Innovation report author: Ontario needs balanced investment in research support


Ontario unarguably develops world-class, innovative researchers in almost every field. But the province fails to properly encourage and reward them, says a U of T professor who recently conducted a study on ways to expand Ontario's ability to innovate in all sectors of the economy.

Heather Munroe-Blum, professor and vice-president, research and international relations at the University of Toronto, says she believes top researchers aren't properly funded to cover the indirect costs of their work or for their talents.

“We don't need to be funding dollar for dollar with our American colleagues,” she said in a lecture at McMaster on Feb. 23. “We do need a balanced investment in research support. We need to compensate our talent based on contribution and quality of work.”

The provincial government asked Munroe-Blum to look at innovation-supporting programs from around the world and to recommend ways to expand Ontario's ability to innovate in all sectors of the economy. Her report, entitled “Growing Ontario's Innovation System: The Strategic Role of University Research,” was released in December. It is based on consultation and analysis of research and innovation policies of nine jurisdictions, including four Canadian provinces (Quebec, Ontario, British Columbia and Alberta), four U.S. states (Michigan, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Ohio),as well as the United Kingdom. The 84-page document looks at science policy frameworks and the role of university research in innovation with the goal of increasing the knowledge of Canada and Ontario with respect to science policy frameworks and gaps in competitiveness.

In the report, she presents five recommendations to enhance innovation through research at the University level:

*creation of an optimal university research policy environment for innovation;

*growing talent and university research competitiveness and constructing a world-class infrastructure;

*expanding the impact of university research and fostering entrepreneurship;

*fostering local, national and global innovation networks and global profile;

*celebrating our people, achievements and success.

Munroe-Blum says the provincial government has committed more than $1.5 billion for new research programs, coupled with comparably significant investments at the federal level. But that money hasn't been allocated equally.

“They have virtually ignored the humanities and social sciences,” she said. “It's very focused on applied fields rather than being spread evenly regardless of the type of research required.”

Munroe-Blum graduated from McMaster with a degree in sociology and social work in 1974. She later received a doctorate in epidemiology at the University of North Carolina. She is now a professor in the University of Toronto's Faculty of Social Work with cross appointments in the Departments of Psychiatry, Preventive Medicine and Biostatistics. Munroe-Blum received McMaster's Distinguished Alumni Award in 1995.