On June 6, 2023, the Standing Committee on Science and Research presented its report on Pursuing a Canadian Moonshot Program to the House of Commons. Offering 15 recommendations, the report covers a breadth of issues related to Canada’s research ecosystem, all of which will be necessary to successfully implement a moonshot program in Canada.
This marks the third time in 2023 that a Commons committee has echoed HealthCareCAN policy recommendations in a report to the federal government. Of the eight recommendations HealthCareCAN put forward in its submission to the Committee, all were either directly or indirectly included in its final report, specifically that the federal government:
- Support research along the full breadth of the innovation continuum, including people and skills, fundamental research, applied research and development, partnerships, commercialization and start-ups, and scale up and globalization.
- Review, with the potential to increase, its investments in fundamental research through the budgets of the three granting councils, namely the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.
- Review and strengthen mechanisms for supporting the commercialization of promising research.
- Develop a long-term research funding program to provide stability and flexibility for ambitious research projects.
- Review and revise research funding requirements to ensure projects can effectively leverage capital investment and industry partnerships.
- Review and revise associated policy as needed to support and enhance specific moonshot goals.
- Review and revise funding programs to ensure research infrastructure development and maintenance is supported.
- Review research funding programs to encourage and enhance collaboration between academic institutions, industry partners and international allies.
The report also touches on graduate scholarships and post-doctoral fellowships, an area that HealthCareCAN and its members have been strongly advocating in recent months. The Committee recommends increasing the number of scholarships and fellowships to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers and increasing their value by 25% and indexing it to the consumer price index.
“At their core, moonshot initiatives aim to resolve difficult environmental and social problems, set ambitious research and development programs and attract researchers from around the world,” said HealthCareCAN President & CEO, Paul-Émile Cloutier. “Canada’s health research ecosystem can do all those things and more if provided with federal financial investment that is on par with the rest of the world.”
The Committee also outlines possible areas of focus for a Canadian moonshot based on the input it received through submissions. Areas raised include health, climate change, and artificial intelligence. Within health specifically, ideas included research on infectious diseases, brain disease, cancer, inflammation, managing potential pandemic events, vaccine development, anti-microbial resistance, genetics and stem cell therapies, integrated health networks, and equitable health services.
Dr. Kevin Smith, President & CEO of HealthCareCAN member institution the University Health Network in Toronto also provided evidence to the Committee. Dr. Smith recommends the federal government pursue moonshot programs that would ensure Canada had a sustainable, universally accessible health care system that is adequately staffed; tackle antimicrobial resistance; partner with researchers in the United States to conquer cancer in our lifetime; and deal with brain disease and dementia, which affect so many Canadians.
HealthCareCAN eagerly awaits the federal government’s response to the report. We will be following up with members of Parliament and government officials to push for the implementation of the Committee’s recommendations as part of our ongoing advocacy on the urgent need for the federal government to invest in health research.
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