Alta. ag research body on restructuring list

Provincial funding for agriculture research in Alberta would be administered through one “bioindustries” Crown corporation in a new framework on its way through the legislature.

The proposed Alberta Research and Innovation Act, introduced March 18, would merge the province’s 10 existing “research and innovation entities” into four sector-based Crown corporations and an advisory body, the Alberta Research and Innovation Authority, which would provide “strategic advice and recommendations” to the province’s minister of advanced education and technology (AET).

“Researchers, entrepreneurs and other key stakeholders would benefit from more clearly defined roles of participants in Alberta’s innovation continuum, and more easily access support and information services,” the province said in a release.

“The new framework would improve Alberta’s research and innovation system by making it less complex, more focused on the government’s strategic priorities, more consolidated, with less overlap and stronger links between the players.”

Included in this restructuring are the Alberta Science and Research Authority; the Alberta Research Council; Alberta Ingenuity (the operating name for the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Science and Engineering Research); the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research; a provincial Crown corporation, iCORE Inc.; and the AET department’s five research institutes, including the Alberta Agricultural Research Institute.

The proposed new “bioindustries” corporation would merge the functions of the Alberta Agricultural Research Institute, Alberta Forestry Research Institute and Alberta Life Sciences Institute.

The other three new corporations would focus on energy and the environment; health; and bringing technology to market.

“Strategic priorities”

“These corporations would facilitate initiatives that support the Alberta government’s strategic priorities, as well as industry development initiatives in areas where Alberta has the opportunity to be a leader or enhance its current standing in the global economy,” the province said.

The government said it hoped the new legislation would be passed by the end of the spring 2009 legislative session, after which the new entities would subsequently be created by regulations.

When the new act and regulations come into force, the province said, the new provincial corporations would then become operational, and the existing organizations would “conclude their operations.”

The government emphasized in its release that the restructuring is not in itself a response to the “global economic crisis.”

Work on this realignment process began well before then, the province said, noting Premier Ed Stelmach in March 2008 mandated AET Minister (and former agriculture minister) Doug Horner to “develop and implement a framework that defines roles and mandates for Alberta’s provincially funded research and innovation organizations.”

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