Canada’s research and innovation system crosses federal-provincial/territorial (FPT) borders. Provincial/territorial and federal agencies together fund over 30% of research and development (R&D) activities in higher education across the country (Statistics Canada, 2017). However, FPT coordination in this area has been largely a “reactive” and “ad hoc activity without a clear organizational structure or mechanism to support it” (Tamtik, 2016).

The dizzying mix of programs for research and innovation at both levels has also contributed to the coordination challenge, which has resulted in a patchwork of programs and co-matching requirements. Researchers and innovators are left to navigate a complex system of supports, seeking opportunities to help shoulder the direct and indirect costs of R&D.

The creation of the Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) to harmonize activities across the main federal agencies provides an opportunity for mechanisms for coordination with the provinces and territories to be considered. The purpose of this paper is to serve as a starting point in the conversation on FPT coordination.

First, we look at some basic concepts in policy coordination and then delve deeper into coordination on research and innovation funding. By clarifying areas of stress as well as opportunities for improvement, we hope to raise awareness of the “vertical coordination gap” that has been endemic in Canada.

As we move forward with the discussion on FPT coordination, some questions warrant further consideration:

  • How do our federal and provincial/territorial policies for research and innovation currently reinforce/negate each other?
  • How much effort should we invest in coordination?
  • To what extent have stakeholders begun to address the coordination issue?
  • How can the federal research councils work with their provincial/territorial counterparts to avoid policy duplication and inconsistencies in support programs?
  • What could be some short- and long-term coordination targets? What do we define as success?

The path forward must consider how current barriers to coordination could be overcome. This includes setting attainable short-term targets such as more awareness, better data, clear responsibility for coordination at both government levels, and clear mechanisms for data exchange and consultation. More effective linkages across the system would help cover gaps in services and supports currently encountered by Canadian scientists and help build broad research capacity needed to sustain innovation.

You can get a full copy of the report here.