Speech from the President: Announcement of the Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR) competition results

Delivered at the University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC

August 25, 2014

Good morning, and thank you, Natalie, for your introduction.

And a special thank you to you, Minister Holder, for your presence here today.

As Minister Holder noted, today's announcement is about closing the gap between the lab and the marketplace. About ensuring that Canadian discoveries are translated into innovative products and technologies, thereby generating economic benefits for our country.

Bridging the gap between commercialization and research is a challenge which requires a special breed of individuals: individuals with both scientific acumen and entrepreneurial spirit.

And a challenge that requires dedicated means. This is why, twenty-five years ago, Canada launched the Networks of Centres of Excellence program. It was a bold experiment, considered extremely avant-garde at the time. But this experiment proved a huge success.

Indeed, the $2 billion invested over this period have leveraged $1.5 billion in contributions from industry and other partners. They have helped create 138 spin-off and 453 start-up companies. They have led to the training of more than 42,000 highly qualified personnel.

The Centres of Excellence for Commercialization and Research build and expand upon this original idea, with a sharper focus on commercialization and a closer eye on the marketplace.

Their objective is to provide a more systematic way of matching clusters of research expertise with the business community, and to bring innovative products and processes to market faster.

This requires the full engagement of industrial partners. And indeed, industry partners typically contribute about $2 dollars for every $1 dollar invested by government. In 2012-13 alone, contributions from industrial partners totaled more than $150 million.

With today's event, we are announcing the fourth generation of CECRs. As always, the winners of the competition were chosen for the quality, originality and potential of their projects, which also have solid long-term prospects that will extend well beyond their funding cycles.

As Chair of the CECR Steering Committee, I am extraordinarily impressed with the creativity and entrepreneurship that fuel the Networks announced today.

As President of the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, I can't help but note that 4 of the 5 of these Networks are in the health field (and that the fifth one has obvious health applications).

This reminds us how important the health sector is to our economy. Let's not forget that over 40% of provincial budgets are invested in health, and that this investment constitutes an important economic driver.

When we talk about commercialization in the realm of health, we of course think of direct economic outcomes, through the creation of innovative products and technologies.

But we also think about ultimately talking improving health outcomes and saving lives. Not only is this a worthy goal in itself, but improved health eventually translates into improved productivity, which is central to Canada's economic performance.

In closing, on behalf of the CECR program, I offer my best wishes to all the research teams involved in the Networks we are announcing today.

By closing the gap between academic research and commercialization, you are improving the lives of Canadians and strengthening the Canadian economy.

Thank you.

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