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Spending on research and development in the higher education sector, 2017/2018

Released: 2019-09-06

Spending on research and development in the higher education sector

$14.3 billion

2017/2018

3.8% increase

(annual change)

Spending on research and development (R&D) activities in Canada's higher education sector totalled $14.3 billion in 2017/2018, up 3.8% from the previous year. This was the eighth consecutive annual increase.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Research and development expenditures in the higher education sector
Research and development expenditures in the higher education sector

Canada's proportion of R&D spending in higher education in relation to its overall gross domestic expenditures on R&D has remained around 40% in recent years. While actual spending has remained lower than in other countries, the proportion that Canada spends on higher education R&D places it among the leading member countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Generally, the emphasis placed on R&D in this sector is tied to the notion that academic institutions are considered major research centres within countries.

R&D spending in the higher education sector up in all six funding sectors

R&D activities in the higher education sector can be funded internally by academic institutions themselves, or externally through research grants and research contracts. External funding providers include the federal government, provincial governments, private non-profit organizations, business enterprises and the foreign sector.

In 2017/2018, the largest funding source of higher education R&D in Canada was the higher education sector itself. For the period, R&D expenditures by this funding sector rose 4.3% to $7.1 billion. The federal government (+5.1%) followed, at $3.3 billion. While these funding sectors made the largest overall contribution to higher education R&D spending, for the first time since 2008/2009, all funding sectors saw increased expenditures in 2017/2018.

Chart 2  Chart 2: Research and development expenditures in the higher education sector, by funding sector, 2017/2018
Research and development expenditures in the higher education sector, by funding sector, 2017/2018

The majority of higher education R&D spending occurred in the natural sciences and engineering category (76.2%), with expenditures reaching $10.9 billion in 2017/2018, up 3.5% from the previous period. The remaining spending occurred in the social sciences and humanities category (23.8%), which rose 4.8% to $3.4 billion.

From a provincial perspective, most provinces recorded a rise in R&D expenditures in the higher education sector. The exceptions were Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick, which both saw a decline in 2017/2018.

  Note to readers

Expenditures on research and development in the higher education sector concepts

The higher education sector is composed of all universities, colleges of technology and other institutions that provide formal tertiary education programs, as well as all research institutes and centres, experimental stations and clinics that are affiliated with higher education institutions.

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 R&D expenditures in the higher education sector, please see this release's "Related information" tab.

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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