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Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons Monday February 4, 2013 in Ottawa.Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press

Canadian firms still lag behind their competitors in other advanced economies in terms of investing in research, Gary Goodyear, Minister of State for Science and Technology, conceded Thursday in a keynote speech to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Over all, Mr. Goodyear said, the Conservative government's effort to attract international research scientists and create a nexus between public policy promoting science and private-sector transformation of it into the marketplace is working but, he acknowledged, serious gaps remain.

"Canada's private sector invests less than its peers in other countries," Mr. Goodyear told the AAAS' Science and Technology Policy forum in Washington.

"In several key industrial sectors, Canada has lower research and development intensity than the OECD average," he said, referring to the major advanced economies. Canadian "businesses must do more when it comes to investing in machinery and equipment, notably in terms of ICT [information and communications technology.]"

Mr. Goodyear said the Conservative government was trying to boost private-sector spending on research and development by shifting the focus of federal spending and support.

"We are increasing investments in early-stage risk capital, helping create large-scale venture capital funds, and supporting incubator and accelerator organizations to expand their services to entrepreneurs," he said.

"The fact is long-term economic growth will be driven in large measure by science," he said, adding that the Harper government's role was to "establish policies that strengthen the science, technology and innovation enterprise from discovery research all the way through to commercialization. " The Minister told a post-luncheon gathering at the Ronald Reagan Building in central Washington that he didn't mind if they nodded off.

"I speak in the House of Commons," he said, so "I'm not really used to speaking to a live or attentive audience."

Mr. Goodyear said he wanted to build multilateral networks that would leverage basic research – and avoid duplication – even as Ottawa seeks to attract the best and the brightest scientists and researchers at every stage of their careers. "These measures are having an impact, and high-quality researchers from abroad are recognizing what Canada has to offer," Mr. Goodyear said, adding that Canada had experienced a net influx of researchers in recent years.

"Our government firmly believes that science and technology are the foundations of productivity, competitiveness and growth. So we are establishing the necessary conditions to generate knowledge and equip Canadians with the skills they need to prosper in the knowledge economy." But he also said pure "Blue Sky" research was insufficient and that making sure that science migrated from laboratories into households and the marketplace was critical.

"There are unprecedented opportunities for researchers and businesses from the U.S. and other countries to build partnerships, conduct research and invest in Canada."

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