Innovation, Science and Technology Policy

Translating research discoveries through commercial or non-commercial adoption has never been more important to decision makers in government, industry and the social economy. And yet, bringing the fruits of science to governments and to markets has never been more difficult.

Facing the challenge

At the core of the global issue is the ability to manage the challenges of disruptive, transformative technology. Transformative technologies present major difficulties because they:

  • Draw on different epistemic bases of cutting-edge science;
  • Represent step-changes in the scale and direction of development of human capabilities;
  • Have consequences distributed widely over many areas of life;
  • Are sufficiently high profile to attract the attention, interest and risk perception of social movements, citizens, politicians and regulators;
  • Precipitate public debate and the attention of journalists and ethicists; and
  • Have trajectories that span long and indeterminate periods.

Saskatchewan is uniquely placed to study and contribute to the policy framework for managing these technologies. Our core industries are either founded on current and past transformative technologies or are facing significant structural challenges due to emerging disruptive technologies. Many of the recent developments in the provincial economy involve hotly contested science—e.g. biotechnology and the acceleration of highly industrialized precision agriculture cohabitating with organic and traditional farming; and heavy oil, biofuels, hydraulic fracturing and nuclear power as contributors to an environmentally sustainable global energy system. These are core concerns both for Saskatchewan and the global economy, as the food and energy systems we contribute to underpin global prosperity. 

Faculty currently involved in this area of research include (L-R, top to bottom): Ken Coates, Murray Fulton, Margot Hurlbert, Justin Longo, Kathy McNutt, Peter Phillips, Jeremy Rayner, and Amy Zarzeczny.  

Ken Coates

Murray Fulton Margot Hurlbert Justin Longo
Kathleen McNutt Peter Phillips Jeremy Rayner Amy Zarzeczny

Leading the charge

Bioscience policy and food security

In partnership with the Global Institute for Food Security, Peter Phillips and collaborators are undertaking cutting-edge research into decision making in the global bioscience governance system. The team has more than $5 million of social sciences research embedded in four projects — the $37.2 million Canada First Research Excellence Fund (CFREF) project on Designing Crops for Global Food Security; Genome Canada-funded projects on lentils and vaccines; and a seven-year, $750K Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Insight Grant entitled Rethinking intellectual property rights for open innovation. The team is using the Canadian Foundation for Innovation funded Experimental Decision Laboratory to investigate how different structures, processes and types of evidence affect decisions. This project follows the successful completion of a five-year, $5.4 million Genome Canada project (Value Generation through Genomics and GE3LS) that examined the governance challenges in the biosciences.

Improving Public Engagement and Information Dissemination Strategies: Leveraging Social Media in the Stem Cell Sector 

Emerging research suggests social media can have a significant impact on the sharing of information and on shaping public perceptions and attitudes. Led by Amy Zarzeczny and Kathy McNutt, this research will provide insight into how to maximize the potential of social media to more effectively share information and resources, as well as to engage patients and the general public in important conversations about stem cell research and science policy more broadly. This project is supported through a Stem Cell Network (SCN) Public Policy Impact Grant.

Creating Digital Opportunity 

This five-year, $3.5 million SSHRC Partnership Grant, led by David Wolfe from the University of Toronto and involving JSGS researchers Ken Coates and Peter Phillips, is exploring and identifying where the greatest opportunities and risks lie for Canada within the rapidly changing digital landscape. The project is also investigating the development of digital industries in the context of global production and innovation networks, and is assessing the impact of the digital challenge on traditional industries (e.g., agriculture and mining). The research team will also evaluate the role of smart communities, and education, skills and training in managing the transition to the digital future.

Energy Sustainability

Traditional means of generating electricity, such as coal and natural gas, contribute to climate change and strain ecosystems. Sustainability concerns have led to a growing recognition of the need to change the way in which electricity is generated. In partnership with the Sylvia Fedoruk Canadian Centre for Nuclear Innovation, Jeremy Rayner is leading a team of scholars in a project designed to increase public awareness of the energy challenges and choices facing Canadians and to promote evidence-informed decision making on energy-related issues. This research project will include a significant policy outreach and public engagement component.