This op-ed was published in Research Money May 7, 2014.
By Christine Tausig Ford, vice-president and chief operating officer, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada
When Prime Minister Stephen Harper met recently with European leaders last fall, he signalled to the world that Canada and the European Union are entering a new era of cooperation. The Government of Canada reached an agreement in principle to establish a Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA). It has also identified Europe as a priority business market in its recently unveiled Global Markets Action Plan. Transatlantic research cooperation between our regions is critical to leading this charge.
Canada’s universities and businesses recognize that today’s most pressing challenges transcend national borders. International research collaboration allows Canadian universities to further strengthen the work they do, and connects faculty, staff and students to the brightest minds around the world to work on the most pressing issues. For Canada’s private sector, working across borders enables companies to combine different research and development strengths, leading to increased productivity and improved commercialization of new discoveries.
Canada is a recognized leader in research and innovation. When the federal government announced the $1.5-billion Canada First Research Excellence Fund in Budget 2014, it sent a clear message that Canada is ready to make its mark. This bold new research and innovation initiative will allow our researchers to build partnerships with leading minds around the world. It speaks to the importance of international collaboration and acknowledges that a world-class research system is a critical for a vibrant, innovative and competitive economy.
The European Union also understands that international cooperation is vital if research is to reach its full potential. On January 1, the European Commission launched its latest research funding program, Horizon 2020. With a budget approaching €80 billion ($115 billion) over seven years, this transformative research initiative provides funding for research and innovation activities that focus on fostering scientific excellence, increasing economic competitiveness and addressing the EU’s societal challenges.
International cooperation is a key component of Horizon 2020. We can only admire the EU’s policy commitment to invest in research and innovation and open this investment to the world, particularly in a climate of tight fiscal constraints. By making it possible for international partners to work with Europe, Horizon 2020 presents a tremendous opportunity for Canadian universities and businesses.
Europe values research cooperation with Canada. The European Commission wants more partnerships with Canada. And there are many sectors where there is clear mutual scientific interest.
Meetings held between Canada, the EU and the United States in Galway, Ireland last summer resulted in the establishment of a transatlantic research alliance for marine and arctic research. Its work is expected to contribute to improved food security and increased economic outputs through better management of the Atlantic Ocean’s resources.
Already, collaborations between Canadian and European researchers are yielding impressive results. The INTERACT International Monitoring Network, an alliance of research stations and researchers studying environmental changes in the Arctic, is helping us better understand the world’s rapidly changing cold regions. Together, scientists from 14 countries are documenting, identifying, predicting and responding to diverse fluctuations in temperature throughout the Arctic. Their work is helping governments and key economic sectors such as fisheries and the oil industry adapt to climate change.
International research collaboration such as this enriches academic, scientific and business relationships between Canada and the EU. Our participation in Horizon 2020 will strengthen research collaboration for innovation-driven economic development and increase Canada’s visibility in, and access to, global networks. The EU has opened the door for Canada’s researchers and innovators – it is up to Canada to seize the moment.
Christine Tausig Ford is VP, Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. AUCC is member of the ERA-Can+ consortium, which seeks to promote research and innovation collaboration between Canada and the European Union.
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