Consensus-building on funding policy

TVB Associates was pleased to support Neutrons Canada in organizing and reporting on a consensus-building event at Canadian Science Policy Conference. This event gathered leaders of Major Research Facilities across Canada, as well as policy experts, science administrators, and researchers.

Attendees deliberated the recommendations of Report of the Advisory Panel on the Federal Research Support System regrading a new funding framework for Major Research Facilities.

The panelists and participating research facility leaders formed a consensus on the essential components of the funding framework and provided a report to government Ministers and civil servants responsible for funding policy for Major Research Facilities and the associated Major Science Initiatives.

Client article: https://neutrons.ca/news-item/consensus-building-on-funding-policy-for-major-research-facilities-at-the-2023-canadian-science-policy-conference/

Read the session report

Partnership negotiated for Canadian access to ISIS Neutron and Muon Source

TVB Associates is pleased to have supported Neutrons Canada in negotiating its first international partnership agreement, which will promote cooperation between Canada and the ISIS Neutron and Muon Source in the United Kingdom.

Client article: https://neutrons.ca/news-item/new-partnership-will-expand-canadian-access-to-isis-neutron-and-muon-source/

Business case for medical isotope production in Windsor

Canadian Healthcare Technology published a TVB Associates’ study for the University of Windsor on the business case for medical isotope production to support the local PET scanner.

Our study examined the challenge of equitable access to PET scans as a pricing problem. Viability of PET scanning is typically only available in cities large enough to sustain a local radiopharmaceutical manufacturer that produces F-18 and converts it into the radiopharmaceutical needed for PET scanning, known as FDG. We considered business and pricing models that could sustain a PET scanner and an FDG production business in Windsor, Ontario, a small Canadian city.

Our main results are reported in a white paper and a summary article, both published through Canadian Healthcare Technology.

  • Summary: Daniel Banks and Drew Marquardt. Sustainability of F18 medical isotope production in small Canadian cities: Canadian Healthcare Technology. June/July 2023. Vol. 28(5): 19.
  • White Paper: Daniel Banks, Joe Huser, Dale Schick-Martin, Drew Marquardt. Sustainability of F18 medical isotope production in small Canadian cities. University of Windsor. Distributed through Canadian Healthcare Technology White Papers. June 28, 2023. Volume 13, Number 6.

Alumni Analyzer brand launch!

TVB Associates is pleased to officially launch the Alumni Analyzer brand with successful case studies from two major research facilities: SNOLAB and CMC Microsystems!

Do you want alumni data to help you tell compelling stories to funders, potential recruits or employers?

If yes, check us out, and you can be our next happy client!
https://alumnianalyzer.com/#case-studies

Alumni study shows high impact of SNOLAB on training of highly qualified people

Alumni Analyzer (a business line of TVB Associates) is pleased to share this statement from a happy client:

“SNOLAB is the world’s leading deep underground clean lab hosting a dozen scientific experiments by large Canadian and international research teams. During more than 20 years of operation, numerous students and post-doctorates have passed through our facility either as users or employees. Inspiring and training these alumni for careers is one of our principal impacts on society.

“As a facility that relies on public funds, having objective data on SNOLAB’s impacts is critical. Yet tracking our alumni through their careers has been a challenge. Alumni Analyzer (a business line of TVB Associates) found our alumni, connected with them, and documented their educational achievements and professional career paths – both statistically and anecdotally.

“Alumni Analyzer produced a comprehensive report detailing SNOLAB’s success in inspiring and training staff and students, and demonstrating the valuable role SNOLAB alumni play in Canada’s tech and innovation ecosystem. 

“Alumni Analyzer delivered exactly what SNOLAB needed: objective, aggregate data showing SNOLAB alumni tend to pursue higher educational achievements, have high rates of retention within Ontario and Canada, enjoy strong career progression, and are more likely than other Canadian science graduates to work in high-tech and research-intensive sectors of the Canadian economy.”

For more information, visit: https://alumnianalyzer.com/#case-studies

Neutron Long-Range Plan consensus building session

As project manager of the on-going process to develop the Canadian Neutron Long-Range Plan for 2025 to 2035, TVB Associates was pleased to support the organization of a consensus building session at the CINS Science Conference in March 2023, in cooperation with the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research.

The session, entitled “Building Expertise for Canadian Neutron Scattering”, gathered input on topics such as EDI, indigenous issues, student and post-doc issues, outreach to industry, and attraction of experts for roles such as instrument scientists.

The outcomes of the session will feed into the development of the Neutrons Long-Range Plan.

