National Research Council (Canada)

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National Research Council
Conseil national de recherches Canada
NRC logo.svg
Agency overview
JurisdictionGovernment of Canada
HeadquartersOttawa, Ontario
Minister responsibleChristian Paradis, Minister of Industry
Agency executiveMr. John McDougall, President
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National Research Council
Conseil national de recherches Canada
NRC logo.svg
Agency overview
JurisdictionGovernment of Canada
HeadquartersOttawa, Ontario
Minister responsibleChristian Paradis, Minister of Industry
Agency executiveMr. John McDougall, President

The National Research Council (NRC) is an agency of the Government of Canada which conducts scientific research and development.


The NRC was established in 1916 under the pressure of World War I to advise the government on matters of science and industrial research. In 1932, laboratories were built on Sussex Drive in Ottawa.

With the impetus of World War II, the NRC grew rapidly and for all practical purposes became a military science and weapons research organization. It undertook a number of important projects, which included participation with the United States and United Kingdom in the development of chemical and germ warfare agents, the explosive RDX, the proximity fuse, radar, and submarine detection techniques. A special branch known as the Examination Unit was involved with cryptology and the interception of enemy radio communications. The NRC was also engaged in atomic fission research at the Montreal Laboratory, then the Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario.

Post-WWII, the NRC reverted to its pre-war civilian role and a number of wartime activities were spun off to newly formed organizations. Military research continued under a new organization, the Defence Research Board. Atomic research went to the newly created Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. Foreign signals intelligence gathering officially remained with the agency when, by Order in Council, the Examination Unit became the Communications Branch of the NRC in 1946. The CBNRC was transferred to the Department of National Defence in 1975, and renamed the Communications Research Establishment. During the 1950s, the medical research funding activities of the NRC were handed over to the newly formed Medical Research Council of Canada. Finally, on May 1, 1978, with the rapid post-war growth of Canadian universities the NRC's role in university research funding in the natural sciences was passed to the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.

Under financial pressure in the 1980s, the federal government produced what popularly became known as the Neilson Report, which recommended across-the-board financial cuts to all federal government organizations, including the NRC. This led to staff and program cutbacks. Recovery was slow, but the NRC has managed to regain its status as Canada's single most important scientific and engineering research institution among many other Canadian government scientific research organizations.[citation needed]

Today, much of the NRC's focus is on developing partnerships with private and public-sector technology companies, both nationally and internationally. The Council will be celebrating its centenary in 2016.

Product innovations[edit]

Some of the many innovations by NRC personnel included the artificial pacemaker, development of canola (rapeseed) in the 1940s, the Crash Position Indicator in the 1950s, and the Cesium Beam atomic clock in the 1960s.

The NRC played a key role in the birth of computer animation, working with the National Film Board of Canada and animator Peter Foldès on the 1971 experimental film Metadata and the 1974 short film Hunger.[1][2]

More recently, the NRC has been highly influential in the field of audio. A great deal of research at the NRC has gone into the designs of many popular speakers from Canadian speaker manufacturers like PSB Speakers, Energy Loudspeakers and Paradigm Electronics. Some of their research has also influenced speaker designs around the world.

Furthermore, the NRC makes a widespread impact on product developments through its involvement in supporting the small to medium-sized business sector. Through a program knowan as IRAP - the Industrial Research Assistance Program - the NRC provides grants and financial support to business' looking to bring new and innovative technologies to the market [3] Recently, the NRC gave a high-value grant to a small jewellery company, Dimples Fingerprint Jewellery, for its innovative maunfacturing process and use of green technologies [4]

At National Research Council - Institute for Research in Construction (NRC-IRC) an ongoing research study on solid-state lighting is investigating this promising lighting technology and its effects on human beings [5]

Agencies with special relationships with the NRC[edit]

Specialized agencies and services which have branched out of the NRC include:

Planning and reporting[edit]

