Text signed by Michel Leblanc, President and CEO of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, and Luc Vinet, Rector, Université de Montréal, and published in Le Devoir.
May 7, 2009
Including research and innovation in the next
economic agreement with Europe
On May 6, Canada and the European Union (EU) announced that negotiations have been launched with a view to concluding a comprehensive economic agreement. We applaud this decision and urge the Government of Canada to take whatever steps are necessary to ensure that research, innovation, and researcher mobility are among the subjects to be discussed and the concrete resolutions to be taken within the context of these negotiations.
We believe that research, innovation, and researcher mobility are true engines of economic development and that these issues should be covered by this international economic agreement. Moreover, our suggestion regarding Canada's international policy is in line with the economic plan Advantage Canada and the Science and Technology Strategy.
Canada has the need, the ability, and the responsibility to participate in the advancement of knowledge and the development of solutions to today's major global challenges and doing so will have a significant impact on our economy.
We therefore propose that the Government of Canada seize the opportunity presented by these Canada-Europe negotiations to assume a leadership role in the planning and the organization of a global research agenda. These negotiations provide us with an opportunity to overhaul the Canadian strategy for internationalizing research, not only with Europe but in general, and to initiate a paradigm shift.
Collaboration at the international level accelerates research projects and diversifies and maximizes local spinoffs while at the same time spreading the risk. As a leading-edge university city, Montréal has no choice but to become actively involved and to promote such collaboration.
The EU has already set in place a structure, the Seventh framework program for research and technological development (FP7), that identifies priority areas and offers financial support to major research initiatives at the European level.
With a budget of $54 billion euros covering the seven-year period ending in 2013, FP7 is not restricted to EU member countries. The existence of this vehicle designed to support European research initiatives raises the question of how best to increase Canada's participation in European research, and this question should be included in the negotiation mandate. In particular, we should consider the possibility that Canadians could influence the orientations of such vast research programs and that our researchers could serve as chief scientists and manage major research projects launched under these auspices.
Negotiators on both sides of the Atlantic will be entrusted with a mandate to maximize the positive spinoffs of increased collaboration and greater openness between Canada and the European Union. We strongly recommend the inclusion of questions concerning research, innovation, and researcher mobility in the negotiation mandate and that specific advances be the subject of sections of this agreement. The Government of Canada has before it a concrete opportunity to add another dimension to the leadership it exercises in economic development and integration.