ICT enabling technologies and convergence

A main development vector for basic and applied R&D is ICT (information and communication technology), in areas with applications in new telecommunication and data storage devices, imaging technologies, and MEMS (micro-electro-mechanical systems). Other applications include intelligent sensory networks, microsystems, all-optical networks, and implantable sensors and drug delivery devices. The primary institutions for ICT research are NRC's Institute for Microstrucural Sciences and Institute for Information

Table 9.3 Enabling Technologies Funded by Technology Partnerships Canada

Technology

Application

Advanced materials processes and applications

Advanced manufacturing and processing technologies

Applications of biotechnology

Applications of selected information technologies

Innovations in ceramics, plastics, metals and metal alloys used in the design and development of new materials or improved materials

Laser applications, vision systems, advanced manufacturing technologies including computerassisted design and engineering and other innovative automation systems

Agriculture and food, aquaculture, mining and energy, forestry, and health care

The fastest growing sector, accounting for more than one-third of Canada's industrial R&D expenditures

Include access technologies such as health and diagnostic imaging advanced software technologies such as electronic commerce and internet software, microelectronic and optical technologies

Technology, where basic and applied research spans a wide scope of activities ultimately leading to enabling technologies.

Enabling technologies draw together various R&D components into common applications that 'enable' or accelerate each other, and provide new capabilities. They have the potential to significantly improve performance and productivity in a wide range of industries and research settings. Technology Partnerships Canada (TCP), an agency of Industry Canada, funds four kinds of enabling technologies.

It is notable that enabling technologies funded by TCP underlie all tools and instruments in nanotechnology R&D and nanoscale research. Accelerated and new capabilities raise potential for social, ethical and legal impacts, particularly when they emerge in innovation processes of commercialization and industrialization. These could include surveillance, privacy, and genetic testing and profiling. Enabling technologies have strategic application in achieving social and policy goals in areas such as health care and national security, and call for social impact research.

In 2004 the Government of Canada released a report entitled ICT/Life Sciences Converging Technologies Cluster Study, a comparative qualitative analysis of the ICT, life sciences and their converging next-generation technology clusters in Vancouver, Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa (Government of Canada, 2004a). Two special features of ICT stand out. One is that ICT is a mature industry dominated by a few large multinational corporations. It is reasonable to suggest significant R&D occurs in the industry and out of the public eye. The second is the importance of ICT as an enabler of broad economic development that has surpassed ICT as an economic sector in its own right. The report also signals a clear recognition of convergence of the life sciences and ICT, and recommends that future policy discussions regarding converging technologies include nanotechnology.

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