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Common Themes - Positioning Natural Resources Canada’s Science and Technology in the Innovation System

Common Themes

This section summarizes input from all sources into the most relevant common themes that will help guide NRCan as it re-positions itself in the natural resources and earth sciences innovation system. The six themes are: leadership; vision and commitment to S&T; governance; innovative environment; knowledge, facilitation and communication; and resourcing. No one theme stands alone; they are interrelated. Common to all is the need to adapt to a changing environment. Table 1 provides a summary of key information under each of these themes.

Table 1: Summary of Common Themes

  • Leadership
    • Departmental S&T strategy links to national S&T strategy
    • “Focused” leadership nationally and internationally
  • Vision and Commitment to S&T
    • One vision
    • Focused S&T priorities as foundation of vision
    • Increased national and international collaboration
    • Embrace a vision of a linked S&T system, with collaboration amongst stakeholders
    • Sustainable government support for S&T, linking science to policy
  • Governance (Accountability)
    • New approach
    • Shared responsibility among all innovation system stakeholders
    • Recognize government’s primary responsibility for public good S&T
    • Unbiased decision making to achieve greater efficiency and effectiveness (no vested interest)
  • Innovative Environment
    • Stakeholders thrive in their respective role(s) within a linked national S&T system.
    • From basic research to commercialization, the innovation chain features creative links through multi-disciplinary mechanisms.
  • Knowledge, Facilitation and Communication
    • Government is the catalyst for a thriving innovation system.
    • Share knowledge and information and facilitate networks and relationships across the innovation system disciplines.
    • Facilitate recognition by Canadians of the impact of S&T on national issues.
  • Resourcing
    • Address barriers to internal and external linkages and to systems of resource management.
    • Address current and emerging needs while maintaining essential S&T.
    • Allocation encourages collaboration, is unbiased and achieves goals effectively.
    • Address issue of human resources


Focused leadership is a key theme among all sources. Government leadership at the highest level is required to effectively address science-related priorities and emerging challenges. S&T strategies, demonstrating how these issues will be addressed, exemplify government leadership. Leadership will also ensure that knowledge is diffused, shared and used and that resources are maximized through S&T policy and institutional set-up. Such leadership guides the integration, coordination and networking among all players that is characteristic of innovation systems.

Vision and Commitment to S&T

A department’s or government’s vision and commitment to S&T is embodied in a S&T strategy. At its core, the vision integrates science and policy. It recognizes that innovation is key to prosperity and aims to mobilize the innovation system to tackle key priorities in a collaborative fashion. The strategy identifies goals and a limited number of S&T priorities and specifies how efforts will support these priorities. Because collaboration, linkages and networking are essential, the strategy features a multi-disciplinary approach. The S&T vision and strategy are dynamic, so they need to be periodically updated and re-focused to reflect adjustments in government priorities and other evolving circumstances. NRCan needs a single, coherent departmental vision for S&T. From this vision, a new S&T strategy, with links to the Federal S&T Strategy, will be created.

Governance (Accountability)

Government funds public good S&T and tends to concentrate the S&T it performs on areas supporting public policy and regulation. The international trend is to separate funding and policy decisions from S&T performance to minimize actual or perceived vested interest, ensure transparency and greater accountability, and to optimize horizontal integration and collaboration. As such, new departmental S&T governance structures will be put in place in which leadership sets corporate and strategic direction for S&T while other high-level groups direct progress by defining specific S&T priorities, managing risk, aligning resources with priorities, and ensuring resources are allocated to those best positioned to perform the S&T. Public good will continue to be a priority.

Innovative Environment

With appropriate leadership, vision, commitment and governance structure in place, an innovative environment that encourages collaboration and networking among all key players can be created. This is characteristic of an innovation system. An innovative environment often means changes in organizational structure or thinking, or a change in the way that players work or relate to each other. There are several possibilities, including participation by civil society and business in priority setting and sometimes
co-location so that innovation players physically work together.

A balance must be struck to ensure sufficient S&T capacity and expertise to support government’s public good and regulatory roles. Governments can also concentrate on high risk, high-potential return while encouraging industry to more forcefully accept its receptor role. All partners in the innovation system have a responsibility for providing training and mentoring so Canada develops more highly qualified personnel.

Knowledge, Facilitation and Communication

This theme is also about strengthening networks and increasing collaboration to improve knowledge sharing, facilitation and communication. Governments are knowledge centres and have a responsibility to share with stakeholders and the public synthesized knowledge about S&T issues to increase awareness, encourage recognition of the impact of S&T on national issues, garner support, and allow this knowledge to feed the innovation process. As knowledge centres, governments act as facilitators or catalysts to spur S&T and link innovation players around opportunities. The recognition of the federal community’s role as a catalyst for the innovation system and in communicating the importance of science to Canadians prompted the creation of


Resourcing requires government to determine the right balance among public good, mandated S&T and current and emerging priority needs. To lead and be an effective contributor to the innovation system, government must maintain adequate capacity and focus its investments accordingly (e.g. infrastructure, assets, human resources, and S&T priority financing).

As witnessed globally, for an innovation system to thrive, government S&T resources must exist separately and also be leveraged with significant university participation and and industry funding. Collaboration among key innovation system players is necessary to achieve excellent results. One model is competitive government funding programs that are accessible to all players and guided by S&T excellence and relevance. For any model, existing barriers to collaboration, whether fiscal, structural or organizational, must be addressed.

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