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Federal government spending on science and technology, 2016/2017 (intentions)

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Released: 2016-05-25

Federal government spending on science and technology (intentions)

$10.7 billion



(annual change)

Total expenditures by the federal government on science and technology are expected to increase 1.0% from 2015/2016 to $10.7 billion in 2016/2017. The gain is largely attributable to an anticipated rise in spending in the social sciences and humanities, as expenditures in natural sciences and engineering are expected to decline.

The federal government expects to spend $2.7 billion in 2016/2017 on scientific and technological activities in the social sciences and humanities, up 8.0% from $2.5 billion in 2015/2016. Spending in natural sciences and engineering is expected to decrease 1.1% to $8.0 billion in 2016/2017. Overall, natural sciences and engineering should account for about three-quarters of total spending on science and technology.

Intramural expenditures have steadily increased since 2012/2013 and will represent 52.2% of total expenditures on science and technology in 2016/2017. They are expected to rise 4.1% from the previous year to $5.6 billion in 2016/2017, mainly on the strength of an 18.1% gain in spending in the social sciences and humanities.

Extramural payments, which comprise grants and contributions, fellowships and contracts to other performing sectors, are anticipated to fall 2.2% to $5.1 billion in 2016/2017. This drop is largely attributable to an expected decline in funding to the business enterprise sector.

In 2016/2017, research and development activities are expected to decrease 1.1% to $6.8 billion, as a result of lower spending in the business enterprise sector (-9.8%). Overall, research and development activities are anticipated to account for 63.5% of total science and technology expenditures.

The federal government anticipates spending $3.9 billion on related scientific activities in 2016/2017, up 5.0% from the previous year. Overall, more than three-quarters ($3.0 billion) of these expenditures will be on in-house scientific activities, largely data collection and information services.

Increase in federal personnel engaged in scientific and technology activities

Federal departments and agencies reported expecting 36,153 full-time equivalent employees to be engaged in scientific and technological activities in 2016/2017. More than half (56.2%) of these positions are expected to be in the scientific and professional category. Over two-thirds of total scientific and technology positions (70.7%) will be in the natural sciences and engineering field.

Snapshop of 2014/2015

The Federal Science Expenditures and Personnel, Activities in the Social Sciences and Natural Sciences survey also collects information on science and technology spending by socioeconomic objective and by region. This allows departments and agencies to classify their science and technology resource allocations according to the intended purpose of expenditures.

The federal government invested $10.3 billion in science and technology in 2014/2015, with research and development representing two-thirds of this investment. More than two-thirds of science and technology expenditures were concentrated in Ontario and Quebec (including the National Capital Region).

Five socioeconomic objectives accounted for two-thirds of total science and technology expenditures: protection and improvement of human health ($2.2 billion), social structures and relationships ($1.3 billion), industrial production and technology ($1.2 billion), agricultural production and technology ($1.1 billion) and non-oriented research ($1.0 billion). Over two-thirds ($4.6 billion) of spending for these five socioeconomic objectives went to research and development.

  Note to readers

The Federal Science Expenditures and Personnel, Activities in the Social Sciences and Natural Sciences is an annual survey of all federal government departments and agencies that perform or fund science and technology activities. Actual data for 2014/2015, preliminary data for 2015/2016 and intentions for 2016/2017 were collected from September 15, 2015 to January 15, 2016.

Conceptual changes were implemented for the 2016/2017 survey cycle to account for non-program costs (indirect costs). The value of services provided without charge to the responding department by other federal government departments will not be added. Revisions were applied to data on intramural expenditures and related activities back to 2010/2011. These revisions affect expenditure totals by type of science, science and technology, research and development, and related scientific activity. As a result, data for 2010/2011 onward are not comparable with data for previous years.

Natural sciences and engineering consist of all disciplines concerned with understanding, exploring, developing or using the natural world. These disciplines include engineering, mathematical, life and physical sciences.

The social sciences and humanities comprise all disciplines involving the study of human actions and conditions and the social, economic and institutional mechanisms that affect humans.

Research and development is defined as creative work with an appreciable element of novelty and uncertainty undertaken in a systematic manner to increase the stock of scientific and technical knowledge.

Related scientific activities are focused on the generation, dissemination and application of scientific and technical knowledge.

More information on the concepts and definitions of the survey (4212) is available from this release's Related information tab.

Contact information

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