Canada Must Do Better at Developing and Commercializing R&D

Canadian Speeches, May-June 2003 | Go to article overview

Canada Must Do Better at Developing and Commercializing R&D


Business, government and academia are urged to make Canada much better at developing new ideas and turning them into products, services and processes, in order to reverse the widening gap in living standards between Canada and other countries, particularly the United States. Greater in vestment is needed to make Canada one of the world's five most research-intensive economies by 2010. Regulatory, institutional and tax changes are called for to help finance the commercialization of new ideas generated by R&D. Without improved financing measures, other countries will continue to reap much of the economic benefits of ideas developed in Canada. Remarks as prepared for delivery at the launch of the Medical and Related Sciences (MaRS) Discovery District, Toronto, Ontario, May 12, 2003.

It is a pleasure to be here today for the official launch of the Medical and Related Sciences (MaRS) Discovery District. As the name suggests, this is an ambitious project. It is about linking science, entrepreneurship and finance to create new commercial opportunities and good jobs for Canadians. It is about positioning Canada in the knowledge-based economy. It is about generating future wealth to sustain a high quality of life for Canadians.

It is also noteworthy that we are launching the MaRS project at the same time that the world is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the findings on the structure of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick. This research led to the Human Genome Project and now to the challenges of genomics and proteomics, which will loom so large in the activity at MaRS here in Toronto.

Like any ambitious project, MaRS is based on the vision and commitment of a small group of people who have spent enormous time and effort to bring this project to the point where today we can celebrate its official launch. A number of people deserve special recognition for this achievement, including the MaRS Discovery District Board of Directors and founders.

I also want to acknowledge Tony Fell, chairman of RBC Capital Markets and Susan Smith, president of Royal Bank Technology Ventures for their early involvement in MaRS on behalf of RBC Financial Group. Susan's group, by the way, will become one of the first tenants of the MaRS project.

To understand why MaRS matters, it is important to see it in the context of the challenges facing our country. Our governments have done a good job in restoring the fiscal health of this country to the point where budget deficits have been eliminated, public debt is being reduced, and budget surpluses have provided the room to lower taxes and direct new spending to areas of priority.

This macroeconomic environment is positive for future investment and growth in our economy. But it is not enough. If Canadians are to sustain a high standard of living in an increasingly competitive world, and to reverse the widening gap in living standards between our country and particularly the United States, then we must become much better at turning new ideas into new products, services and processes.

As has been pointed out before, we are better off than our grandparents not because we have more of what they had, but because we have new and better things such as the Internet, sophisticated new pharmaceuticals, powerful microprocessors, and new wireless technologies. Successful societies are those that can both develop new ideas and successfully commercialize them.

It is here that Canada has lagged. Compared to our G-7 partners and other advanced economies such as Sweden, Switzerland and Denmark, our spending on research and development has been disappointing. As a percentage of GDP, our spending on research and development is the second lowest in the G-7.

We rank 13th among the nations of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Yet unless we invest in research and development we will not generate new ideas for commercialization. …

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Canada Must Do Better at Developing and Commercializing R&D
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