12.3 million reasons to foster global partnerships


The federal government announced Thursday that it’s providing $12.3 million over four years to promote collaborative research in technology and science with China and India.

Through the program, Canadian organizations – including businesses, universities and colleges, and private R&D outfits – would be able to take advantage of networking opportunities and project funding with companies in these countries.

The program will be delivered by the newly-formed not-for-profit organization, International Science and Technology Partnerships Canada Inc. (ISTP Canada).

ISTP Canada’s mandate is to bolster the country’s science and technology, business-to-business, and ultimately its overall economic, trade as well as political relations.

Through the organization, the federal government will support 50 per cent of the Canadian component of a joint research project. An emphasis will be placed on research projects with potential for commercial application.

The new program is significant for all technology-based industries because in addition to offering financial support for such projects, it will help Canadian companies identify global partners, according to Henri Rothschild, ISTP Canada’s president and CEO.

“We’re a unique organization in the sense that we have a buddy system – a parallel structure – in India and China, [that is] connected with the industry and the research community as well.”

The alliance with China and India, through ISTP Canada, is the newest “vehicle” of the International Science and Technology Partnerships Program (ISTPP), a federal government program formed in 2005, to help promote research with foreign technologists and scientists.

Specifically, funding for partnerships with China and India is part of a $20-million program spanning four years. Similar programs featuring Israel and Brazil will eventually be manned by ISTP Canada, said the organization’s chairman, Stuart McCormack.

He said the partnerships with China and India are likely to help Canadian companies thrust their intellectual capital into the global marketplace, faster than they would otherwise have been able. “It’s a great opportunity for Canadians to maximize the bang they get for their buck in terms of doing R&D.”

Rothschild can’t speak of initiatives in the pipeline just yet, as ISTP Canada won’t issue proposal guidelines for projects until early summer.

However, he said China has a keen interest in developing technology in relation to the environment and health care sectors, specifically in digital medicine and convergent health technologies. In addition to those areas, India is interested in biofuel research.

Spending more time collaborating and understanding the Chinese and Indian markets is a good move because those countries represent the “long-term future of markets worldwide,” according to Vito Mabrucco, managing director for Toronto, Ontario-based IDC Canada.

“If you look at North America and where we are in the marketplace, our opportunity to continue to drive and improve our standard of living, wealth and our benefits, is to find markets where we can expand and enter with our innovations, products, and services,” the IDC analyst said.

Canadian startups, he said, often perceive success in terms of how effectively they can conquer the U.S. and European markets. That’s a misconception as there may be less competition and more openness to Canadian initiatives around emerging technologies in India and China, Mabrucco said.

He noted that Canada has a lot to offer in terms of a joint research project in digital and remote healthcare. “You combine our knowledge of healthcare with our knowledge of communications and that might represent a great opportunity in China and India to deliver healthcare differently – doing it more remotely.”

For instance, he said companies such as Nortel are investing significantly in driving bandwidth (a requirement for remote healthcare), and medical science centres such as the one at McMaster University, which is already involved in telemedicine.


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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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