At a meeting on April 12, the board of directors of the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Nature et technologies (FRQNT) approved the 2016–2017 operating budget. Since government funding remained the same as in 2015–2016, the in-house teams and board weighed several short- and long-term budget scenarios.
In essence, the grant from the government does not enable us to lift the moratorium on the Support for innovation networks and Strategic initiatives for innovation programs. In addition, the 20% budget cuts made last year to the Strategic clusters and Team research project programs will still apply this year. However, in an effort to foster new researcher development, the University researchers start-up and Research program for college researchers programs, which were not rationalized last year, will not be cut in 2016–2017.
The Team research project program was assessed by a multidisciplinary committee and discussed at the meeting of the board of directors in April. Despite the very positive assessment, members raised certain issues and requested additional information to be presented at the upcoming meeting in June. The plans to launch the Team research project program are expected to be finalized on June 22. They will be available online on the Web site of the FRQNT.
Among the 2016–2017 initiatives is the reinstatement of the research internships for college students as well as the agreement with Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) that adds $2 000 to the undergraduate internships carried out in academia and industry. We hope that these actions will encourage more students to enrol in graduate programs, especially in light of the drop in registration in recent years. In addition, maternity leaves have been extended from 6 to 8 months to better support women in science.
In terms of partnerships, the FRQNT was mandated to develop two strategic initiatives for the government in maritime and aluminum research. Also, with the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Santé, we will pursue our collaboration agreements in medical bioimaging with Israel and in neuro-computing with the Cuban Neuroscience Centre in Havana.
It goes without saying that Chief Scientist Rémi Quirion and I will continue making representations to all levels of government and public institutions in order to draw attention to the excellence and impact of natural sciences, engineering and mathematics research.