TVB Associates is continuing in the role of project manager of the Neutrons Long-Range Plan, now directly supporting Neutrons Canada to act in its new role as the institutional steward of the Neutrons Long-Range Plan.

For more information about the Neutron Long-Range Plan, visit: https://neutrons.ca/lrp2025/

Neutrons Canada launched! 

Neutrons Canada was launched on December 1 to lead Canada’s infrastructure program for research with neutron beams (official news release).

Neutrons Canada is a critical part of the national strategy to rebuild Canadian capacity for materials research with neutron beams, following the 2018 closure of the NRU reactor at the Chalk River Laboratories.

The purpose of Neutrons Canada is to govern, manage, and represent Canada’s infrastructure program for research and development with neutron beams, including international partnerships that secure access to world-leading neutron laboratories, operation of Canada’s domestic neutron beam facilities, and national initiatives for future neutron sources, thereby enabling Canadians to address major social and economic challenges.

The creation of Neutrons Canada is the culmination of 6 years of work of the Canadian Neutron Initiative working group. The working group led 15 founding members, which are Canadian universities contributing to the rebuilding of Canada’s infrastructure program, to establish Neutrons Canada.

TVB Associates is pleased to have played a strategic role in Neutrons Canada’s creation, advising the working group and founding members throughout their work.

Author: Daniel Banks, President, TVB Associates Inc.
Photo: Launch of Neutrons Canada
Client article: Neutrons Canada launched to lead infrastructure program for research with neutron beams (Dec 7, 2022)

CFI investments help secure Canada’s Major Research Facilities, but there are winners and losers

A perennial question in Ottawa has been how to provide a consistent, reliable, and rational source of funds for Canada’s Major Research Facilities (MRFs) and other nationally significant research facilities that operate outside of government departments and agencies. MRFs, as defined in Canada’s Fundamental Science Review, include national facilities such as TRIUMF, the Canadian Light Source, and Canada’s National Design Network. Many MRFs rely, or have relied on, ad hoc funding mechanisms, which are often temporary, requiring them to be constantly seeking government assistance through lobbying. 

Author: Daniel Banks, President, TVB Associates Inc.
Originally published: Canadian Science Policy Centre (Oct 2, 2022)
Image: A crystallography beamline at the Canadian Light Source. (Canadian Light Source)

The Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), notably through its Major Science Initiatives (MSI) Fund, has greatly improved this situation by offering a fund that provides stability in six-year increments for facilities that are eligible to apply and are successful in its competition. In August 2022, the CFI announced the results of its $628 million competition for the 2023–2029 term of its MSI Fund (analysed below in Table 1).

Another way the CFI has improved funding for nationally significant research facilities is by encouraging multiple local or regional facilities used for similar research to assemble into national facilities. In this way, facilities achieve economies of scale and have a greater impact by serving users across the country. Such Canada-wide facilities are also better positioned to secure operating funds. A few examples:

  • Compute Canada arose as a federation of high-performance computing facilities, which was then funded by the CFI MSI Fund. Compute Canada later “graduated” from the MSI Fund when it was re-created as the Digital Research Alliance of Canada in 2019–2020, and is now funded directly by the Government of Canada via its Digital Research Infrastructure strategy. 
  • Ocean Networks Canada operates two large, cabled ocean observatories in the Pacific Ocean (NEPTUNE and VENUS, which were created separately), as well as several smaller facilities elsewhere along Canada’s northern and western coasts. Ocean Networks Canada received the largest award in the present competition, at $114.8 million.
  • CFI investment in the Canadian Research Data Centre Network (CRDCN) in 2010 enabled the CRDCN to develop a single, nationwide, secure Wide Area Network facilitated by CANARIE to connect research data centres across the country with Statistics Canada. The CRDCN was then successful in the 2017–2022 MSI competition and received the greatest increase in funding in the 2023–2029 competition, at 80%.  
  • Coalition Publica is a partnership between Érudit and the Public Knowledge Project. In the 2023–2029 competition, the Coalition was awarded a 50% increase over the previous CFI award granted to Érudit operating separately. 

A stable funding source for nationally distributed networks of research facilities can help these networks when the funding sources that created them expire. Two examples from the 2023–2029 competition: 

  • Global Water Futures is a national research initiative resulting from a one-time $78 million Canada First Research Excellence Fund grant. The Global Water Futures Observatories (GWFO) has arisen out of this initiative as an integrated network of water laboratories and instruments that are monitoring aquatic systems across Canada. The GWFO is the largest new facility funded in the 2023–2029 competition, at $15.3 million over the six-year period.
  • The Canadian Glycomics Network, or GlycoNet, is funded by the Networks of Centres of Excellence (NCE) as a “one-stop shop” for developing new carbohydrate-based drugs and diagnostics. As the NCE program has been discontinued, such networks must either evolve to fit other funding mechanisms or shut down. GlycoNet Integrated Services, which is the infrastructure operated by GlycoNet and used by glycomics researchers across Canada, was successful in the 2023–2029 MSI competition and awarded $10.7 million. 

