Plugging university brain drain with research grants
By Mark Brown
The Canada Foundation for Innovation, created during the last federal budget, appears to be having a positive effect on Canadian universities trying to keep their top researchers at home.
The foundation was given approximately $800 million from the federal government, said Pierre Normand, communications advisor for CFI. Through the support from volunteers and both the public and private sectors, the foundation will have approximately $2 billion to inject into Canadian universities over its five-year cycle, he added.
"CFI will strengthen researchers' services in Canada," Normand said. He added it will help universities, hospitals and institutions perform world quality research.
The monetary award recipients of the first CFI competition, entitled New Opportunities, were decided in late August. The competition was designed to help Canadian research institutions attract top quality researchers, Normand said.
Currently CFI directors are in Halifax discussing the second competition, called the Institutional Innovation Fund. The priority for this competition is to help research institutions improve their research infrastructure, said Frederich Keenan, coordinator of research infrastructure programs for CFI and director of institutional research at Western.
Western was successful in 10 of its 15 submissions for funding from CFI during the last round of competitions, he said. "It will help secure the best researchers at Western."
Western received $2.4 million as a result of the first CFI competition.
Western has submitted another 15 applications for funding for the second round of competitions, Keenan added.
"The proposals that we put in really reflect the new initiatives coming out of Western," Keenan said. All the programs that submitted a request to CFI were multi-disciplinary and from areas on which Western wants to make an impact, he added.
This is a one-time opportunity to build up Western's research infrastructure through the purchase of new equipment, Keenan said. He added it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to run multi-disciplinary programs at Western. "This will lead to a significant improvement in this university," Keenan said.
Suzanne Bernier, a professor of anatomy and cell biology at Western and one of the recipients of the funding for her work on arthritis and cartilage cells, agreed. "It allows us to train our students on the new equipment to make them more competitive."
Bernier, who began her education in Canada at McGill University, said she went to the United States because of the equipment they had available. Bernier said she returned to Canada just over one year ago because there were new sources of funding.
Bernier explained she was part of a joint application with other Western researchers within the same field because they shared similar techniques.
"It is more than a lump of money," explained Bernier. "It has made people start talking to other people. Even though it is just an equipment list it has helped develop new areas that we could pursue jointly or individually."
The CFI is expected to announce its decision on the second competition within the next 10 days.