Funding Optimization Project

Charting a new course for research and innovation in the province

April 25, 2024

Research powers discovery. It leads to new, innovative business practices and products that can change lives, strengthen healthcare systems, and contribute to our economy and our future.

But for years, New Brunswick researchers have struggled with a lack of alignment and fierce competition for scarce financial resources.

That culture is changing, and it’s New Brunswickers who will benefit.

New Brunswick’s research and innovation ecosystem has been transforming over the last year. ResearchNB has been working with our colleagues at the New Brunswick Innovation Foundation (NBIF), RPC and the provincial government to build a new framework for research and innovation funding. Our shared goal is to grow productivity in the sector and increase New Brunswick’s overall research and innovation impact with real results that matter.

For example, we can foster innovation by working with project partners like the McKenna Institute, who are advancing the use of digital technologies to design a technology-enabled future for our province. Working with private investments made through the McKenna Institute, we can amplify results and forge connections between New Brunswick researchers.

Partnerships like these are examples of why ResearchNB will focus on two activities: funding research and promoting the work of New Brunswick researchers.

Effective April 1, all provincial research dollars flow to researchers through ResearchNB as part of an unprecedented 10-year funding agreement. Our doors are open to support a wide variety of research as we provide a simplified single port of entry for research funding. Our new, long-term funding agreement will provide researchers with greater confidence and stability.

We also need to champion the incredible work of New Brunswick’s researchers. By celebrating their success, we can attract the interest of yet more research partners.

It is through those partnerships that we can maximize our impact across the province. In the digital technology space, by teaming with partners like the McKenna Institute, we are able to double down on research funding and work towards a common vision not just in the research itself, but also in how digital technology can be used in the research.

Additionally, we need an updated research and innovation strategy to help focus our efforts and ensure alignment and coordination across the research and innovation ecosystem. We are charting a new course for research and innovation for New Brunswick. with our partners who agree the strategy must drive investment in key sectors and include performance indicators to track success. This is how we will make it clear that N.B. is open to innovative research partnerships that allow for discovery in the policy arena or involve market access innovation.

The new strategy will encompass both fundamental and applied research. It will also talk about intentional research – research that supports an urgent need or strategic priority.

We need only look at the COVID-19 pandemic to recognize the value of intentional research. In the face of this global crisis, governments, researchers, and industry were able to roll out effective vaccines and therapies in record time that have saved millions of lives.

Our clear message to funders is this: if you have a project that you’d like to talk about or funds to invest, New Brunswick brings a lot to the table and is open for business.

One of the shining stars in our list of assets is the New Brunswick Institute for Research, Data and Training (NB-IRDT) at U.N.B., which has revolutionized data availability for research in the province.

With over 100 unique data sets, this provincial data repository is one of the most complete sets of linkable data in the world. It’s an incredible source for researchers, a digital version of the famous Framingham Heart Study that has followed the heart health of three generations of participants in Framingham, Mass.

The collection of provincial government data sets at the NB-IRDT span decades and allows researchers to track the impact of an intervention across a wide variety of linkable data sets, including social, health, justice, and education data.

The NB-IRDT can also securely link this administrative data to external data resources, expanding research possibilities. For example, linking clinical trial data to health, environmental and socioeconomic data enables the evaluation of long-term outcomes in trial participants. And last year, AbbVie and NB-IRDT announced a collaboration to understand how individual outcomes can benefit long-term care facilities and the health-care system overall. The comprehensive data the NB-IRDT can provide is providing them a unique opportunity.

We believe the NB-IRDT is a linchpin piece of the puzzle that will change the way that governments and innovative private sector companies work together, in a very good way.

N.B.’s research sector is evolving incredibly quickly. Here’s what else N.B. brings to the table:

· Research programs at six universities and two community college systems.

· The Valores Research Institute, dedicated to sustainable agriculture and agri-food production.

· Two medical schools with physician researchers who are keenly interested in new projects and two health authorities who believe research fosters a culture of innovation in the corridors of our hospitals.

· The Huntsman Marine Science Centre, focused on aquatic biosciences, education and ocean stewardship.

· The Centre for Nuclear Energy Research at UNB specializes in water chemistry control and corrosion detection, monitoring, and prevention.

· The Institute of Biomedical Engineering at UNB is one of the Top 3 such institutions in the world, producing leading research and real-world solutions for patients.

· Ground-breaking genetics research is being conducted every day at the Atlantic Canada Research Institute.

Our province has so much to offer potential funders and so much to gain by opening our doors more fully to the research community. By working together and being open to the opportunities that research can provide us we can improve the quality of life for all New Brunswickers, support a healthier province and create greater economy opportunity.

ResearchNB has a critical role to play in achieving that vision. Over the next few months, you’ll be hearing more exciting news about partnerships we’re cultivating that bring private and public sector funding together so that New Brunswick researchers can lead the way in energy, oceans, agriculture, forestry, health, artificial intelligence, advanced manufacturing, climate change and more.

New Brunswick has the talent, the infrastructure, and the will to grow its research sector; however, collaboration is key. By powering discovery together, we can drive the sector to new heights and new opportunities for all.

Damon Goodwin is the Chief Executive Officer at ResearchNB.

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