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Research and development personnel, 2016

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Released: 2019-02-25

The number of research and development (R&D) personnel in Canada fell by 8.8% in 2016 to 229,790 full-time equivalents (FTE). The decline was across all sectors, with the exception of higher education, where there was a slight increase of 510 FTE.

In contrast, there were almost 252,000 FTEs in 2015, the second largest number of R&D personnel since the beginning of this data series in 2000. R&D personnel peaked at 256,650 FTE in 2008, just prior to the economic downturn caused by the global financial crisis.

R&D technicians lose the most full-time equivalents in 2016 

R&D technicians were the most affected R&D personnel in 2016, falling by 16.0% or 8,400 FTEs from 2015. The number of researchers declined by 4.8% (-7,830 FTE), while R&D support staff decreased by 18.7% (-5,500 FTE). This was the second largest decline for R&D support staff, surpassed only in 2009, during the economic downturn.

In 2016, on-site consultants fell by 6.2% (-440 FTE). On-site consultants include self-employed individuals or contractors who provide R&D services to an organization as part of its in-house R&D activities.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Research and development occupation categories
Research and development occupation categories

Business enterprises contribute most to the decrease in R&D personnel

In 2016 business enterprises employed 141,290 R&D personnel, the equivalent of over 60% of the national total. This was down 13.0% from the previous year. The 21,080 fewer FTE employed by the business sector accounted for 95% of the total decrease in economy-wide R&D personnel.

The federal government R&D personnel declined by 7.8% in 2016, reporting 1,000 fewer FTE. Overall, the federal government employed 5% of total R&D personnel in 2016.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Total research and development personnel by performing sector
Total research and development personnel by performing sector

Sustainable Development Goals

On January 1, 2016, the world officially began implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development—the United Nations' transformative plan of action that addresses urgent global challenges over the next 15 years. The plan is based on 17 specific sustainable development goals.

Data on research and development personnel are an example of how Statistics Canada supports the reporting on the Global Goals for Sustainable Development. This release will be used in helping to measure the following goal:

  Note to readers

Research and development (R&D) personnel counts are rounded to the nearest ten and reported as full-time equivalents. Full-time equivalent is a measure of the time actually devoted to R&D. An employee who is engaged in R&D for half a year has a full-time equivalence of 0.5.

R&D personnel encompass a variety of occupations that are classified into three categories according to their R&D function (Frascati Manual 2015): researchers, technicians and support staff.

Researchers are professionals engaged in the conception or creation of new knowledge. They conduct research and improve or develop concepts, models and methods. Managers and administrators who plan and manage the scientific and technical aspects of a researcher's work, as well as graduate students, are also included.

Technicians and equivalent staff perform scientific and technical tasks involving the application of concepts and operational methods in one or more fields of natural sciences and engineering or social sciences, humanities and the arts, normally under the supervision of researchers.

Support staff includes skilled and unskilled craftsmen, and administrative, secretarial and clerical staff directly associated with R&D projects.

On-site research consultants represent self-employed individuals or contractors who are working on the site of the R&D performer and contribute to their intramural R&D. While on-site research consultants are not considered part of the performer's intramural R&D personnel, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development has directed countries to include these consultants as part of total R&D personnel.

Beginning with 2014 data, the business enterprise R&D sector's statistical program concepts and methodology were redesigned. Users should therefore exercise caution when comparing data from 2014 onwards with historical datasets. Documentation on this methodology can be found on the Research and Development in Canadian Industry (Changes to the survey for reference year 2014) page of our website.

There are five performing sectors in Canada's R&D personnel release: business enterprise, private non-profit, higher education, federal government and provincial government (which includes provincial research organizations).

Contact information

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