Our origin story

Illustration of a crane lifting a light bulb with a shining CFI’s logo out of an open human head.

Our origin story

This is the origin story of the Canada Foundation for Innovation, an organization dedicated to the future, that was born at a time when the country was heavily burdened by its past
September 20, 2016

Two decades ago Canada’s federal government was struggling to contain a deficit that, in the words of one top finance official, was pulling the country towards "fiscal Armageddon." And yet, this was the moment when the government decided to make historic investments in research infrastructure.  The creation of the Canada Foundation for Innovation was a game-changer for research in Canada.  But how did it come to be? The podcast series tells this story through extensive interviews with key players in the federal government and the research community.  It is an insider’s look at how Canada jumped to the front of the line in research capacity.

  • When the Wall Street Journal calls Canada the “Banana Republic of the North”, Jean Chrétien and his new Liberal government prepare to take dramatic action to control the deficit. This threatens to make a difficult situation even worse for Canadian researchers....
  • The Liberal government cuts spending across government so deeply, even Finance Minister Paul Martin faces a crisis of confidence. At the same time, university presidents try to convince Minister Martin that research in Canada is in serious trouble…and they offer an intriguing solution....
  • The Liberal government suddenly finds itself facing a budget surplus for the first time in decades. Researchers, university presidents, government officials in the department of Finance and the PMO work on a plan to support research through an independent foundation that will invest in the cutting-edge labs and equipment researchers need....
  • The new Canada Foundation for Innovation begins to assemble a talented team that charts an exciting course for the organization, but must also address opposition from Quebec. Researchers try to adjust to a new “mind blowing” way of doing research. And…the Queen is not amused by the CFI’s early success....
  • To help reverse the brain drain that plagued Canada's research community in the 1990s, the newly established Canada Foundation for Innovation started outfitting Canadian universities with the state-of-the-art research infrastructure they sorely needed. But it would take more than funding a couple of new microscopes here and there — the CFI would need to turn the current system on its head to get the job done....