Tough to gain entrance to the MSI Fund, with high stakes for incumbents

The MSI Fund was not designed to meet all of Canada’s needs for investment in such facilities. Yet in the absence of any other funding source intended to support the operation of large research infrastructure, many MRFs and other nationally significant research facilities are left with no choice but to apply to the MSI fund knowing that many applications will be denied.

The recent MSI Fund competition is a reminder of how heavily oversubscribed the Fund is. The funds available through the 2023–2029 MSI competition were essentially the same as those available in the previous competition after adjusting for inflation and the change from a five-year term to a six-year term. Since only one of the incumbent facilities “graduated out” of the Fund—the former Compute Canada—many applicant facilities were sure to be disappointed. In fact, the CFI qualified 34 facilities and invited all of them to submit a full application; only 19 of these facilities received funding. (The number of facilities in need of operating funds, which tried to apply but were not deemed qualified to submit a full MSI application, has not been published.)

For facilities that are already part of the MSI club, it is a high-stakes game intensified by the oversubscription rate. CFI MSI funds often comprise a huge portion of a facility’s requisite funding, typically covering 30–40% of its operating costs (and up to 60% in some cases). Moreover, the MSI funds are often a majority of the facility’s operating cash, since many partners provide in-kind contributions only. Loss of MSI funding would be a devastating blow in most cases. 

Fortunately for those previously funded facilities, incumbents do have some advantages in the competition. Selection criteria such as effective and efficient user access, governance that includes long-term strategic planning in consultation with a user community, and best practices in management all favour facilities that have previously enjoyed the funding required to establish and continuously improve their practices in these areas over time. The CFI rightly boasts that its MSI Fund has helped its funded facilities improve in such areas

It is not surprising, then, that of the 16 incumbent facilities that reapplied in the 2023–2029 competition, 13 were awarded funds. In fact, the three biggest incumbent facilities increased their collective share from 47% in the previous term to 50% in the 2023–2029 term: Ocean Networks Canada ($114.8 million), SNOLAB ($102 million), and the Canadian Light Source ($97.2 million). A further two facilities were incumbents from an earlier MSI term (the 2014–2016 round), and though they had lost their MSI funding for 2017–2022, they have now rejoined the MSI club for 2023–2029: these two are the Advanced Laser Light Source ($3.4 million) and the Centre for Biodiversity Genomics ($9 million; previously funded as the Biodiversity Institute of Ontario). 

The only four facilities completely new to the MSI club are all on the smaller end of the size spectrum of funded facilities, together representing only 7% of awarded funds:

  • The Global Water Futures Observatories ($15.3 million)
  • IISD Experimental Lakes Area Inc. ($11.7 million)
  • GlycoNet Integrated Services ($10.7 million)
  • Wind Engineering, Energy and Environment Research Facility ($3.9 million)

So, who still needs operating funds?

Three incumbent facilities reapplied but were not awarded funds for 2023–2029: 

  • CMC Microsystems, which operates Canada’s National Design Network, provides over 10,000 researchers across Canada with critical technology services for designing and manufacturing microsystem and nanotechnology prototypes. This is essential infrastructure for research and development programs in areas that have a high impact on Canadian industry and economic growth, such as the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, microelectronics, photonics, and microelectromechanical systems. 
  • The Centre for Phenogenomics, which provides researchers with a comprehensive set of infrastructure and expertise for research that requires mouse models. This facility enables Canadian research that is essential for life sciences and the development of new drugs and medical equipment. 
  • The Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy, which provides best-in-class electron and ion microscopes to over 500 users every year. Such microscopes are vital tools to study and develop new materials to solve technology challenges in areas such as clean energy, green manufacturing, nanotechnology, biotechnology, and health. 

If these facilities cannot adapt and find other funding, the potential impact of their loss on Canadian R&D will be enormous. 

