This year’s Top 100 and Top 50 lists of Canada’s biggest R&D spenders in industry and academia provide a valuable snapshot of the health of Canada’s key innovation engines. Far beyond the curiosity value such lists provide (who’s up, who’s down, and why) the raw data behind the main players in the innovation system provide clues to the solutions we all seek in the quest to transform Canada into a truly innovative nation.
A cursory glance at the lists (on pages 4 & 5) reveal Canada at a crossroads, with stagnating R&D spending in our universities and many of our companies. In general, firms tend to spend less on R&D during periods of economic uncertainty and financial support for discovery research also becomes more challenging.
There are exceptions in both sectors. TELUS Corp aggressively implemented a strategy of investing in infrastructure and R&D during the economic downturn, getting better deals for equipment and developing cutting-edge services that should serve it well in a highly competitive, evolving environment.
In academia, universities like Waterloo, Windsor and Trois-Rivières enjoyed double digit increases in sponsored research income by deepening niche areas of expertise. Their value as anchors of technological expertise in their respective regions can’t be overstated.
Commodities-based companies continue to be a source of concern. By relying heavily on acquired technology, they are weak contributors to Canadian innovation when the opposite could propel Canada up the ranks of nations using S&T to create long-term sustainable wealth.