There is a long history of innovation in Canada, from the invention of the telephone, insulin, the pacemaker, the Canadarm (a mechanical manipulator that launches or retrieves satellites in space), to, more recently, the BlackBerry™ (a leading wireless handheld device).
These days, the efforts of Canada's leading scientists and researchers are getting increased backing by the federal government, which recognizes the need to support such work to remain a global leader in science and technology. Canada has remained on the technological map in recent years for a variety of technological and medical advances ranging from DNA sampling to hydrogen fuel cells to the development of leading drugs for treating AIDS.
The University of B.C.'s Dr. Michael Smith won the Nobel Prize in 1993 for his work with DNA. According to Robert Davidson, Director, Programs and Operations for the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI), Smith's work was the basis for the recent DNA sampling effort led by Canadian troops in Afghanistan.
At the McGill AIDS Centre in Quebec, the work of director Dr. Mark Wainberg is recognized for being the first to identify the antiviral drugs AZT and 3TC as the leading medications in the battle against AIDS.
A Canadian company called Ballard Power Systems is recognized as the world leader in developing, manufacturing and marketing zero-emission proton exchange membrane ("PEM") fuel cells. These fuel cell engines are being commercialized for a variety of transportation uses, from buses to cars. They are also being used for electrical equipment and portable power products. Allan Rock, Canada's Minister of Industry, recently announced that Canada's National Research Council (NRC) would increase funding for fuel cell research and development at its NRC Innovation Centre in Vancouver, B.C., by a total of $20 million over the next five years.
According to Davidson, there has been a "dramatic turnaround" in Canada's research and development circles recently, with many of the world's leading scientists coming to the country or returning now that there is more money for their work.
"Canada is becoming known as a place where things are happening," says Davidson. "This is a big turnaround from a decade ago." Davidson attributes the changes to "an increased perception of the value of science and research." The Canadian government recently announced an investment of $779 million to support projects at 69 Canadian universities, colleges, hospitals, and not-for-profit research institutions.
"This is a place where a good research career can be had," says Davidson.
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