Editorial – 24-14

By Mark Henderson, Editor

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that research contracting is an under-appreciated aspect of knowledge transfer. These demand driven contracts are a critical component of the Canadian innovation system and their importance is growing yearly.

Research contracting was worth $2 billion in 2008 and is certainly well above that level by now, accounting for more than one fifth of external research funding flowing to institutions. The largest share comes from government, but significant amounts come from industry and the non-profit sector.

Statistics Canada has collected research contracting data for years now, but it’s heavily aggregated and not of any great value for those who need to learn more about industry usage of hospital and university research expertise and infrastructure. While a new report from The Impact Group sheds more light on the industry engagement, there’s much more we need to know that the data simply do not provide.

For StatsCan to gain greater insight into research contracting, there would have to be a much higher level of detail provided by post-secondary institutions. But data generation costs money and institutions are not able or prepared to make the financial commitment unless they are compelled to.

That’s certainly not going to happen in the short term, particularly after the controversy stemming from the cancellation of the long-form census. In the meantime, the new report provides the most comprehensive picture yet of this important aspect of S&T.