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Spending on research and development, 2017 (final), 2018 (preliminary) and 2019 (intentions)

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Released: 2020-01-30

Spending on research and development (intentions)

$35.5 billion


2.3% increase

(year-over-year change)

Canada's gross domestic expenditures on research and development (GERD) reached $35.7 billion in 2017, up 2.0% from the previous year. The increase was mainly tied to a rise in research and development (R&D) expenditures in the higher education sector, which advanced 3.8% to $14.3 billion.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Gross domestic expenditures on research and development, 2013 to 2017
Gross domestic expenditures on research and development, 2013 to 2017

Performing and funding research and development by sector

In Canada, R&D is performed across many sectors of the economy, comprising the business enterprises, federal government, provincial governments, higher education, private non-profit and provincial research organizations sectors. Funding for these R&D activities can come from these sectors themselves or from sources outside Canada.

Overall, R&D performance in 2017 was concentrated in the business enterprise and higher education sectors, accounting for more than 92%, combined, of all R&D performance. Both groups were also the largest direct funders of R&D in their respective performance sectors. The business enterprise sector funded $14.1 billion of its $18.7 billion in R&D performance, while the higher education sector contributed $7.1 billion in direct funding of its $14.3 billion in R&D performance.

In terms of R&D intensity, the ratio of Canada's R&D expenditures to gross domestic product fell from 1.73 in 2016 to 1.67 in 2017. While Canada's intensity of expenditures on R&D is not as high as that of other member countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development—such as Japan, Germany and the United States—Canada was among the largest funders of higher education R&D expenditures in 2017.

At the provincial level, Ontario and Quebec accounted for 70.1% of total R&D expenditures based on funding from all sectors. While Ontario saw a decline in R&D expenditures, Quebec saw a 10.3% rise, reaching $9.7 billion in expenditures. The growth was the result of increased R&D performance in the business enterprise sector.

Research and development by science type

R&D expenditures in Canada are grouped into two categories, or fields, of science: natural sciences and engineering; and social sciences, humanities and the arts. Natural sciences and engineering is by far the larger of the two groups, accounting for 89.5% of the $35.7 billion in expenditures in 2017. This marked a 1.6% growth in spending from the previous year. Quebec saw the largest growth in expenditures in natural sciences and engineering, up 10.8% to $8.8 billion.

Preliminary research and development expenditures expected to decline in 2018

Overall, R&D expenditures are set to decline 2.7% in 2018 to $34.8 billion primarily because of a drop in R&D performance by the business enterprise sector and its corresponding funding. In contrast, the higher education sector is anticipated to increase expenditures to $14.5 billion in 2018.

The majority of sectors expected to increase research and development expenditures in 2019

In 2019, Canada's GERD is expected to rise by 2.3% to $35.5 billion. This forecasted increase would mark a rebound from the anticipated 2.7% decline in expenditures in 2018.

The anticipated increase in Canada's R&D activities is mainly attributable to potential increases in R&D performed by the business sector. This sector is also expected to remain the largest R&D funder in Canada in 2019, followed by the higher education and the federal government sectors, respectively.

Sustainable development goals

On January 1, 2016, the world officially began implementing 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.

Gross domestic expenditures on research and development (GERD) is an example of how Statistics Canada supports the reporting on the global sustainable development goals. This release will be used to help measure the following goal:

  Note to readers

This release presents actual gross domestic expenditures on research and development (GERD) for 2017, and preliminary data for 2018 and 2019 at the national level. Provincial-level data are available only for 2017.

Data for GERD are available in current and constant dollars for both performing and funding sectors, by science type, province, territory and region, in Table 27-10-0273-01. Current dollars are used in this article's analysis.

There are six GERD performing sectors in Canada: business enterprise, private non-profit, higher education, federal government, provincial governments and provincial research organizations. The funding sectors are the same as the performing sectors, but also include the foreign sector.

GERD data presented in this release are performance based and correspond to the sum of intramural research and development (R&D) expenditures reported by performing sectors. Funding sector data are derived from the source of funds indicated by the performing sectors. As a result, GERD funding sector values will not equal funding data collected and released by individual sectors.

Provincial and territorial expenditures are assigned to the province or territory in which the performing organization is located. Provincial and territorial funding sector expenditures represent R&D funding distributed in a province or territory. The funds do not necessarily originate from within the province.

The business enterprise data source for the GERD program was redesigned in 2014, including concepts and methodology. Users should therefore exercise caution when comparing data with historical datasets. To learn more about these survey changes, see the Annual Survey of Research and Development in Canadian Industry page on our website.

Revised time-use coefficients have been applied to Statistics Canada's higher education R&D (HERD) model, starting with the 2012 reference year. Data for the higher education sector from previous years are not comparable. GERD data prior to 2012 should be used with caution.

Data for the provincial government performing sector are currently modelled and based on results from the 2011 Provincial Scientific Activities Survey. However, this release includes 2015 data on R&D activities performed by the provincial government of Quebec, since Quebec conducted its own survey and provided the information to Statistics Canada. Provincial research organization data are collected through a Statistics Canada survey.

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; or Media Relations (613-951-4636;

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