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Spending on research and development in the higher education sector, 2016-2017

Released: 2018-08-28

Spending on research and development in the higher education sector

$13.8 billion

2016/2017

4.3% increase

(annual change)

Spending on research and development (R&D) activities in Canada's higher education sector totalled $13.8 billion in 2016/2017, up 4.3% from 2015/2016.

R&D expenditures for this sector continued on an upward trend, rising in every province except Prince Edward Island, where spending was unchanged. R&D spending rose from every funding sector except foreign sources.

Increases in higher education R&D spending are widespread across Canada

Ontario, the province with the largest concentration of universities and affiliated research hospitals, accounted for 54% of the 2016/2017 increase in higher education sector R&D spending. Most of the remaining increase occurred in British Columbia (18%) and Quebec (16%). R&D expenditures in the higher education sector reached record levels in a number of provinces, with Ontario up 5.7% to $5.7 billion, British Columbia up 6.7% to $1.6 billion and Quebec up 2.6% to $3.5 billion.

Since 2000/2001, Ontario has consistently held around 40% of total higher education sector R&D spending. While total higher education sector R&D spending over this period fell only in 2009/2010, R&D expenditures in Ontario also declined in 2013/2014 and 2014/2015. Quebec holds the second largest concentration of post-secondary institutions among the provinces. However, unlike Ontario, Quebec's share of total higher education sector R&D spending has declined from almost 30% prior to 2009/2010 to around 25% in subsequent years, as spending in this sector increased in Alberta and British Columbia.

National spending increases in both the natural sciences and engineering, and the social sciences, humanities and the arts

Natural sciences and engineering R&D in the higher education sector rose 4.6% to $10.5 billion, while social sciences, humanities and the arts increased 3.2% to $3.3 billion.

Provincially, spending on both science types rose in Newfoundland and Labrador, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. Manitoba and Nova Scotia, each saw decreases in the natural sciences and engineering, while Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Quebec had lower spending on the social sciences, humanities and the arts.

The federal government is the largest external source of funds for R&D in the higher education sector

Outside of the higher education sector, the federal government has historically been the largest funding sector of higher education R&D. In 2016/2017, federal government sector funding increased 4.7% to $3.2 billion, comprising almost one-quarter of total R&D spending in the higher education sector.

R&D funding by the higher education sector rose 2.4% to $6.8 billion, or about half of all R&D spending in the higher education sector. Higher education sector funding includes general university funds, which are government funding instruments such as grants that are managed by the higher education sector.

The third-largest contributing sector to higher education sector funding was the private non-profit sector, which replaced the provincial government sector in this position starting in 2014/2015. Funding from the private non-profit sector increased 12.1% to $1.5 billion in 2016/2017.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Research and development expenditures in the higher education sector, by funding sector and type of science, 2016/2017
Research and development expenditures in the higher education sector, by funding sector and type of science, 2016/2017


  Note to readers

Expenditures on research and development in the higher education sector concepts

The higher education sector is composed of universities and affiliated research hospitals, experimental stations and clinics.

Total expenditures on research and development (R&D) are classified into two fields of science: natural sciences and engineering, and social sciences, humanities and the arts.

There are six funding sources for R&D expenditures in the higher education sector: business enterprises, private non-profit organizations, the federal government, provincial governments, the foreign sector, and internal funding from the higher education sector.

For further information on concepts and definitions relating to expenditures on R&D in the higher education sector, click on the Related information tab of this release.

Contact information

For more information, or to enquire about the concepts, methods or data quality of this release, contact us (toll-free 1-800-263-1136; 514-283-8300; STATCAN.infostats-infostats.STATCAN@canada.ca) or Media Relations (613-951-4636; STATCAN.mediahotline-ligneinfomedias.STATCAN@canada.ca).

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