbnb or Uber, are enabled by a specific set of technologies and increasingly, technology services that are now broadly available to both large and small businesses alike. Let me explain five.
First is cloud computing. It enables anybody with a credit card to sign on to get a full range of computing resources from infrastructure to business processes to software to applications, all consumed as a service. It means no large capital investments are required and even a very small business or someone in a garage can access world-class computing.
The second is mobile platforms. Cloud-based services now allow everything to be delivered to your handsets, to your iPads, or to your PCs anywhere you are. We've noticed that even though we're out of the PC business, it's very important to us to see the iPad has IBM on it, because we're very linked now with Apple in terms of our ability to use their very nice devices and our ability to understand the enterprise and put the two together.
The third is social networks. There are nearly two billion users of social networks creating oceans of data across a vast range of issues. Harnessing that evolving ocean of data would not only facilitate real-time feedback loops, but also anchor predictive capabilities. You'll hear us talk a little bit more about that.
Fourth, especially with the government, is security. Cybersecurity is as important in today's economy as vaults were to protecting gold and currency in years past. Whether it's protecting commercial secrets or sensitive personal information, managing and measuring access to the consumption of data and digital products is paramount to ensure value in today's data-driven economy.
The fifth is analytics. Make no mistake, we're living in a data-driven economy. A full 90% of data in the history of humans has been created in the last two years. That is continuing to grow. However, these large datasets really require understanding and deriving knowledge from them. That is really the secret. What we're talking about now is how to get those tools in front of everyone so we can get on top of this new data and knowledge economy.
I'm sure this committee will hear numerous disruptive business models and technologies, but I'll venture to say that many will be included or be enabled by secure cloud, mobile and social platforms with a strong component of big data and analytics. That's why we're investing so heavily in these areas.
It's a good segue to the second part of my discussion, world-class research, development and commercialization of disruptive technologies that's taking place in Canada.
Canada has a tremendous competitive strength, including the five technology areas I just described, and I hope to illustrate a bit of that with one of the projects we're working on.
Specifically, I'm going to focus my comments on the southern Ontario smart computing innovation platform, known as SOSCIP. It's an excellent example of how government, business and academia can collaborate to stimulate made-in-Canada disruptive technologies and the new companies and jobs that these technologies can support.
SOSCIP is a consortium between IBM Canada and seven research-intensive universities in southern Ontario—Pearl is from one—with financial contributions from the federal and provincial governments. The foundational idea behind the creation of SOSCIP was that Canada could lead the world in development of disruptive technologies as we establish a dedicated world-class technology platform to focus our efforts in areas of national and regional priority.
In turn, SOSCIP put Canada's fastest supercomputer in place, as well as the largest analytics cloud in the world. With that platform you now have the ability to tackle the toughest and most complex challenges in the areas of health care, energy, water, and cities. This initiative represents an investment of over $200 million, of which 85% came from IBM. Access to this platform is governed by the consortium members with specific focus on producing commercial outcomes. In turn, we proactively bring together some of Canada's most renowned researchers, relevant entrepreneurs, and small businesses. In fact, priority is placed on projects that are led by small business. In these cases, we can connect them directly with principal researchers. Very important in this is that the IP is open. Researchers bring in their projects and they become richer by doing so.
Since we launched in 2012, we've launched 50 game-changing projects. We've materially enhanced the skills of over 300 post-doctoral fellows that were hired for this purpose, with 88 research jobs and over 1,000 jobs that are in the network of the small businesses and researchers that are involved. We've established a pipeline of close to $2 billion in revenues for these growing SMEs just from three years ago.
One example—and I won't be able to go through the detail at length—with Synchronicity in Motion is Dr. Carolyn McGregor, who's working with SickKids in the neonatal unit and looking at all the medical devices attached to a patient. She is now able, because of real-time streaming analytics from those machines, to predict sepsis and many other ailments for those patients 48 hours in advance of anything happening to that patient; in other words, saving babies, but also saving all of the downstream effects of affected babies that take place in a very high-cost unit, but also a very high-value unit. She's taking this not only to the rest of the Canada in the cloud, but also to leading hospitals in the U.S., China, and Australia, where she's from. That's one example. It's a compelling one, but I have 49 others we could talk about and the disruptive technologies that are coming from here.
