Strength in basic research is a feature of all strong economies, they say
TORONTO, Sept. 17 /CNW/ - The Ontario Confederation of University Faculty
Associations (OCUFA) today released a research paper criticizing the
misdirected approach of the Ontario government's research and development
policies, policies that are reiterated in the platforms of both the Liberal
and Progressive Conservative parties in this Ontario election.
Ontario's total investment in R&D compares poorly to other industrialized
nations, the OCUFA paper, called The Quality of University Research:
Innovation Policy and Funding, points out. The province's investment in R&D,
as a proportion of GDP, is 14 per cent below the G7 average.
Ontario business performance is even weaker, with business R&D spending
as a proportion of GDP lagging G7 counterparts by 16 per cent. But Ontario
universities lead the G7 nations in research expenditures by universities - by
36 per cent.
OCUFA is concerned that Ontario's approach, requiring universities
support commercial research projects, diverts faculty, graduate students,
facilities, equipment and money away from basic research. Government policy,
therefore, seems designed to encourage business R&D activity and funding on
the cheap - and on the backs of universities.
As a result, Ontario's greatest R&D strength - its high level of
university R&D spending - is being threatened by government policy initiatives
that would require universities to redirect scarce resources from basic
research to commercial research.
There is also the even greater danger that commercial criteria will
actually hurt overall R&D results by skewing university research programs
increasingly away from basic research - the very research that has led to the
greatest commercial innovations.
"Strength in basic research is a feature of all strong economies," said
OCUFA President Brian E. Brown. "Even the United States - our main competitor
and comparator, whose universities are cited as exemplars of commercial
performance - favours basic research over commercial projects. American
business recognizes the commercial value of independent, university basic
research and routinely lobbies Congress for additional funding for it."
"In this election, the party platforms recognize the importance of
research to Ontario's economic development, but we need to break from the
current approach adopted by successive governments," he said. "To turn this
pattern around, OCUFA recommends the Ontario government invest in R&D to the
The Quality of University Research: Innovation Policy and Funding can be
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