Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent is setting up a new institute to explore social democratic policy and ideas.

The think tank, named for Broadbent, will reach out to social democrat-leaning academics for their ideas, provide education and train activists, but be independent from the party, he announced Friday.

"I have for some time thought we should have something like this," Broadbent said.

"Our founder [Tommy Douglas] well understood a political movement or idea doesn't live in the past."

Broadbent said it's important to New Democrats to have ideas behind the party's leader.

"A lot of pressure is on politicians ... to win the battle that's two months ahead rather than build for a Canada five or 10 years down. So institutions other than the party have to come in and provide this," Broadbent said.

It's not clear how the institute will be funded, although Broadbent said it will operate as an NGO.

"We're going to look to many sources and groups outside the party," he said. "There may be some start-up funding that comes from the party to get it going. We're talking about that."

He hopes to have the Broadbent Institute running by the fall.

Broadbent made the announcement just before the NDP kicked off its convention in Vancouver, celebrating its 50th year of existence and its new status as the Official Opposition to the governing Conservatives.

Conservatives in Canada have a similar organization in the Manning Centre, a research and policy organization started by Reform Party founder Preston Manning.

The NDP is expecting about 2,000 people to attend the convention, where they'll discuss taking a reference to socialism out of the preamble of their constitution, and debate a resolution not to merge with the Liberal Party.

The May 2 election saw the party surge to its best-ever result, with 103 members elected to Parliament.