Based on these outcomes, FedDev Ontario recently announced another $20 million investment for SOSCIP 2.0 of which it unleashed another $65 million of investment from IBM. It's very exciting.
In conclusion, Canada has the capacity to produce disruptive technologies, as well as the entrepreneurs required to build companies around these new technologies. In SOSCIP, I submit, we have a proven model that can bring the critical ingredients together to facilitate such activity. In this model, we do believe there's an important role for government to set national and regional priorities, and to provide some financial incentives, including direct funding to support collaborative initiatives such as SOSCIP right across the country.
Thank you very much, and I look forward to your questions.
Pearl Sullivan
View Pearl Sullivan Profile
Pearl Sullivan
2015-06-04 11:29
Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
We have an eight-page presentation. There are some copies here. Because of the time, I will just go through some parts of it.
First, Mr. Chairman and members of the committee, thank you for your invitation to speak with you today. I'm here on behalf of hundreds of researchers and students developing new and emerging technologies at the University of Waterloo in collaboration with colleagues across Canada and around the world. As dean of our country's largest engineering school, I'm also fortunate to work alongside some of Canada's brightest young entrepreneurs and to consult with many of our country's industry leaders.
Harvard Business School professor Clayton Christensen coined the term “disruptive innovation” in 1995. Twenty years later, we fully appreciate how new technologies can shake up industries and create completely new markets. We see the consequences of two major 20th century innovations, aviation and telecommunications, in the full force of globalization and the information revolution. The difference today is speed of adoption. It is moving faster than ever before. You can no longer speak in terms of speed but acceleration.
So how does Canada stay on the fast track? With half a per cent of the world's population, we can't do everything, but where we excel, we can lead.
The federal government's recently published science, technology and innovation strategy identifies several disruptive technology areas as priorities, including information and communications technologies, energy and advanced manufacturing. This demonstrates a strong will to prepare our country for the future. I think 21st century disruptions will be led by organizations with the agility to react quickly to new opportunities. We'll develop entirely new technologies, but equally important, we'll adapt technologies in powerful new ways. Those who can stay ahead will be those who can build off and integrate multiple innovations to engineer practical solutions to some of the world's most pressing challenges.
Two research areas that promise enormous economic impact are ICT and energy storage. As you have heard from Industry Canada, the disruptive impacts of ICT spread far beyond IT and the communications sector. Inexpensive new sensors wirelessly transmitting data for analysis will revolutionize environmental monitoring and personalized health care. Aside from the potential health care savings, this technology will be particularly critical for rural and remote Canada. Another ICT impact will be in the connected car.
The overarching impact of ICT is encapsulated in the emerging Internet of things, or IoT, whose potential is highlighted in the government's STI strategy. Expect a future of cyber-physical systems. Technology titans such as Google, GE, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, IBM, Qualcomm, BlackBerry, Telus, and Samsung are investing billions of dollars to own the Internet of things podium.
The most significant advance in addressing global energy challenges may come in energy storage, a real game-changer for the utility and transportation sectors. Research into energy storage demonstrates the interconnectedness of innovation, linking to other disruptive areas such as smart materials, nanofabrication, and 3-D circuit printing. Over the coming decade, countless IoT sensors, microprocessors, and wireless nodes will need new low-cost, longer-life batteries and energy harvesting technologies.
Already we're seeing commercial energy storage systems with the potential to dramatically change our traditional approach to electricity. Tesla Energy recently announced that Powerwall and SolarCity systems, for example, are rapidly building towards reliable 24-hour solar power for homes and businesses, and they're available off the shelf. ln the longer term, new battery materials like lithium-sulphur will power electric cars three times further than current batteries and at a much lower cost. Both these technology movements will impact horizontal markets creating new services and sectors. They will transform our manufacturing base.
I'll turn now to the heart of innovation.
As a teacher, researcher, and administrator for the past 25 years, l've observed that innovation ecosystems matter, but original ideas provide the essential fuel. Disruptors of the future will be those who can tackle truly difficult technical problems and produce solutions with significant scale-up potential.
