Research endowments an investment in human prosperity

UAlberta president applauds "truly extraordinary" provincial investment in research that will build community, solve social problems and grow Alberta's ag and food sectors.


(Edmonton) Two new provincial investments in social and agricultural innovation provide an essential link to important research being done at the University of Alberta and to the future prosperity and well-being of all Albertans.

U of A President Indira Samarasekera applauded the creation of the Social Innovation Endowment and Agriculture and Food Innovation Endowment, both introduced in the Alberta legislature as cornerstone pieces of Bill 1. Samarasekera called both funds an investment in the kind of research that can improve how Albertans come together and build community, inspire creative works, solve social problems such as poverty and family violence, and generate future growth in Alberta’s agriculture and food sectors.

“In today’s knowledge economy, we know there is a critical need for individuals who are adept at finding and transforming knowledge into social innovations that can incite positive social, cultural, and political change across all sectors,” said Samarasekera. “I applaud the Government of Alberta for showing such critical leadership—not only for creating the Social Innovation Fund, but also for funding it at a level commensurate with the importance of the work it will promote and support.

“The Agriculture and Food Innovation Endowment is also very good news and strong recognition of the role that research has historically played in the development of one of this province’s most important industries.”

Social Innovation Endowment: ‘truly extraordinary’

Samarasekera called the $1-billion Social Innovation Endowment—the largest in Canada—“truly extraordinary.” It’s the “third pillar” of research funding for which she has long advocated. It can do for the arts, social sciences and humanities what the Alberta Heritage Foundation for Medical Research Endowment has done for advancing medical science and the health of Albertans, or what the Alberta Heritage Science and Engineering Research Endowment has meant for discoveries in those fields.

Lesley Cormack, dean of the Faculty of Arts, said the endowment is an exciting opportunity for her faculty, noting arts is a key player in addressing issues such as violence, discrimination, northern living and artistic expression.

"There’s now an opportunity for our researchers to extend their reach and connect with Alberta's communities to deliver innovative solutions to some of the challenges facing the province and the world,” Cormack said.

Agriculture and Food Innovation Endowment

The $200-million Agriculture and Food Innovation Endowment provides enhanced funding for basic and applied agricultural research, and supports value-added product development and commercialization.

John Kennelly, dean of the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences, said research shows investment in agriculture and food science guarantees high internal rates of return—generally exceeding costs by 10 to one or greater. U of A research in this area has had a direct impact on Albertans’ quality of life, from rescuing the canola industry from ruin due to blackleg disease to breakthroughs in hybrid cattle breeding that have made Alberta a world leader in beef production.

“This new fund will enhance our ability to continue to provide solutions with our partners and generate economic opportunities and wealth for Alberta,” Kennelly said.

Samarasekera said the U of A looks forward to further details about both endowments as Bill 1 proceeds in the legislature, and to working with Campus Alberta partners in advancing research and ideas that can benefit every corner of the province and beyond.

“The establishment of new research funds affirms in very strong terms the value universities, like ours, bring to the communities that support us.”