The National Research Council



The NRC is the Canadian Federal Government's principal research and development agency. It was created in 1916 with a mandate to undertake, assist and promote scientific and industrial research in the national interest. Its focus changed over the years when the organization rapidly expanded during WWII, then after the war when it focused on building the university research community.


In recent years, it has been working to help Canadian industry gain a fundamental understanding of science and technology which will provide benefits for Canadian society and of course help Canadian industry grow. 


The NRC has sixteen institutes and three technology centers across Canada, focusing on everything from biotechnology to precision manufacturing and information technology, telecommunications, aerospace research, marine dynamics, molecular sciences (through the Steacie Institute for Molecular Sciences) and even astronomy.  These institutes carry out cutting-edge research which is relevant to Canadian interests and competitive with the best in the world.    


It is NRC's role as a national laboratory to provide the Canadian community with a science and technology infrastructure as evidenced by its wind tunnels in support of aerospace research at the Ottawa Airport and its management of the radio and optical telescopes on behalf of the Canadian academic community.  


The NRC is also responsible for the Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) which provides advice and financial support for SMEs to help them innovate and grow.   


And it is also responsible for the Canada Institute for Science and Technical Information (CISTI), one of the world's leading sources for science, technical and medical information. Information specialists, a range of electronic products and a vast collection of published information make it an invaluable resource for Canada's R&D community - a national system of scientific information unequalled anywhere.   


Dr Arthur Carty, the President of NRC, recently came to Bangkok to deliver a speech on "Science Policy in Canada" for the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NSTDA). While here, he had this to say: "The NRC's vision is to be a leader in the development of an innovative knowledge-based economy through science and technology," he told us. 


"And this vision has served us well over the last five years, as the Canadian government is very committed to driving economic growth through knowledge and innovation.  


"Canada has made the transition from being a resource-based economy focusing on cutting down wood, growing cereals and agricultural products and mining minerals from the earth to being a knowledge-based economy through the growth of the telecommunications and information technology sector, a vibrant biotechnology industry, and a large manufacturing base.    


"Everything we do at the NRC is founded on the concept of science and technology generating knowledge through innovation and that knowledge is then translated into products and services for the marketplace."   


Here in Thailand, the NRC has an agreement with the NSTDA to collaborate in certain areas of mutual interest. One of the programs they are working on is "Women in Engineering Sciences" (WES). Dr Carty elaborates: "The idea is to give hands-on training to bright young women. So annually, we allow four young Thai women to spend a year at the NRC. They come to us as shy, inexperienced, young students and they leave as extremely articulate and mature researchers."       

Other collaborations under development include programs in biotechnology, advanced materials and information technology.


The NSTDA, with NRC's help, wants to develop a clone of IRAP called the Industrial Technology Assistance Program (ITAP).


IRAP is a human network of 260 industrial technology advisors (ITAs) located in cities across Canada. The ITAs interact with SMEs, helping them to access and adopt technology, and providing the companies with guidance. So the NSTDA, with the Thai Government's permission, will soon pursue the establishment of a very large ITAP program here in Thailand.


Why is Canada helping to set up an IRAP clone in Thailand? The primary reason is to help Thailand develop a program such as ITAP that promotes innovation in SMEs. "In addition, through ITAP, we will be able to build a better understanding between small companies in both countries so that we can help to establish joint-ventures, collaborative partnerships and joint investments.   We will basically help small companies in Canada do business in Thailand and vice-versa," said Dr Carty.         


Dr Carty also spoke about the Canadian Technology Network (CTN).  This is an electronic network that connects SMEs to advisors and service providers that provide companies with business, financial and management advice - tips that SMEs need to be successful. Before stopping here, he was in Jakarta to check on CITN - the Indonesian clone of CTN.


He noted that with ITAP and CITN, NRC is not only helping Thailand and Indonesia to promote sustainable economic development but also establish linkages that will bring reciprocal benefits. They will allow Thailand and Indonesia to do business in North America and will facilitate Canadian companies to do business here.




* The NRC has 3,000 full-time employees, 1,000 guest workers (students, post-docs, people from industry working in the labs) with a budget of about CAN$500 million.


* While working for the NRC, John Hopps invented the heart pacemaker. A Macleans survey hailed it as Canada's most important invention of the twentieth century -- and Dr Carty wears one himself.


* Canola, or rapeseed, which is now Canada's number one crop in dollar value was developed in Saskatoon through the work of Agriculture Canada and NRC when they successfully applied gas-liquid chromatography to the analysis of seed oils. Plant breeders were then able to work on reducing euricic acid in the rapeseed to eliminate any health risks. Today, NRC scientists are adding value to canola using new biotechnology techniques that create plant strains resistant to herbicides and diseases. The crop now generates seven billion dollars a year in sales.


* NRC is working with Spar Aerospace Ltd, Atomic Energy Canada and the Canadian Space Agency to develop computer software that will create digital images of heavy equipment and the work sites where they operate - in full, three-dimensional detail. This emerging technology, known as a virtual environment for remote operations (VERO), uses a 3D laser camera invented and patented at NRC. With VERO, remote operations like hazardous waste site inspections will be simpler, safer and more cost-effective.         


* In 1997, two NRC researchers Marceli Wein and Nestor Burtnyk won Academy Awards for pioneering computer animation technology in the 1970s.   


* Gerhard Herzberg, a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, for his work in identifying molecules in space, spent most of his life working at the NRC, Quite a number of recent Nobel Prize winners, including John Polyani, have also spent time at  NRC.    


* Every Bombardier jet that has been developed over the last twenty years has gone through the NRC for aerodynamic testing.     


* In the early 1990s, NRC experts introduced various fingerprint detection methods that include superglue, a vacuum chamber, a florescent dye and an ultraviolet light. The RCMP and other police forces continue to use these techniques.    


* The first music synthesizer was invented back in 1945 by NRC's Hugh Le Caine.   


* NRC's Dr Saran Narang made a major scientific breakthrough when he synthesized a human insulin gene. He was awarded the Order of Canada in 1985.    


* The NRC, led by Dr Harry Jennings of NRC's Institute for Biological Sciences, has developed a new vaccine against infant meningitis which will be on the market in the UK in April and in Canada and the US soon after that.  


* A vapor detection system for explosives, small enough to fit in an attache case and able to detect explosives in parts per trillion, was developed by the NRC in 1966. Improved versions are now still used today by police, customs, airports, airlines and embassies.    


* A laser scanning camera developed by Marc Rioux and others at the NRC can make accurate 3-dimensional digital copies of objects in full color and store them in a computer database. With this new technology, it is now possible to scan and store rare or fragile objects for use in virtual museums, and for scientific studies.     


* The NRC designed one of the world's earliest cesium beam atomic clocks in 1958. It was one of the most precise clocks known in history, accurate to a few millionths of a second per year. By the 1970s, NRC time systems were being used to help set official time scales and clocks around the world.       


* From 1924 to 1938, some of the best medical researchers in the country worked with the NRC to find a vaccine against tuberculosis. Their work helped make the BCG vaccine the main weapon against a disease that for years was one of the leading causes of death for people aged 20 to 50 in Canada.     


Contact info:

Tel: (613) 993-9101h

e-mail: r&



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