Universities will need to act fast: the federal government has announced that applications to the new three-year, $2-billion Post-Secondary Institutions Strategic Investment Fund are due May 9. Elizabeth Cannon, president of the University of Calgary and board chair at Universities Canada, said universities will be ready. “Like universities across Canada, the University of Calgary has a number of significant projects that could get underway quickly, putting people back to work and building long-term capacity in research and innovation,” she said in an op-ed that ran in several Postmedia newspapers.
The new fund, announced in the March federal budget, was created to enhance and modernize research facilities on Canadian campuses. “By improving our college and university facilities, we are supporting innovation, scientific research and entrepreneurship in Canada,” said Science Minister Kirsty Duncan as she unveiled details of the new investment fund at Toronto’s Centennial College on Apr. 6.
The government will cover up to 50 percent of a project’s eligible costs. The remaining funding will come from other partners, including provincial and territorial governments and the institutions themselves.
The fund has been widely touted by the federal government since the budget. In recent public appearances, Finance Minister Bill Morneau has frequently mentioned the new investments as a way to help boost future productivity. Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Navdeep Bains has also been out promoting the initiative during visits to several university campuses. The government, he said at an event at Western University on Apr. 7, will ensure that proposed projects are “solid proposals, with good merit, and more importantly that they’re shovel-ready.”
Universities Canada had pitched a dedicated university infrastructure fund in its pre-budget submission to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance in February. The association noted that, according to a January 2016 survey of Universities Canada member institutions, there are currently more than 450 shovel-ready infrastructure projects on Canadian campuses. As well, the association pointed to the successful Knowledge Infrastructure Program – launched by the former Conservative government in 2009 to stimulate a struggling Canadian economy – as evidence “that Canadian universities can deliver infrastructure projects quickly and well.”