The award to the Canadian Light Source (CLS) is an outlier in the 2023–2029 competition results. It is the only facility to be awarded a much decreased amount of funding, although the official statement from the University of Saskatchewan does not hint at a cut. The CLS is by far the largest MSI-funded facility and was awarded $137.5 million in 2017–2022—nearly a quarter of available funds in that competition. The CLS’s MSI award in the present competition dropped to $97.2 million, and if that award is intended to last the full six-year term, it would amount to a 40% cut. (I say “if” because the CFI can award amounts for periods shorter than the full term.) Notably, the CLS has not stopped ramping up toward maximum capacity since it opened in 2004. Has it now outgrown the MSI Fund? Has another source of funds been identified for it? Regardless of the explanation, it is clear that the CLS will need another injection of funds from somewhere else to continue operating at current levels serving over 1,000 scientific and industry users every year as a national user facility. 

There were 12 applicant facilities that have never received MSI funds, and after being deemed eligible for funding and invited to submit a full application, were still not awarded any. These include the Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory (PEARL), which only needs about $1.5 million per year but has struggled to find a stable funding source since the federal government’s decision in 2010 to discontinue funding to the Canadian Foundation for Climate and Atmospheric Sciences. 

This group of applicants also includes the McMaster Nuclear Reactor (MNR). The MNR has been of increasingly vital importance to Canadian health, science, and technology since the 2018 closure of the National Research Universal (NRU) reactor in Chalk River, as it is now Canada’s only major research reactor. The MNR has for many years operated fully on its commercial revenues, serving research and education purposes only as far as such revenues have allowed. Now, Canada needs the MNR to expand its operations to act as national research infrastructure, but a source of funds appropriate to this mission must be found. The MNR and its associated nuclear facilities at McMaster University are essential for medical research based on radioisotopes and for nuclear power and safety research. The MNR is also essential to the National Neutron Strategy—Canada’s strategy to rebuild capacity for materials research with neutron beams following NRU’s closure. Neutron beam users secured the largest investment in the 2020 CFI Innovation Fund competition to build up the neutron beam laboratory at the MNR and invest in foreign partnerships to gain access to essential research capabilities no longer available in Canada. The National Neutron Strategy envisions a neutron beam infrastructure program consisting of both domestic facilities and participation in major neutron sources abroad, at a cost of $20 million per year to be managed by a single organization that is now being created: Neutrons Canada. This scale and scope will place Neutrons Canada among other MRFs—provided it can secure the necessary funding. 

But where will the operating funds for MRFs like the Canadian Light Source and Canada’s National Design Network come from, if not from the MSI Fund? 

From where will funds come to enable emerging facilities to rise to the challenge of serving as national research infrastructure, if not from the MSI Fund? 

CFI MSI 2023–2029 Results by the Numbers

Table 1. Successful and unsuccessful applicants to the CFI MSI Fund for 2023–2029. The percent change accounts for the difference in the number of years in the term of each MSI Fund competition (i.e. five years in 2017–2022 versus six years in 2023–2029). Increases or decreases deemed large, considering the effect of inflation, are highlighted in green or red respectively. Source: Canada Foundation for Innovation data; analysis by TVB Associates.

StatusFacilityCurrent Award ($M)Previous Award ($M)Change
Renewed from 2017–2022Ocean Networks Canada114.883.6+14%
Renewed from 2017–2022SNOLAB102.076.4+11%
Renewed from 2017–2022Canadian Light Source Inc.97.2137.5-41%
Renewed from 2017–2022Canadian Research Icebreaker Amundsen54.943.5+5%
Renewed from 2017–2022Vaccine and Infectious Disease Organization53.932.5+38%
Renewed from 2017–2022Canada’s Genomics Enterprise48.943.4-6%
Renewed from 2017–2022Ocean Tracking Network38.527.1+19%
Renewed from 2017–2022Canadian Cancer Trials Group Operations and Statistics Centre19.512.5+30%
Renewed from 2017–2022Canadian Research Data Centre Network17.58.1+80%
Renewed from 2017–2022Coalition Publica10.45.7+52%
Renewed from 2017–2022The Metabolomics Innovation Centre8.37.5-8%
Renewed from 2017–2022The André E. Lalonde Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility for Environmental Radionuclides5.83.9+24%
Renewed from 2017–2022SuperDARN Canada2.62.1+3%
Returned from 2014–2016Centre for Biodiversity Genomics9.02.2+109%
Returned from 2014–2016Advanced Laser Light Source3.41.5+14%
Unsuccessful incumbentCanada’s National Design Network (CMC Microsystems)30.6
Unsuccessful incumbentThe Centre for Phenogenomics20.6
Unsuccessful incumbentThe Canadian Centre for Electron Microscopy5.8
Did not reapplyCompute Canada69.5
Successful new entrantThe Global Water Futures Observatories15.3
Successful new entrantIISD Experimental Lakes Area Inc.11.7
Successful new entrantGlycoNet Integrated Services10.7
Successful new entrantWind Engineering, Energy and Environment Research Facility 3.9
Unsuccessful new entrantBamfield Marine Sciences Centre
Unsuccessful new entrantCanadian Facility for Isotopic and Geochemical Research
Unsuccessful new entrantHealth Data Research Network Canada
Unsuccessful new entrantNational Facility for Research in Prevention, Cure and Rehabilitation
Unsuccessful new entrantCHIME Telescope
Unsuccessful new entrantPan-Canadian Proteomics Centre
Unsuccessful new entrantQuantum Colaboratory
Unsuccessful new entrantSpace Environment Canada
Unsuccessful new entrantsCanadian Longitudinal Study on Aging
Unsuccessful new entrantCanadian Optogenetics and Vectorology Foundry
Unsuccessful new entrantThe McMaster Nuclear Reactor
Unsuccessful new entrantPolar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory
Total35628.3

