April 10, 2018

Competing in a Global Innovation Economy: The Current State of R&D in Canada

Expert Panel on the State of Science and Technology and Industrial Research and Development in Canada


In the 21st century, national prosperity, competitiveness, and well-being are inextricably linked to a country’s capacity for R&D and innovation. Canada is competing intensely alongside other countries to foster the next wave of research advances and innovations.

Ensuring that Canada remains competitive in this evolving landscape requires effective support informed by periodic assessments of the latest evidence on R&D performance. As such, Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada asked the Council of Canadian Academies (CCA) to provide an evidence-informed and authoritative assessment on the current state of science and technology, and industrial R&D in Canada. This is the fourth edition in the state of S&T and industrial R&D assessment series by the CCA.

To address the charge, the CCA assembled a multidisciplinary, multisectoral panel of 13 experts with a range of expertise, experience, and demonstrated leadership in academic research, R&D, innovation, and research administration.

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Report Details

Competing in a Global Innovation Economy: The Current State of R&D in Canada, assesses the latest evidence on Canada’s R&D performance, combining up-to-date data with expert insights and analyses, benchmarking against the performance of other countries.

The Panel examined the foundations of innovation, including Canada’s recent track record in fundamental research, applied research and development, business-led R&D, and the relationship of these research efforts to wealth creation and prosperity through innovation.

Evidence from multiple sources was used to address the Panel’s charge, including a literature review and data extracted from statistical agencies and organizations such as Statistics Canada and the OECD. A comprehensive bibliometric and technometric analysis of Canadian research publications and patents, and a survey of top-cited researchers around the world, also informed the Panel’s assessment.

Reflecting on all the evidence available, the Panel came to seven conclusions about the current state of R&D in Canada:

Key Findings

  • Canada remains a leading global contributor to research, and is making important contributions across a wide range of fields.

  • Canada’s international standing as a leading performer of research is at risk due to a sustained slide in private and public R&D investment.
  • Canada is not producing research at levels comparable to other leading countries on most enabling and strategic technologies.
  • Canadian research is comparatively less specialized and less esteemed in the core fields of the natural sciences and engineering.
  • Canadian industrial R&D spending is declining and concentrated in industries that are intrinsically less R&D intensive. Despite poor overall performance, Canada has pockets of R&D strength across several industries.
  • The barriers between innovation and wealth creation in Canada are more significant than those between R&D and innovation. The result is a deficit of technology start-ups growing to scale in Canada, and a loss of economic benefits.
  • Data limitations continue to constrain the assessment of R&D activity and excellence in Canada, particularly in industrial R&D and in the social sciences, arts, and humanities.

Comparison of Research Fields and Subfields

How does your research field or subfield stack up? Select your field and related subfield from the dropdown menu to find out.

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Each card highlights the following indicators (with a comparison of the 2003-2008 and 2009-2014 time periods):

  • Number of Publications (in full counts).
  • Impact is calculated based on Average Relative Citations, or ARC. This indicator measures the impact of publications as reflected in citations.
  • Specialization was determined by the Specialization Index (SI). This indicator is a measure of the relative research intensity for an entity in a specific field of research.
  • Growth Index refers to the growth of publications, between the 2003-2008 and 2009-2014 periods, relative to the world. For each metric, a score over 1.0 indicates that Canada is above the world average.

Comparison of Regional Data

How do the regions compare? Click anywhere on a province or territory to reveal a snapshot of its spending patterns and strengths.

Each card highlights the following:

  • R&D Investment indicates how much the province or territory invested in R&D for the 2011-2015 time period.
  • Growth Rate is the R&D investment compound annual growth rate for the 2006-2015 time period.
  • Number of Publications indicates the publication count (full count) for the province or territory, for the 2003-2008 and 2009-2014 time periods.
  • Impact is calculated based on Average Relative Citations, or ARC.* This indicator measures the impact of publications as reflected in citations, for the 2003-2008 and 2009-2014 time periods.
  • Top Research Subfields were determined based on ARC, for the 2003-2014 time period.
* An ARC score over 1.0 means that the province or territory’s impact is above the world average.


Expert Panel

Expert Panel

The Expert Panel on the State of Science and Technology and Industrial Research and Development in Canada.