Harper announces science initiatives from Waterloo

Speaking before a capacity crowd at Waterloo’s Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced two major government-supported science initiatives.

The Banting postdoctoral fellowship program is a $45 million, five-year commitment offering 70 grants to researchers in all fields of the sciences each year. The grants, which will provide successful applicants with $70,000 per year, are targeted at Canadian scientists as well as in an effort to draw international talent to research in Canada.

“We want to attract, retain and, frankly, train the best minds on the planet,” said Gary Goodyear, minister of state for science and technology in Harper’s cabinet and member of parliament for Cambridge. Goodyear was on hand for the announcement and addressed the crowd along with renowned British physicist Stephen Hawking, who is currently working at Perimeter.

Goodyear emphasized that the Banting program is meant to draw international experts in the sciences, while also supporting homegrown talent and providing related benefits to the Canadian institutions producing that talent.

Along with making Canada an attractive location for researchers from abroad, Goodyear said, “[the fellowship program] is also designed to create an advantage for those who are already in Canada to do their research here and stay here.”

The second initiative Harper announced was a $20 million contribution from Canada to the African Institute for Mathematical Sciences (AIMS), specifically the institute’s “next Einstein initiative” which aims to foster development of African expertise in science through the creation of fifteen educational institutions across the continent in the next decade.

AIMS is the creation of Perimeter Institute director Neil Turok, who founded the South African institute in 2003 in order to encourage excellence in science and math to emerge from Africa.

Goodyear praised the institute’s activities, saying, “The value of such a program will be more apparent and its impact greater in each year that goes by.”

He continued, noting the significance of Canada’s involvement. “I think that this initiative will become one of the greatest things that we’ve done as a nation – partnering with other nations to help them.”