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Knowledge, innovation, solutions: IDRC's seventh annual public meeting

Published on
March 18, 2016
IDRC’s new strategic plan speaks to the Centre’s determination to make a difference, in bigger and more significant ways than ever, the Honourable Monte Solberg told an audience of 70 at IDRC’s 2015 annual public meeting.

"IDRC always has been focused on achieving concrete results — the research we support is too important to stay on the shelf,” IDRC's Acting Chairperson went on to say at the meeting, held in Ottawa on November 17, 2015.

“But now we have set even higher expectations for ourselves," he said. "For the first time, we specifically commit to making sure that IDRC-funded research leads to large-scale positive change and benefits the greatest number of people.”

The plan, Investing in Solutions, will guide the Centre’s work over the next five years. It sharply focuses IDRC's vision on producing knowledge, innovation, and solutions to improve lives and livelihoods in the developing world.

Providing an overview of recent work, Solberg noted that IDRC staff launched or maintained 733 research projects and administered a budget of almost $259 million in the past fiscal year.

Partnering for greater impact

In his remarks, President Jean Lebel described recent efforts to spread IDRC-funded research successes widely by broadening the Centre’s partnership base.

“We need to find the partners who are better able than us to reach millions of people,” he said, and cited several examples of new collaborations with the private sector that hold the promise of benefiting large numbers of people.

For example, a two-year partnership with Tim Hortons and Colombia’s national coffee research centre Cenicafé aims to boost the resilience to climate change of Colombia’s 600,000 smallholder coffee growers.

And a three-year collaboration with Développement International Desjardins, the development arm of Canada’s largest cooperative financial group, seeks to provide accessible financial services that will enable African farmers to adopt innovative, proven agricultural techniques.

On the frontline against Ebola

Dr Dominique Charron, Acting Director of IDRC’s Agricultural and Environment program, then spoke about the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa and Canada’s contribution to the urgent global effort to prevent future epidemics.

IDRC partnered with other Canadian agencies in providing support to the clinical trial in Guinea of a promising Ebola vaccine candidate, which was originally developed in Canada. IDRC is managing the Canadian collaboration on the vaccine and shared a Public Service Award of Excellence with other departments in recognition of this work.

“The results of the vaccine trial in Guinea are outstanding, and we are very proud to have been part of this breakthrough in the fight against Ebola,” Dr Charron said. “We have also learned how much can be accomplished with partnership — here in Canada and internationally — to move quickly to test new vaccines and treatments even in the middle of a crisis.“

But a new vaccine, no matter how effective, is not enough on its own, she said. Ebola has also shown, again, that epidemics are not just an issue for public health experts. “They are a social issue, a development issue, and a global security issue. And they need broad partnerships and strong leadership between crises to better respond and prevent tragedies on this scale.”

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Photos (at right): Questions from the audience. IDRC | G. TECKLES