SNOLAB awarded increased operating funds, $102 million over six years, from the Canada Foundation for Innovation

Canadian leadership in inspiring fundamental research just got a boost.

SNOLAB is Canada’s deep underground research laboratory, famous as the location for the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO) experiment, which led to the 2015 Nobel Prize in Physics awarded to Canadian Arthur McDonald. Following completion of the SNO experiment, this two kilometre deep lab was expanded to host multiple experiments and relaunched as SNOLAB in 2012. It has since continued expanding and is now an international-scale laboratory hosting more than a dozen experiments conducted by large international scientific teams.

The increased operating funds awarded through the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) Major Science Initiatives (MSI) program are essential to SNOLAB’s expansion and its ability to host the world’s most advanced experiments in astroparticle physics that provide insight into the nature and evolution of the universe. Hosting and participating in these experiments boosts Canada’s scientific reputation, attracts scientific talent and partnerships, and inspires a spirit of discovery, innovation, and collaboration.

SNOLAB has been awarded $102M over six years, up from $76M over 5 years in 2017-2022 (source: CFI awards list). The CFI funds at most 60% of a Major Research Facilities’ operating costs, and the balance must be found from other sources, typically cash funding from provincial governments and in-kind contributions of partners.

What’s more is that this increase came through a heavily oversubscribed competition. The budget for this MSI competition, after adjusting for inflation and some policy changes from the last competition for the 2017 to 2022 term, was essentially flat. Yet the 16 facilities funded previously were competing with 18 other facilities that were trying to get into this MSI fund, were deemed eligible, and were invited to apply by the CFI.

TVB Associates was pleased to support SNOLAB in its proposal to the CFI MSI Fund by writing and editing core sections of the proposal.

Author: Daniel Banks, President, TVB Associates Inc.
Photo: CFI MSI funding announcement (source: SNOLAB)
Client article: SNOLAB welcomes major federal investment (Aug 19, 2022)

National Proposal for $55M Neutron Beam Infrastructure Project Submitted

Led by the University of Windsor, 18 universities across Canada have submitted a national proposal to the CFI 2023 Innovation Fund for a $55M project for neutron beam infrastructure is an essential contribution to the national neutron strategy. Neutron beams, which complement x-rays, are versatile and irreplaceable probes of materials and are required by a community of 125 Principal Investigators across Canada.

The proposal, entitled “Building a Future for Canadian Neutron Scattering, Phase 2”, is for infrastructure to provide neutron beams for research on materials for (1) clean energy technology, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through innovative battery packs for cars and for wind and solar energy, and through advanced nuclear energy; (2) health and food sustainability, to understand and treat disease or develop new plant-based foods that can replace more resource-intensive animal-based ones; and (3) quantum technology, to lay foundations for breakthroughs in faster information technology devices. It will also enable a radiation therapy that uses neutrons to trigger drugs to emit cell-killing alpha particles inside brain cancers.

Part 2 builds on the McMaster-led national CFI 2020 IF award “Building a Future for Canadian Neutron Scattering” (Part 1). Part 1, a $47M project, is adding neutron beamlines at the McMaster Nuclear Reactor and creating two 6-year partnerships with foreign neutron sources. Part 2 will create further 6-year partnerships so Canadians can access essential and world-leading neutron capabilities. It will also build a prototype neutron source with the potential to make neutron beams much more accessible in Canada in the long term.

TVB Associates was pleased to have a central role in the proposal to the CFI and in parallel proposals to the provinces for matching funds, including developing the strategy, building the national team, project managing its many components, writing applications to proceed through the internal processes of each partner university, negotiating with the foreign partners, and writing the CFI Innovation Fund proposal drawing on the contributions of the many team members and partners.