Science research gets $500M

By Bonnie Leung

Science and engineering research in Alberta is getting a $500 million boost. However, student leaders doubt students will actually see any of the money from the provincial government’s new endowment fund for research in science and engineering.

"This endowment will help us to attract investment, recruit top researchers from around the world and give our young people at universities and colleges the chance to train with some of the best minds in science, using the latest technologies," said Premier Ralph Klein, in a prepared statement.

The goverment has established the Alberta Heritage Fund for Science and Engineering Research with $500 million.

"[The Alberta Government] said, ‘We’re going to put $500 million in this endowment fund as a first installment and over the next five years, we’re going to put $100 million in each of the next five years, so by 2005 we will have $1 billion in this endowment,’" said U of C President Terry White.

According to Vice-president Research Len Bruton, this new endowment fund will positively affect some students.

"First of all, it’s going to increase the science faculty and the engineering faculty so that inevitably it means that with that growth comes growth in the graduate programs," he said. "My estimate is the number of graduate students at this campus will double in the next five to six years."

Bruton added that world-class professors will be attracted to the opportunities that will arise in Alberta.

"We will insist these researchers teach," said Bruton. "That means there will be new courses available in the senior levels in science and engineering taught by world-class professors that undergrad students will be able to take."

Students’ Union President Rob South feels this endowment does not focus on the student body.

"It shows that the Alberta government’s priorities when it comes to education learning aren’t students," he said. "The priority goes to researchers and the outside community."

Although Alberta has this new fund established, U of C will still have to compete for the grants. A proposal is submitted and a group of experts evaluate it and decide whether the research is worth funding.

Bruton believes this endowment will be significant over the long term.

"It’ll create many of tens of millions of dollars for the research in science and engineering at the universities [in Alberta]," he said. "It will more than double the funds received by science and engineering from granting councils."

According to Bruton, every dollar the U of C receives from a research fund is leveraged to produce three more dollars.

"Leveraging is the money you can attract as a result of the initial funding you get from this new fund," said Bruton. "It’s a snowball effect."

The economy will be influenced by this fund in the long term.

"More and more, the top researchers will transfer their technology into local industry, venture capital will come here," said Bruton. "We’ll see more entrepreneurial activity. There will be high-tech industries that will have employment not just for science and engineering."

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