Budget 2018: Canada’s Plan for Innovation, STEM and Diversity

The federal Canadian government released the 2018 budget yesterday. The 367-page document, tabled by Finance Minister Bill Morneau, does not necessarily delve deep into exactly how every dollar will be spent but instead provides a vision of what the country would like to achieve over the coming year.

There is a strong emphasis on gender equality, indigenous issues, parental leave, tax reform and more, but from a STEM standpoint, the budget goes in-depth on topics of innovation and cybersecurity.

The budget mentions existing Innovation and Skills Plan efforts, such as the Superclusters as well as strategy tables and reforms to existing training programs.

Science and Research

Innovation Canada, launched in January 2018, provides a single point of contact for entrepreneurs and innovators to grow their businesses. Firstly, the budget focuses on science and research, looking at past investments in STEM.

“These investments built world-leading Canadian universities and colleges and created a strong research environment—one that has resulted in global recognition and has succeeded in attracting top talent in important emerging fields like artificial intelligence,” the budget reads.

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Budget 2018 lists more than $1.7 billion over five years to support the next generation of Canadian researchers through institutes and granting councils. This money signifies the “single largest investment in fundamental research in Canadian history,” according to the budget itself. It also includes $1.3 billion over five years for lab, equipment and infrastructure investments.

There is also a total of $925 million to be invested over five years into Canada’s three granting councils, starting in 2018-19, and $235 million per year ongoing.

  • $354.7 million over five years ($90.1 million per year ongoing) to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (NSERC).
  • $354.7 million over five years ($90.1 million per year ongoing) to the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR).
  • $215.5 million over five years ($54.8 million per year ongoing) to the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).

There is more science and research funding as the budget dives deeper into specific institutes and sectors such as drug research, quantum computing and accessibility. The Canada Foundation for Innovation will also receive $763 million over five years to provide tools researchers need, from state-of-the-art equipment to brand new labs.

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Innovation and Skills

Budget 2018 has actually reduced the overall number of business innovation funding programs but increased the overall funding in total. The budget outlines the creation of four new flagship programs: The Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP); Strategic Innovation Fund; Canadian Trade Commissioner Service (TCS); and regional development agencies.

IRAP will see the government investing $700 million over the next five years, and the threshold for investing in single projects has been raised from $1 million to $10 million, enabling deeper business research and development.

The Strategic Innovation Fund allows for more focused support when it comes to projects over $10 million. It “will move away from supporting smaller projects to support larger projects that can lead to significant job creation and shared prosperity for Canadians.”

The TCS helps Canadians unlock growth opportunities through exports, and the budget promises the TCS will evolve to help simplify the client experience and modernize their tools. The budget reiterates the goal for Canada to increase exports by 30 per cent by 2025. The budget also outlines $10 million over five years to continue the Canadian Technology Accelerators program that helps high-growth tech companies expand into the U.S.

As for regional development agencies, the budget proposes to provide an additional $400 million over five years on an accrual basis, $511 million over five years on a cash basis, all to foster economic growth in countries around Canada. Of that amount, $105 million will support a “nationally coordinated, regionally tailored support for women entrepreneurs as part of the new Women Entrepreneurship Strategy.” The budget also touches on economic diversification to adapt to a low-carbon energy strategy.

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The budget places an emphasis on increasing access to capital for women-led companies as well. The government will make $1.4 billion available over three years for financing women-led companies through the BDC. This also builds on an increase to $200 million (from $70 million) for BDC’s Women in Technology fund. There is a lot more money dedicated to making sure women have access to capital and can build a business.

  • “To provide financing and insurance solutions for women-owned and women-led businesses that are exporting or looking to begin exporting, the Government will make available $250 million over three years, starting in 2018–19, through Export Development Canada (EDC).”
  • “To support women entrepreneurs in agriculture, the Government will create and launch a new lending product in 2018–19 designed specifically for women entrepreneurs through Farm Credit Canada.”

“There has never been a more important time to close the gender pay gap and give women equal opportunities to succeed,” says Paul Parisi, president of PayPal Canada “In a recent study, PayPal Canada found that women are dominating the emerging community of freelancers and 5-9’ers, making up 66% of a group who contribute $2.5 billion dollars to our economy annually. Compared to men, women are more actively testing the viability of full-time small business ownership and are more likely to transition to full-time ownership within the next three years.”

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…there are 359 references to gender, 197 to innovation and 54 to technology in the 2018 Budget, so do not consider this an exhaustive breakdown into how the budget broaches innovation and diversity. This story is ongoing and will be updated.