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
"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
The NSTDA, with NRC's help,
wants to develop a clone of IRAP called the Industrial Technology Assistance
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
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
* 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
* Every Bombardier jet that has
been developed over the last twenty years has gone through the NRC for
* 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.
Tel: (613) 993-9101h