TURNING SCIENTISTS INTO SALESMEN
Canada has tremendous resources at its feet for research and innovation: the Canadian federal government has committed to
over 500 new projects, buildings and laboratories in the last seven years. Life science is one of the most important sources
of jobs and drivers of economic growth in Canada, along with aerospace and IT.
Canadian, Top 10 Corporations*(Purchases), MAT December 2012
Despite all this great research, Canada's unique problem appears to be its inability to connect business development and entrepreneurship
with this great scientific capacity. So, how can Canada use its immense research infrastructure to turn locally produced science
and technology into commercial success? This has partly been done through the restructuring of the National Research Council
(NRC) in early 2013. John MacDougall, president of NRC, noted that despite research investment in Canada being in the middle
of the OECD countries, innovation performance is in need of improvement. By placing a greater emphasis on commercial research,
reaching a balance between basic and commercial research will allow for more effective commercialization of science produced
in Canada. McDougall describes this process as "working from the market back, rather than from discovery forward, while balancing
the innovation system more appropriately to extract more value from NRC's investment."
Is Canada’s intellectual property regime competitive?
A particularly innovative example of this push towards commercialization has been demonstrated through the collaborative efforts
of 16 research institutions in Toronto. This resulted in the establishment of a centralized organization in 2007 called MaRS
Innovation (MI), funded by the Canadian government and membership fees by each of the 16 institutions. Raphael Hofstein, president
and CEO of MI, explains that MI's "sole charter is to improve on commercialization with a minimum of CAD 30 million (USD 29.03
million) for five years. Our 16 members in downtown Toronto generate significant intellectual property for the MI pipeline,
which stands to transform Toronto's performance as a research commercialization hub within the larger Canadian scene." MI
chooses the most promising of several hundred ideas with which it is presented every year to take to market, with the assistance
of big pharma.
Raphael Hofstein, President and CEO of MI
Another way in which big pharma can continue maintaining R&D in Canada is through outsourcing. However, according to John
Sampalis of local CRO JSS Medical Research, the industry for CROs in Canada is fragmented. "Canadian CROs conducting Phase
II and III trials also face the challenges of globalization of the business, by which large pharmaceutical companies have
forged relationships with large CROs. Regional affiliates are expected to work with those large CROs, therefore denting market
availability for Canadian CROs," says Sampalis. "In the absence of business, smaller Canadian CROs cannot expand their service
offering, and will stay small, become smaller or disappear. This affects the entire principle of why research is supported
by the Canadian government, which is to provide work to local CROs and universities and promote that research activity and
development in Canada."
John MacDougall, president of NRC