Companies score as ministers dribble funds

NRC-logoA149X91.JPGANCASTER — Through the summer federal cabinet ministers have been dribbling funds to "innovative leaders" in the regions where they have political clout. Peter MacKay in Atlantic region, Tony Clement in Ontario, Stockwell Day in Pacific region — all have made announcements on behalf of their junior colleague, Gary Goodyear, who is minister of state for science and technology.
Mr. Goodyear himself dribbled out $750,000 last week to Activation Laboratories, which maintains its HQ in this suburb of Hamilton and counts five other labs in Canada, seven in Latin America, two in Australia and one in Ulaan Baatar, the capital of Mongolia. Activation develops analytical solutions for the geochemical, geometallurgical, biotech, material testing, forensic, petroleum, mining, pharmaceutical, and agricultural industries. It will use this grant for a multi-year project to develop nanotech solutions for the mining industry that will reduce sample analysis turnaround time for mineralogical data from days to hours.
Most of the announcements this summer have involved funds delivered by the National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP), a long-standing and much-valued program that provides a range of technical and business advisory services along with financial support to small- and medium-sized enterprises. The Harper government has made NRC-IRAP one of the spearheads of its modest S&T Strategy, bolstering it by $200 million over the next two years.
Mr. Goodyear told his audience in Ancaster that Ottawa will invest $45 million in southern Ontario this year as part of its economic action plan. The funds are being delivered by NRC-IRAP but they come out of two other programs:
Community Adjustment Fund (CAF) initiative: $1 billion is allocated for CAF over two years to create employment opportunities and support adjustment measures in communities impacted by the economic downturn. The CAF supports activities such as community transition plans that foster economic development, science and technology initiatives, and other measures that promote economic diversification. This year, NRC-IRAP will deliver $17.5 million of the CAF component in southern Ontario on behalf of Industry Canada.
Federal Economic Development Agency for southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario).
Another $1 billion, but spread over five years, is meant to support economic and community development, innovation and diversification. This year, NRC-IRAP will deliver $27.5 million on behalf of FedDev Ontario.
NRC-IRAP's boost in the 2009 budget includes $170 million to double NRC-IRAP's contributions to firms and $30 million to help hire more than 1,000 new post-secondary graduates via its Youth Employment Program.
The budget commitment reinforces NRC-IRAP's mandate to help SMEs take knowledge from the lab to the marketplace. NRC-IRAP estimates the added funds will enable it to provide larger contributions to firms per project and allow it to support approximately 1,400 additional SMEs beyond the annual base over the next two years.
The NRC-IRAP program is delivered by a field staff of 240 business and technology experts in more than 100 communities across Canada.

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