B.C. backs research with knowledge fund

A $100-million B.C. Knowledge Development Fund announced recently by the provincial government is being hailed by members of UBC's research community as an important step towards establishing and maintaining leading research programs in B.C.

"The fund will improve B.C.'s ability to attract and keep world-class researchers," said Michael Smith, Peter Wall distinguished professor of bio-technology at UBC and the 1993 Nobel Laureate for Chemistry, when the program was announced last month.

"With the establishment of this fund, B.C. will become a more attractive destination for researchers, attracting researchers from other provinces and other countries."

The new program will cover 40 per cent of the capital costs of research infrastructure at B.C.'s post-secondary institutions, hospitals and affiliated non-profit research agencies, said Andrew Petter, minister of Advanced Education, Training and Technology.

The provincial program will enhance the ability of researchers to draw on $800 million in funds held by the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), which was established by the federal government in 1997. The funds provided to the foundation will cover capital costs in modernizing the infrastructure needed to do research in the areas of health, environment, science and engineering. The CFI will cover 40 per cent of the cost of new facilities.

UBC President Martha Piper said the fund will provide support for some of the best researchers, teachers and students in the world and help make B.C. the "bio-tech corridor" of Canada, as well as supporting the development of new composite wood products, cleaner burning energy, advances in information technology and environmental sciences, microelectronics and building advanced materials.

"All of these areas are vital to the future growth and prosperity of British Columbia," she said. "More than at any time in our history, we will depend on the intellectual capital of the people we employ.

"So much so that some predict there will be no poor regions, there will be only ignorant regions that, for whatever reason, do not invest in the education of their population or feel unable to retain those people who are educated."

In addition to helping educate and attract the best and the brightest, Piper said the fund will aid B.C. in attracting further research dollars from industry and other foundations and associations.

Bernie Bressler, UBC's vice-president, Research, said the creation of the Knowledge Development Fund is important if Canada is to maintain a competitive position in an increasingly knowledge-based global economy.

"The provincial fund, and similar funds in other provinces, will allow Canada to maintain research programs and support the development of new technologies and expertise in a variety of fields," he said. "The support these funds provide for university research infrastructure is absolutely essential if our institutions are to remain on the leading edge."

World-class research programs at UBC also ensure UBC faculty and graduates will continue to play important roles as major contributors to the provincial, national and global communities in areas ranging from the humanities to health sciences, he added.

UBC faculty members receive upwards of $135 million annually in research funding from government, industry and foundations. Faculty conduct more than 4,000 research projects annually.