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The Critical Importance of Health Research

07/11/2013


It is imperative to understand the importance of health research to our nation before discussing the purpose of the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) tax incentive program. There are numerous benefits that health research offers society and this article will explore three of its major benefits: saving lives, economic value and a nation’s strength.

Saving Lives

The high quality of health care we enjoy today is built upon the tireless efforts of countless health professionals conducting research. A good example of how health research saves lives was the discovery of the smallpox vaccination by Dr. Edward Jenner in 1796. His work did not stop there and has helped lay the foundation for the development of modern-day Immunology. The prophylactic applications of vaccines have prevented or ameliorated the effects of future infectious diseases. In the twentieth century, many vaccines have been successfully developed to prevent devastating diseases, such as polio and measles. The annual flu shot is the most commonly known immunization strategy that uses seasonal influenza vaccine. Currently, health research in Immunology has advanced into therapeutic applications of immunization for the treatment of non-infectious diseases, such as cancer and autoimmune disorders. In a nutshell, health research has made many significant breakthroughs in disease treatment and prevention and saved the lives of millions of people.

Economic Value

Health research also adds significant economic value to our society. The most obvious contribution is the direct cost savings to the health care system when new or more cost-effective treatments or preventive interventions (such as vaccines) that reduce the need for medical treatments are discovered or developed. Health research also reduces indirect costs that are associated with productivity losses from employees being ill or absent from work. In addition, health research has the financial benefits of commercialization in terms of health product development, employment and sales as well as numerous spillover effects.

The Nation’s Strength

A recent report by the Council of Canadian Academies entitled The State of Science and Technology in Canada, 2012 provides a thorough analysis of Canada’s overall science and technology strengths, compared with international peers as well as its strengths at the provincial and territorial level. In 2010, the Government of Canada’s Minister of Industry asked the Council of Canadian Academies to assess the state of science and technology in Canada. The Council assembled an 18-member, multidisciplinary expert panel from Canada and around the world to conduct this comprehensive assessment. In particular, the panel focused on research performed in the higher education sector, as well as in the not-for-profit and government sectors. One of the main findings was that clinical medicine is among the six research fields in which Canada excels. The panel surveyed more than 5,000 of the world’s top-cited researchers, including Canadians. Thirty-seven per cent of respondents identified Canada as one of the five leading countries in their field. This placed Canada fourth overall behind the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany. In addition to saving lives and contributing to economy, health research can serve as an indicator of the strength and competitiveness of our nation.

In 2007, the Government of Canada released Advantage Canada – an economic plan to make our country a world leader. In order to reach this goal, Canada must excel in research and development. A new Science and Technology Strategy – Mobilizing Science and Technology to Canada’s Advantage – was also developed in 2007. Health and Life Sciences and Technologies are one of four priority areas that were identified by government as a category we could achieve world-class leadership in. Both initiatives indicate that our Government understands the importance of health research to the lives of Canadians and its contribution to the economy, helping to make our nation more competitive and sustainable.

What’s the Significance of the SR&ED Program in Facilitating Health Research?

The SR&ED tax incentive program is the largest single source of federal government support designed to encourage research and development in Canada. In line with this objective, the SR&ED program encourages and helps health professionals who are conducting health research, while providing health services to their patients by providing tax credits and refunds that can significantly offset costs.