If people worldwide can access the new technology quickly, global markets will be transformed. Over time, new technology will itself be disrupted. Of course, we need to maintain a continuous flow of new ideas.
Curiosity-driven research is essential; it is the ultimate source of all new technologies. Strategic initiatives targeting areas with high potential are equally important as they offer competitive differentiation. The roots of truly disruptive innovations, in my view, lie in exceptional technical talent, with men and women who have great ideas and who can execute them. If we can incent them to take ownership and translate their ideas into prototypes with real market potential, we can create a deep culture of innovation.
Global competition for highly skilled talent is very real, dividing the future's technology leaders from the followers. Technology hubs are rapidly emerging in major cities around the world, but the Silicon Valley remains at the frontier, particularly in the area of ICT. However, there is an interesting Canadian story behind it. Last year more software engineers and developers in the Silicon Valley were hired from Waterloo than from any other school in the world save U of C Berkeley—more than MIT, more than Stanford. For these young minds, the world is their oyster. We must build a thriving home for this generation so they can reach their aspirations here in Canada. They are the future of the country.
Deploying new technology can be risky for industry, and it's particularly challenging given the risk and the current pace of change. The infrastructure investments and resources needed are very large. Canada's geography poses unique challenges, but we can create critical ecosystems that cannot be readily reconstructed by competitors.
The co-operative education program at the University of Waterloo provides such a model. Imagine a parallel system whereby the university acts as an anchor for experiential technology innovation. By bringing in companies of all sizes to innovate with our students, we capitalize on infrastructure, talent training, expertise, equipment, tools, information networks, and business support. This approach will enable and accelerate the first critical iteration of product innovation. With over 1,600 co-op partners and over 1,000 research partners, Waterloo engineering's experiences may offer some insights on its feasibility.
I will use the manufacturing sector as an example to end this presentation.
ln the automotive industry, the production life cycle is increasingly shorter. ln the aerospace and medical sectors, the payback periods can be significant.
As regards corporations, in today's environment, even large companies need to collaborate in open innovation ecosystems. Toyota, for example, our major research partner, has forged a recent partnership with Mazda on technology development. This is the future of shared risks.
SMEs employ over 90% of Canadians in the private sector but have scarce resources. They generally don't operate within an innovation ecosystem, but have the greatest need for support for new technologies. One disruptive technology, as you heard earlier, is 3-D printing, or additive manufacturing. lt will enable quick prototyping, proof of concept testing, and small production runs particularly suited for SMEs. This is a technology domain where Canada needs to succeed or else we risk being left behind. Waterloo is partnering with five other Canadian universities and scores of SMEs to create the Canadian additive manufacturing network. It is the future of innovation in product development.
View Laurin Liu Profile
The next question is for Ms. Sullivan from the University of Waterloo.
You say in your presentation that curiosity-driven research is essential. Would you have any recommendations for the federal government regarding finding a balance in terms of funding curiosity-driven research and industry-oriented research? Do you think there should be federal funding specifically towards discovery research?
Pearl Sullivan
View Pearl Sullivan Profile
Pearl Sullivan
2015-06-04 11:48
NSERC has been very important for scientists, engineers and mathematicians in this country. There is a core program called the discovery grants program which is absolutely important.
They're not large in a sense; they are about $20,000 to $50,000 for each professor, but they allow you to seed big blue items, big-vision items, and the things that professors who are interested in pursuing, they can pursue. I do think it is a program that all professors across the country will agree we need to expand. There are collaborative research and partnership programs, a swath of them, many of them. They are also very important, because they engage companies, and because of those programs we have engaged over 1,000 companies. We know that every time a new program comes along, NRC, NSERC, Mitacs, all of them are working very hard to try to connect industry with the university. All the officers on the ground are really working hard trying to make it happen. I do think that there is still a fear of risk. These things are very important as enablers, and it will take time, but with time you can overcome the fear of risk.
Pearl Sullivan
View Pearl Sullivan Profile
Pearl Sullivan
2015-06-04 12:22
There is quite a bit being written about this. One of the reasons professors do not commercialize their research is the reward system. When they go up every year for promotion, or for merit review, they are judged based on their peer-reviewed journal publications, conference proceedings, and their teaching performance. Also, about 20% of their review is based on service. There is a perception that nowhere in the formula of 100% is commercialization considered.
