Government of Canada announces new measures to protect Canadian research

6 minute read
08 March 2024

On Jan. 16, 2024, Canadian Ministers François-Philippe Champagne (Innovation, Science and Industry), Mark Holland (Health) and Dominic LeBlanc (Public Safety, Democratic Institutions and Intergovernmental Affairs) announced new measures to "protect" Canada's world-class research. The Government of Canada has stated that it views the open and collaborative nature of Canada's research as being at serious risk of being targeted by foreign influence and being crucial to the country's national security.

The announced measures include:

A new Policy on Sensitive Technology Research and Affiliations of Concern. This new policy provides alignment across the federal ecosystem with respect to research grant applications submitted by a university or affiliated research institution to the federal granting councils. Two clear requirements are being established so researchers can self-assess if their research area and their grant application are compliant.

  1. The Government of Canada is publishing a list of sensitive technology research areas that support the development and advancement of new technologies. It will allow researchers to self-assess whether their proposed research is within the scope of this new requirement. Research that will merely use an existing technology is not within the scope of this policy.
  2. The Government of Canada is publishing a list of named research organizations (NRO) connected to military, national defence or state security entities that may pose a risk to Canada's national security. This list was developed by Public Safety Canada, together with experts from across the federal government, using a risk-based approach.

Research grant and funding applications "submitted to the federal granting councils which fall within research that advances a sensitive technology research area will not be funded if any of the researchers involved in activities supported by the grant are affiliated with, or in receipt of funding or in-kind support from, a university, research institute or laboratory connected to military, national defence or state security entities that pose a risk to Canada's national security."

Launching Canada's new Research Security Centre. In Budget 2022, the Government of Canada announced resources to enhance its ability to protect its research. Through this, Public Safety Canada is to establish the Research Security Centre, which provides guidance and advice to the research community and academic institutions.

The Research Security Centre supports the protection of Canada's research enterprise through three areas of focus: 

  1. Implementation of the National Security Guidelines for Research Partnerships and provision of advice about the Policy on Sensitive Technology Research and Affiliations of Concern (STRAC).
  2. Providing a Network of Regional Advisors to provide advice and guidance to academic institutions and researchers.
  3. Access to Government of Canada services.

Fifty million in new investment to post-secondary institutions through the Research Support Fund. Announced in Budget 2022, the research security funding stream through the Research Support Fund would provide $125 million over five years, starting in 2022–2023, and $25 million ongoing. It is available through the Incremental Project Grants and has been extended to institutions receiving $2 million or more in eligible research funding.

Looking ahead

The new policy will come into effect in the spring 2024. The Government of Canada may immediately take research affiliations into account as part of research funding decision-making processes if any risks are identified. In particular, research affiliations will be considered as part of the national security assessment of any research grant application that are subject to the National Security Guidelines for Research partnerships. Institutions are being recommended to adopt enhanced security and review measures in areas of sensitive technology research.

This announcement follows a recent political trend across Canada to attempt to counter foreign influence and initiatives that pose a risk to national security. There will be an ongoing review of the Named Research Organizations by the federal government which will impact decisions made on research grant applications. Institutions and those who wish to pursue research partnerships are encouraged to exercise the utmost due diligence. With new financial resources being provided, the Government of Canada will continue to monitor the security landscape and will leave the door open on further changes as necessary.

You can read the entire announcement by the Government of Canada here.

If you have any questions, please contact one of the authors or a member of our Government Affairs Group.

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