The NRC reports yearly within the Treasury Board Secretariat's Results-Based Management Framework. The NRC is currently guided by a strategic plan for 2006-2011: Science at Work for Canada.[6]


Close to 4,000 people across Canada are employed by the NRC. In addition, the Council also employs guest workers from universities, companies, and public and private-sector organizations. [1]


An inscription at the front entrance of the NRC Sussex Drive Research Facility in Ottawa.
A radiant heat panel for precision testing of quantified energy exposures at the Institute for Research in Construction of the NRC, near Ottawa.
A fire house at the Institute for Research in Construction, used to provide information to aid building code and fire code development in Canada.

The NRC is managed by a governing council. Current members of the council are: Patricia Béretta, Louis Brunel, John McDougall (President and Chairman), Delwyn Fredlund, Wayne Gulliver, James Hatton, Joseph Hubert, Pascale Michaud, Gilles Patry, Alan Pelman, Louise Proulx, René Racine, Salma Rajwani, Inge Russell, Barbara Stanley, Howard Tennant, Jean-Claude Villiard, and Louis Visentin.

Cold War[edit]

According to the Canadian Security Intelligence Service website, the NRC headquarters in Ottawa "was a prime espionage target" during the Cold War.[7]

Change in research direction, and role in muzzling scientists[edit]

In 2011, NRC President John McDougall began to oversee a change in research focus away from basic research and towards industrial-relevant research.[8] This included the development of several "flagship programs", shifting research budget out of existing research and into a few focused programs. One flagship program, "Algal Carbon Conversion", is related to prior interests of Mr. McDougall, as he previously headed Innoventures, a company involved in lobbying for the development of an algae system to recycle carbon emissions.[9] The NRC was not involved in this area of research prior to the arrival of Mr. McDougall.

Under the tenure of Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Canadian Government research organizations began to restrict the ability of government scientists to communicate with the public.[10] This includes restricting scientists within the NRC to communicate with the public through non-scientist communications personnel. In June, 2012, the federal opposition made a motion in parliament "That, in the opinion of the House, Canadian scientific and social science expertise is of great value and, therefore, the House calls on the Government to end its muzzling of scientists; to reverse the cuts to research programs at Environment Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Library and Archives Canada, National Research Council Canada, Statistics Canada, and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada; and to cancel the closures of the National Council of Welfare and the First Nations Statistical Institute."[11]


Scientific Research[edit]

Engineering Research[edit]

Support Institutes[edit]

NRC Aerospace Fleet[edit]

The NRC has a fleet of aircraft for their research purposes:[12]

Research Aircraft[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Metadata". Collection. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 12 January 2010. 
  2. ^ "Retired NRC Scientists Burtnyk and Wein honoured as Fathers of Computer Animation Technology in Canada". Sphere (National Research Council of Canada) 4. 1996. 
  3. ^ "About NRC Industrial Research Assistance Program". Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  4. ^ "Research Council Grant". Retrieved 30 March 2012. 
  5. ^ "Light Up Tomorrow's Office". Retrieved 21 September 2011. 
  6. ^ A Strategy for the National Research Council 2006 – 2011, Science at Work For Canada, National Research Council Canada
  7. ^ "The National Research Council headquarters in Ottawa". Canadian Security Intelligence Service. Archived from the original on 2007-06-09. Retrieved 2009-06-18. 
  8. ^ Canadian research shift makes waves. Nature, 21 April 2011, v. 472, pg. 269.
  9. ^
  10. ^ Science in retreat. Nature, 21 Feb. 2008, v. 452, pg. 866.
  11. ^ House of Commons Debates, 41st Parl, 1st Sess, No 134 (5 June 2012) at 8815
  12. ^ NRC Flight Research Centre

External links[edit]

NRC and Its Institutes[edit]


Coordinates: 45°26′46″N 75°37′01″W / 45.44623°N 75.61698°W / 45.44623; -75.61698