We have a very similar review process at Waterloo. We don't give you extra marks for studying a company. We consider your patents, but I think it's the culture. We basically say to the professors with students, “If you want to commercialize, you go ahead and you do it. It's very important you make sure you teach your classes and you treat the students well.” I don't think we do anything differently in terms of a reward system. I think it's basically our ingrained culture that we encourage and foster our innovation and commercialization.
Jacqueline Dubé
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Jacqueline Dubé
2015-06-04 12:23
I endorse Ms. Sullivan's comments. In large part, the reward system for researchers is related to publications. The CEFRIO model is very useful for the research done by university researchers who carry out projects on the ground. Since they keep the intellectual property of the research, they can publish. However, in practice, CEFRIO ensures that the “deliverables” are adopted, that the practices are implemented in companies and that they are generalized in companies, which can be demanding in that respect.
We work with university researchers every day. What interests them and what pays off for them is only the opportunity to publish new knowledge. The CEFRIO model is quite rare. The government had the idea 27 years ago. It allows us to act in all sectors now, primarily at the government's request, in SMEs where there is little understanding and knowledge about university research. We are therefore the link that gets the research done.
View John Carmichael Profile
No, it doesn't sound like a lot of wasted time. Thank you very much. That was very impressive.
Dr. Sullivan, when we began these discussions with universities on technology, R and D, and moving through the development stage to commercialization, I remember talking with a number of your colleagues over the years—and this goes back several years now—trying to find the right formula of how to share IP. How do we get to a place of who owns it, and how do we create great incentive and motivation in terms of coming to a commercialization of products?
You talked about the open campus, the labs, access, and whatnot. I wonder if you could speak briefly and expand on anything you might have missed in talking to the issue of how your formula is truly stimulating success.
Pearl Sullivan
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Pearl Sullivan
2015-06-04 12:31
The intellectual property policy at Waterloo allows the creator to own it. If a professor or a graduate student work on a project together, they co-own it. If one of them decides to commercialize, they sit together with the help of our commercialization office and decide how any profits and revenues from the project will be split. Not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, but there's a lot of interest in creating new knowledge, so that's what's good about it.
In the case of start-ups, many of our undergraduate students, and increasingly more of our graduate students, are starting companies from their theses. We support them and provide them, again from the WatCo office, the Waterloo commercialization office, with opportunities for them to work. They do a project with industry. There are opportunities for agreements to be set up between the professor and his or her group together with companies.
In the field of technology, you don't really have to buy all IP, you need to license it because it's changing. In two years it's probably obsolete. What professors do is they license the IP for a number of years, and then they can license it to multiple different companies. The platform technologies can have different applications, so the core may be the same, the source may be the same, and you can just change it with applications.
Kami Ramcharan
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Kami Ramcharan
2015-06-02 15:31
Thank you, Mr. Chair. It's a pleasure to meet with the committee to discuss Natural Resources Canada's 2015-16 supplementary estimates (A).
Let me take a moment to briefly discuss my department's supplementary estimates. These estimates reflect the first change to planned budgetary spending since the main estimates. The supplementary estimates show current planned budgetary spending at $2.49 billion, which is an increase of $277.8 million from the originally approved 2015-16 budget of $2.21 billion, as outlined in our 2015-16 main estimates.
This increase is due to a number of factors across our operating vote, capital vote and our statutory authorities.
Within our operating and capital vote, there is a $231.3 million commitment to extend the nuclear legacy liabilities program for 2015-16. Launched in 2006, this program is implementing a multi-decade strategy to address long-standing Government of Canada liabilities, including radioactive waste, retired research facilities and related infrastructure, and contaminated lands at the Atomic Energy of Canada Limited research sites.
Significant progress has been made to date, and the 2015-16 funding will provide the necessary bridge to continue to control and reduce risks and liabilities at the sites until the restructuring of the nuclear laboratories is complete.
