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Construction not part of budget innovation push

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CCInnovations president Pierre Boucher remains optimistic that the government will commit to transforming the industry, despite the fact construction innovation was not specifically highlighted in the March 22 federal budget.

"It is a budget that speaks to innovation. They plan on reviewing the current approach and to create a new entity called Innovation Canada, and they want to review dozens of innovation programs in different departments," Boucher said.

Innovation Canada will spend $950 million over five years and create "super cluster" innovation hubs, the budget indicates.

Government and post-secondary institutions tend to spend money on research and development (R&D), Boucher added and "they say industry doesn’t pay its fair share for R&D and there’s some truth to that."

Boucher added current systems to entice the industry to fund research and development haven’t worked in sectors other than aerospace, auto manufacturing and wood due to regulatory hurdles.

"We’re hoping to see a fund dedicated to construction innovation, partly because of money intended to be spent on infrastructure,"

Pierre Boucher


But he pointed to the federal government’s commitment to climate change mitigation and green technology as reasons it could focus on the construction industry.

"We’re hoping to see a fund dedicated to construction innovation, partly because of money intended to be spent on infrastructure," Boucher said. "The status quo is not acceptable. We need better infrastructure that speaks to smart buildings and energy efficient cities."

That can only happen, he said, if those technologies are adopted in the construction industry.

There was no mention of CCInnovations (CCI) in the federal budget, though there was an emphasis on supporting innovation in the high-tech and green sectors, along with training initiatives for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).

CCI submitted a five-year, $150-million proposal to the federal government in December of last year. The budget submission was part of a report detailing several key areas of the construction industry the organization saw as ready for innovation, including "digitizing" the construction industry in Canada, pursuing building methods and technologies and implementing Envision, a sustainability rating system for infrastructure with similarities to LEED.

At the Canadian Construction Association’s (CCA) Technology and Innovation Committee meeting, held late last month during the CCA’s annual conference in Mexico, CCI board chair John Bockstael said if funding was not forthcoming, the institute would appeal to its current membership and search for new members.

While the budget did not emphasize innovation in construction, it did stress the need for infrastructure renewal and new projects in Canada’s north, particularly indigenous communities.

The government has also pledged to help the mining sector by extending the 15 per cent Mineral Exploration Tax Credit. The credit, which aims to help junior exploration companies raise capital, originally was scheduled to expire on March 31, 2017 and has now been extended to March 31, 2018.

There are still areas of mutual value for CCI and the federal government, Boucher said.

"The government considers us a key stakeholder," Boucher said. "There are discussions about procurement and they want us at the table. CCI has also been invited to the Centre for Greening Government run by the treasury board."

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