A new expert panel report released on April 11 by the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) shows that lack of investment in R&D and fundamental research is putting Canada’s prosperity at risk.

The report entitled, Competing in a Global Innovation Economy: The Current State of R&D in Canada, shows R&D investment as a share of GDP has declined steadily since 2001. Canada now stands well behind the OECD average and is ranked 33rd out of 40 countries on an index of business R&D investment, intensity, and growth.

The CCA found that while Canada benefits from high levels of educational attainment, is a leading global contributor to research, and has areas of research strength, these efforts are being underutilized in terms of market benefits. Significant barriers such as a lack of managerial skills and the experience needed to scale-up companies, as well as the foreign acquisition of high-tech firms often prevent the translation of innovation into wealth creation.

The most pressing concern is low R&D spending in Canadian industry, but growth in government and higher education R&D is now also falling behind those of other leading nations. The result is a deficit of technology companies growing to scale in Canada.

Despite the poor overall performance, the CCA Panel found that Canada does have notable pockets of industrial R&D strength, particularly in scientific research and development services, computer systems design, communications equipment manufacturing, and aerospace products and parts manufacturing.

Between 2009 and 2014, Canada produced 3.8 per cent of the world’s research publications ranking ninth in the world. It has maintained its international standing in measures of impact, maintaining its ranking in sixth place among peer countries.

Canada’s top research fields are clinical medicine, public health and health services, psychology and cognitive sciences, philosophy and theology, and visual and performing arts. Canadian research is comparatively less specialized and less esteemed in the core fields of the natural sciences and engineering.

“It is a common misconception that Canada is not good at innovation. In fact, Canada is a highly innovative nation, but significant barriers prevent the translation of our innovations into significant and sustainable wealth creation,” said Max Blouw, Ph.D. and chair of the Expert Panel.

Eric M. Meslin, president and CEO of the Council of Canadian Academies said, “This report tells a familiar story―Canada has much to be proud of, with world-class researchers in many domains of knowledge, but the rest of the world is not standing still and Canada will need to take notice as it determines how best to take action.”

The CCA has been documenting Canada’s S&T and R&D strengths and weaknesses in a series of reports dating back to 2006. This latest report provides the current data and expert analysis needed for critical conversations on Canada’s research strengths, weaknesses, and future prosperity.

The report entitled, Competing in a Global Innovation Economy: The Current State of R&D in Canada, is available on the Council of Canadian Academies website.


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