Canada’s transport research policy is set out in the (draft) Federal Sustainable Development Strategy 2022-2026. The strategy supports the Government of Canada’s broader Federal Sustainable Development Strategy, which is normally updated every three years, and aims to advance the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The Departmental Strategy reflects the efforts towards a more sustainable transportation system in Canada and outlines the actions that the department will undertake over the next three years. Key areas of action presented in the strategy include initiatives to reduce greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions from the transportation sector, increasing efficiency of the vehicle fleet, and understanding challenges of the future transportation system. Within this strategy, transport research objectives are established, and a framework is laid in order to achieve these objectives. These targets are reflective of the wider goals of the strategy. It highlights the necessity of research and development (R&D) to enhance the efficiency and sustainability of the transport system, and to improve the safe, secure, efficient, and environmentally responsible movement of people and goods in Canada.
Institutional framework of transport research
Transport Canada (TC) is the leading government agency in setting the national transport research agenda and funding transport research. Research priorities are established by a senior management committee at Transport Canada that reviews proposals and establishes funding priorities based on the Department’s strategic objectives. An intradepartmental working group develops selection and evaluation criteria as well as performance metrics and documentation. It identifies opportunities for integrated and shared R&D projects for better management of resources, and identifies and shares best practices for R&D programme delivery and monitoring, as well as assessing effectiveness and measuring outcomes. A report of the projects ongoing and developed can be found in the Transport Canada Research, Development AND Deployment Highlights (2020-2021)
Basic research is also funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, which provides grant programmes that support transport research, but not exclusively.
The provincial Ministries of Transport follow the national research and development agenda established by Transport Canada, but also their own priorities based on local needs and issues. The Ministries of Transport also play a major role in funding transport research and development. Leverage and matching funds are heavily emphasised in transport research funding at all levels. Provincial and local support makes it easier for research institutions to obtain federal and provincial research resources. These matching funds may be from local and municipal government, or from the private sector.
The Transportation Association of Canada (TAC), which comprises officials from the provincial and municipal Ministries of Transport, is another instrumental organisation in transport research and development. Based on national, regional, provincial, and local research needs, TAC produces problem statements and requests for proposals. Research institutions can form teams to compete for TAC funding, which is pooled resources from government agencies at all levels.
Intelligent Transportation Systems Canada (ITS-Canada) has close ties with Transport Canada in ITS-related training and research. Other national government agencies, such as Environment Canada and Industry Canada, are involved in funding transport research aligned with their respective agency goals.
Funding Sources and Support Initiatives - Current ongoing national programmes:
- Collaborative Research and Development Programme (NSERC-CRD): Partnership grant that requires up to 200% matching funds
- Discovery Grants (NSERC-Discovery): Applied directly by any professor in any institution
- Industrial Research Chair for Colleges Programmes (NSERC-IRCC): A programme that supports distinguished research programmes with identifiable leaders
- Strategic Network Grants Programme (NSERC-SN): Based on individual topic areas, helps form fundamental research networks and allows individual researchers to submit annual proposals via the Network
- Rural Transit Solutions Fundsupports locally-driven transit solutions for rural and remote communities, with flexibility for different local transit system innovations from fixed route to on-demand services to ride-shares.
- Zero Emission Transit Fundsupports public transit and school bus operators plan for electrification, supports the purchase of 5,000 zero emission buses and build supporting infrastructure.
- Active Transportation Fund invests in projects that build new and expanded networks of pathways, bike lanes, trails and pedestrian bridges, in addition to supporting active transportation planning activities.
Transport Canada has also published an extensive list of transport-specific funding programmes, found on their website.