Feds list over 100 foreign institutions deemed security risks for tech research

Canadian researchers in some of the most innovative fields are going to face greater government scrutiny over who they work with.

What happened: The federal government released a list of over 100 schools and research organizations from China, Russia, and Iran that it says pose a risk to national security. It also defined 11 “sensitive” research areas representing leading-edge and disruptive technologies that may also interest those “seeking to misappropriate Canada’s technological advantages.”

  • The list is skewed towards China, which has roughly 90 institutions on the list, with 11 from Iran and six from Russia.
  • The research areas include AI, quantum computing, life sciences, robotics, aerospace, weapons, energy, sensors, and human-machine integration.

Why it matters: Researchers working in a “sensitive” field can only receive federal grants if they formally attest that they haven’t received funding from any of the named research organizations, with the government promising spot checks on applications.

  • In October, a group of Canadian universities asked for an extra $200 million to help make up for funding restrictions. Tuesday’s announcement included only $50 million in additional government grants.

Catch-up: A year ago, The Globe and Mail reported that researchers at 50 Canadian universities had published joint scientific papers with scientists connected to China’s military from 2005 to 2022, with 240 joint papers co-authored with scientists from China’s National University of Defence Technology (which reports to the country’s Central Military Commission) in the last five years.

  • As a result, Innovation Minister François-Philippe Champagne instructed research funding bodies to screen applications until the new rules could be introduced.

Zoom out: Tuesday’s announcement is separate from funding restrictions on universities working with Chinese telecommunications giant Huawei, which was also done for national security reasons but has nonetheless continued at some schools.