Federal government announces $16.5M Research Support Fund

A new Government of Canada initiative will provide $16.5 million to further the University of Alberta’s “world-class” innovation and research.

Minister of State (Science and Technology) Ed Holder announced on Jan. 19 that the $16.5 million will stem from the Research Support Fund, which will distribute $342 million across Canadian post-secondary institutions over the next year. The funds are intended to support indirect costs in research, including the costs of facilities, library and laboratory maintenance, administration and support staff or students, ensuring work health and safety standards, environmental safety, control of goods services, and acquiring licenses and patents.

Holder said that although the U of A has been successful when applying for grants, “hidden costs” are usually left out of the equation.

“Those behind-the-scene costs can truly add up,” Holder said. “But all the functions they represent are essential to keeping our universities and colleges world class.”

The U of A has received $137 million in research support funds since 2006. Holder said schools receive more money depending on how successful they are, and institutions are not limited to how much they can apply for.

“It’s my belief that research intensive universities, such as the U of A, should take advantage of federal funding initiatives because they have the capacity,” he said.

The Research Support Fund is part of the federal government’s record of investment to help Canada maintain its position as a research and innovation leader while creating prosperity and jobs for Canadians, Holder said. The fund is intended to support universities with these overhead costs that fall outside of direct investments towards research projects.

The Research Support Fund is part of a $1.5 billion Research Excellence Fund which was announced by the federal government in 2014 as an economic action plan in the budget. Holder said that the Research Excellence Fund was intended to fund projects that were “world leading” in fields such as nanotechnology, science and engineering.

“We know that provinces are having their challenges,” he said. “But this is our commitment as a federal government to put funding into universities and colleges.”

U of A Associate Vice-President (Research) Walter Dixon said research support costs are important and essential, although they are often considered a “hidden cost” of innovation.

“The Federal Research (Support) Fund provides essential support to run, maintain and improve research and innovation structures and programs,” Dixon said.

Natural Sciences and Engineering Council (NSERC) President Mario Pinto said the new fund will allow professors to focus on their research programs with the assurance that they will have their required facilities, staff and training.

“This is about funding those elements that facilitate quality research,” Pinto said. “Especially when research facilitation is an art form these days.”

Holder also commended the U of A for upholding its high quality research, noting his previous trip to the university in March 2014, where he announced that the U of A had received 11 Canada Research Chairs — one of the highest in the country.

“We’ve got to be loud and proud about how great we are,” he said. “Not just good, but how great we are in terms of research and development, science, technology and innovation.”

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