Did you know that there’s an information technology institute in New Brunswick that is producing innovative research in global IT sectors? The Canadian National Research Council Institute for Information Technology has pioneered projects such as “3D Imaging and Modelling Metrology,” “Mobile Adult Literacy Support Application for Experiential Learning,” and the “Intelligent System for the Classification of Multiple Tumor Types.” The site in Moncton was instrumental in the discovery of two critical biomarkers for cancer in conjunction with Atlantic Cancer Research Institute.
The problem is the institute will likely not exist by spring 2012.
Warren McKenzie, the chairman on the advisory board at the institute, was the first to sound the alarm last week at a dinner for the University of New Brunswick’s Faculty of Computer Science.
“Unfortunately, it is my belief that IIT will soon cease to exist as an institute and its talent, or at least those who remain, will be absorbed into as-yet-undefined programs,” McKenzie stated.
The following day, NRC President John McDougall confirmed that the institute is set to “evolve,” moving from “curiosity research” to a short list of flagship projects:
- Research into higher-output wheat strains;
- printable electronics;
- composite materials made from biomass; and
- CO2-ingesting algae
And you know what happens when innovation is put in to a box; It stops. This means a loss for Canada’s IT environment as a whole. The official website of the institute declares it is “strengthening Canada’s leadership in information and communications technologies by creating and commercializing software and systems technology to help Canada prosper in the knowledge economy.”
The University of New Brunswick has a large stake in the institute as it pairs its students with various research projects, and president of the University of New Brunswick admitted his shock to the revelations.
Not only has the institute made breakthroughs in IT, but its involvement with the university helps to prepare the next generation of IT workers. Why would the NRC slash such a great program?
While the institute has helped diversify the Maritime economy, the decision ultimately lies with the federal government. Some people are claiming that it is regionalism, and a focus on the central Canadian economy. The Premier of New Brunswick, David Alward, is in support of the institute and the jobs it creates for the province, but he fears there is little he can do.
Alward proposes a “third way” to move into the future (as opposed to program cuts and selective taxes): Growing the economy from within by strengthening the apparatus necessary for innovation, technology advancement and, ultimately, permanent, high-value job creation.
Doesn’t that seem to fit the bill for the Institute of Information Technology? What do you think about the Canadian government’s take on innovation? Should the IT environment expand from Silicon Valley North (a.k.a. Toronto)?
Make sure you don’t miss the WebPal.net Event Launch at the ING Direct Lounge on November 29.
We received a telephone call yesterday from the Media Relations Officer of the National Research Council Canada which was then followed by this clarification:
First, let me confirm that the speculation about the closure of the Institute for Information Technology that’s been in New Brunswick media this week is inaccurate.
The National Research Council of Canada is evolving to better address the needs of all Canadians and is currently undergoing a reorganization of its structure and resources.
Information Technology will remain a core part of its activities in New Brunswick and will operate within NRC’s reorganized structure as a program-based research and technology organization.
The National Research Council will continue to maintain an effective presence in New Brunswick and contribute to its long-term sustainable prosperity.
The National Research Council’s new strategic direction and business approach will create exciting opportunities for stakeholders and innovative companies in New Brunswick.
During this transition period, the National Research Council of Canada is operating business as usual.
The NRC is indeed undergoing a reorganisation of its structure. However, while “institutes” will no longer be the underlying structure of the NRC, Information Technology and our presence in New Brunswick will remain an important part of the new NRC, operating within the reorganised structure of a program-based research and technology organisation.
The name “institute” may disappear, but information technology will keep thriving in New Brunswick.