Ancient explorers crossed the seas, using the stars to navigate, making their way through lands unknown to them, guided solely by the planets above. They sought paths to meaning, prosperity, better lives, health and happiness. Along the way they innovated, building better boats, using science to draw maps and charts, creating new technology, like sextants and other navigational tools.
Today, we continue to explore. We are surrounded by problems and seek new ways to improve our situation. We recognize our challenges and understand the power of science and technology to address them. Though the world has changed, we remain consciously and constantly in search of innovation.
In 2013, the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) launched a tool for scanning the modern terrain of research and innovation. The Navigator is an online guide that offers companies, large and small, a way to find research equipment and expertise at universities, colleges and research hospitals across Canada. It enables them to find not only the tools they need but highly qualified researchers and students who make excellent research partners. It offers the potential to bring students together with companies who may benefit from employing them on graduation and entrepreneurs together with researchers who can help answer the questions that will help them grow businesses.
Six hundred research profiles now populate the Navigator, and it is growing. Its catalogue of research equipment funded by the Government of Canada through the CFI constitutes a vital resource for economic growth, as well as scientific discovery. By searching the profiles, companies from across the country can locate the equipment they need to test samples, or find expertise that can lead to a productive research partnership. Researchers can find opportunities to share equipment or form new collaborations. The Navigator can also help avoid duplication when equipment can be used by more than one institution, and it can contribute to interdisciplinary research as researchers across disciplines find each other and meet to discuss their work and ideas.
The Navigator’s innovative approach has garnered international attention. It was recently featured as a case study in an OECD report that highlighted it as a successful model for digital platforms created to facilitate access to research infrastructure. And when the CFI presented it earlier this year at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, there was immediate interest from our U.S. counterparts to try to build on our model. By showcasing the cutting-edge infrastructure available in Canada with enterprises and researchers around the world, the Navigator is opening doors for international research collaboration. And it may even drive researchers abroad to remain in Canada.
Like the star that guides ships, the Navigator demonstrates Canada’s leadership in forging new pathways of communication, understanding, efficiency and discovery. It brings people from around the world together and it is not surprising that other regions and nations are following this example. This will result in international links so that research infrastructure will truly be both a national and an international asset.
Dr. Roseann O’Reilly Runte is President and CEO of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, which funds research infrastructure (facilities, labs, equipment) in universities, colleges and research hospitals across Canada. With its Navigator, the CFI opens Canada’s research doors to new ideas and international business.