Polytechnics Canada says Budget Fails to Address Applied-Research Needs

    TORONTO, Feb. 3 /CNW Telbec/ - Finance Minister Jim Flaherty's budget
failed to address the growing need for funding in applied research that
directly responds to today's business needs, says Sharon Maloney, executive
director of Polytechnics Canada.
    Polytechnics Canada, representing some of the most innovative technical
skills training institutions in Canada, was disappointed that Mr. Flaherty
separated the concepts of job-ready skills training and university research in
his budget.
    The focus on theory-based research typically performed by universities
means that polytechnics lack access to funding essential to advancing Canadian
businesses and creating jobs at home.
    "We are encouraged that the budget set an emphasis on providing technical
and business assistance to support innovation," says Maloney, "but it has
ignored the role that applied research at polytechnics plays in producing
highly skilled people. This directly helps businesses transform innovation
into economic activity. A recent poll shows that Canadians get this, but for
some reason our federal government does not."
    The newly released 2008 Solutions Report completed by Polytechnics Canada
assesses the value of applied research activities developed at Canada's
polytechnics in 2008. The report illustrates how Small and Medium sized
Enterprises (SMEs) across the country are realizing significant returns on
their investment in the human potential of polytechnic students and
    "These institutions have really filled a gap in the marketplace between
the university and the college system," explains Maloney. "Our report reveals
that by integrating applied research into their programs, our graduates have
the commercialization and hands-on problem-solving skills essential to
addressing Canada's productivity and competitiveness challenges."
    The 95 per cent employment rate graduates enjoy within six months of
matriculation is living proof of the success of these programs. Meanwhile a
report by the Science Council of B.C. suggest that applied research is the
fastest, most cost effective way to advance commercialization by developing
value added products and processes identified by Canadian businesses. That
study says that every dollar of investment in applied research results in an
$18 return to the economy.
    Few SMEs can afford to tie up large sums of cash in research and
development particularly in the current economic climate.
    By partnering with polytechnics, SMEs are able to leverage hands-on
research while giving students tangible experience as they work towards a
degree or other credentials in their field. Meanwhile, students and professors
together help solve immediate industry challenges, while enhancing curricula
in the process.
    "Polytechnics through their mandates are closer to the market than other
institutions and their curriculum and applied research activities reflect
that," says Alex Zahavich, Director of Applied Research and Innovation
Services at Calgary's SAIT Polytechnic. "The Federal Government has identified
clean technologies as a cornerstone of Canada's emerging technology strategy,
and the Polytechnics are in the best position to work with the Government to
bridge the gap between the market and the labs used in commercializing
emerging technologies and mainstream education".
    The poll conducted by Ipsos-Reid in January 2009, on behalf of
Polytechnics Canada, revealed that nine in ten respondents agree that "small
businesses in Canada need increased public investment in research and
development to meet current economic challenges"
    The poll, citing concerns that Canada is falling behind in innovation and
productivity, found that most of those surveyed (86 per cent) agreed with the
statement; "the government needs to invest more money on applied research in
order to be competitive internationally."
    Similarly, 90 per cent of respondents affirm "the government needs to do
more to equip people with the technical and technological skills needed to
succeed in today's global marketplace."

    The seven members of Polytechnics Canada - BCIT, Conestoga College,
George Brown College, Humber College, SAIT Polytechnic, Seneca College and
Sheridan Institute - annually educate more than 400,000 students. These
institutions represent an underutilized resource that could directly enhance
Canadian businesses if they were adequately funded.

For further information:

For further information: Sharon Maloney, Executive Director,
Polytechnics Canada, (416) 949-2588, semaloney@polytechnicscanada.ca; Ken
Doyle, Director of Public Affairs, Polytechnics Canada, (613) 429-0057,
kdoyle@polytechnicscanada.ca; To download a copy of the Solutions Report,
please visit the Polytechnics Canada website at:

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