There's also a commitment of $5.3 million in operating funding and $38.6 million in capital funding for the federal infrastructure initiative to support the rehabilitation, repair, and modernization of many of Natural Resources Canada research facilities across Canada. From Dartmouth to Victoria to Alert, Natural Resources Canada's infrastructure projects will be carried out in 15 locations across Canada. Upgrades include things such as roofs, energy-efficient lighting, distribution panels, security systems, and energy-management control systems that will help our department move toward its goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and improving energy savings.
Additionally, the money will be used to make significant upgrades to laboratories that conduct critical research on our forests, geohazards, including earthquakes, and geosciences in both marine and land-based environments.
We will also be relocating a specialized geomagnetic calibration building from Ottawa to Fredericton. This specialized geomagnetic calibration building is used to calibrate equipment used in the national geomagnetic observatory network. This network provides measurements of the earth's magnetic field for navigation and to protect critical infrastructure such as power distribution and pipelines from the impacts of space weather.
These investments will not only help support Natural Resources Canada to continue to conduct leading-edge research, but they will also encourage job creation, economic growth, and long-term prosperity across the country.
Finally, there's $1.3 million in operating funds and $1 million in capital funds for the targeted geoscience initiative, a collaborative federal geoscience program to provide industry with the next generation of geoscience knowledge and innovative techniques to better detect deeply buried mineral deposits.
This initiative will continue to promote and support exploration and investment in Canada's mining sector, and to ensure that the sector continues to benefit from outstanding scientific research.
This is a collaborative federal initiative delivered in partnership with provincial and territorial geological surveyors and collaborators from industry and academia.
First funded in 2000 and renewed in 2003, 2005, 2010, and now in 2015, each renewal of the targeted geoscience initiative has been used as an opportunity to strategically refocus the program on the most pressing needs of mineral exploration and each phase has made significant progress in stimulating investment by and innovation in the Canadian mineral exploration industry.
The current phase of the TGI, phase 5, focuses on understanding the processes by which metals accumulate to form an economic mineral deposit. This new knowledge will allow exploration companies to expand their reach in targeted regions for exploration in order to discover a new buried mineral deposit at much greater depths and distances from known deposits. This initiative will support mining industries by developing knowledge and expertise to increase their competitiveness. It contributes to increased private sector exploration and successful discovery rates for base, precious, and other metals, grows the pool of highly qualified people available to industry, and extends the lives of existing mines and communities.
New geoscientific knowledge and methods provide industry with cutting-edge tools to stimulate private sector innovation and exploration for deeper mineral deposits and new emerging mining caps. More effective targeting of buried mineral deposits increases the likelihood of discovery and ensures the mining industry's long-term prosperity.
Exploration industry spending increased over $240 million in mining regions across Canada following the conclusion of phase 3 of the targeted geoscience initiative in 2010. The just-completed phase 4 has already outlined new regions of interest for mineral exploration, for example, a region that stretches from southeast Manitoba to northeast Quebec that is highly prospective for new nickel-chrome deposits.
Phase 4 of the targeted geoscience initiative released over 730 publicly available geoscience publications and delivered over 500 scientific presentations at conferences, workshops and events, helping industry in the development and planning of their exploration activities.
To date, the exploration industry across Canada has integrated over 50 new geoscience results that were developed during the fourth phase of the program. These have been used by industry to adapt their exploration approaches, for example, in Ontario's Ring of Fire region, in Saskatchewan's Athabasca Basin, and the Bathurst region of New Brunswick. TGI played a key role in training the next generation of highly qualified personnel with a fourth phase supporting over 133 students in their graduate-level research studies, equipping them with skills suitable for future employment in the mineral exploration sector.
In terms of statutory authorities there is also an increase of about $300,000, which is related to the statutory payments for the employee benefits plan. This includes costs to the government for the employer's matching contributions.
Mr. Chair, Natural Resources' 2015-16 supplementary estimates (A) clearly demonstrates how this department is committed to delivering on the Government of Canada's policy, program, and service delivery priorities and is doing so in a fiscally responsible manner.
Thank you, again, for the opportunity to appear before the committee.
View Geoff Regan Profile
Lib. (NS)
Speaking of the fact that this money would support medical and industrial isotope production as well as nuclear science, how much has been earmarked for isotope production at Chalk River? Is there any funding for research into isotope production at any other facilities, such as the TRIUMF with its cyclotron particle accelerator?
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