Federal and provincial support pushes higher education R&D to new heights

Guest Contributor
February 12, 2004

Funds dedicated to the indirect costs of university research helped push up R&D expenditures in the higher education sector by 12% in FY01-02 to $6.48 billion, according to the latest data from Statistics Canada. Federal support of post-secondary R&D jumped 22.7% between FY00-01 and FY01-02, while funding from private, non-profit organizations increased 21.7% and provincial governments boosted contributions by 21.2%.

The one-time payment of $200 million in indirect costs for university research was announced in the December/01 Budget. It has since been made into a permanent program, pegged at $225 million annually.

Universities themselves had a moderating influence on the FY01-2 increase, boosting their research support by 3.1%. At $2.98 billion, higher education institutions are the single largest source of money, accounting for 46% of all funding.

The increase in university research expenditures is all the more remarkable when examined from a longer timeframe. Between FY88-89 and FY01-02, higher education R&D expenditures have increased 142.6%. Since FY97-8, they have increased by 66.9% in a five-year period. The rate of increase could accelerate in the future if a commitment to triple research spending by 2011 is fulfilled. The pledge was made in 2002 by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC), which called for a doubling of the budgets of the granting councils (R$, October 21/02).

The natural sciences and engineering (NSE) and health sciences were the main beneficiaries of the increased federal funding, jumping 13.2% and 14.7% respectively. NSE expenditures totalled $5.2 billion or 80.3% of the FY01-02 total. Health science spending (a sub set of NSE) amounted to $2.4 billion. Social sciences and humanities (SSH) expenditures increased 6.0% during the same period to $1.3 billion.

Over the 14-year period covered by the report, NSE and health sciences have fared far better than SSH. During that period, NSE expenditures increased $150.6% and health sciences rose 152.9%, while SSH spending was up 114.6%.

As expected, Ontario universities command the largest R&D expenditures with a FY01-2 total of $2.6 billion, a 11.8% increase over the previous year. Quebec based universities rank second with $1.8 billion, but their annual rate of increase is faster, rising 17.5%. In contrast, R&D outlays by Atlantic Canada universities increased just 3.8%, while Western Canada-based institutions boosted spending by 14.0%.

The StatCan report utilizes a new technique developed in 2000. Total expenditures are derived by combining sponsored research income, an estimate of indirect expenditures, a value for the fraction of time devoted to sponsored and non-sponsored research, an estimate of indirect expenditures relating to faculty time on research and data from teaching hospitals.


Provincial Breakdown:
FY88-9 to FY01-2

($ millions)
Western Provs703.61,664.7136.6
Atlantic Provs212.9401.974.7

Higher Education R&D Expenditures

($ millions)
Federal Gov’t1,586.81,292.81,084.6862.9792.7809.0854.8
Provincial Gov’ts712.0587.2482.2371.6369.9297.6323.2
Business Enterprise603.3553.4460.3411.0381.0335.6296.7
Higher Education2,980.02890.92,648.82,339.41,971.51,905.51,926.6
Private, Non-Profit509.1418.2349.2335.1324.4312.7265.7
Statistics Canada: 88-001-XIE. Vol. 28, No. 1

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