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Spending on research and development, 2019 (final), 2020 (preliminary) and 2021 (intentions)

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Released: 2022-02-14

Spending on research and development (final)

$40.3 billion


3.9% increase

(year-over-year change)

Early estimates reveal a decline in research and development expenditures in 2021, following increases in 2019 and 2020 

Early estimates of Canada's gross domestic expenditures on research and development for 2021 indicate that spending declined 1.4% to $40.1 billion. This decrease was driven by an 8.7% reduction in funding by the federal government, which follows a slight increase of 0.7% in 2020 which was also mainly attributed to the federal government. Of the remaining funding sectors, only the business enterprise sector is anticipated to have had a decrease in spending in 2020 (-3.1%).

Research and development (R&D) expenditures in 2019 reached $40.3 billion, a 3.9% increase from 2018, and the fourth consecutive year-over-year gain. This spending represents the highest amount that Canada has ever recorded in both current and constant dollars, and it was driven mainly by increased spending by business enterprises.

Chart 1  Chart 1: Canadian gross domestic expenditures on research and development by field of research, actual 2019 (final), preliminary (2020) and intentions (2021)
Canadian gross domestic expenditures on research and development by field of research, actual 2019 (final), preliminary (2020) and intentions (2021)

The business enterprise sector leads the charge in 2019

The growth in R&D spending in 2019 was driven by business enterprises, who increased their spending on R&D by $753 million (+4.4%). Higher education institutions also contributed significantly to the increase, with spending rising $303 million (+4.1%), while the federal government saw an increase of $128 million (+1.9%).

Looking at R&D spending across Canada in 2019, the proportion of total R&D expenditures by province was largest in Ontario (44.9%), followed by Quebec (25.0%) and British Columbia (12.2%). The majority of R&D expenditures were in the field of natural sciences.

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.

Data on Canada's gross domestic expenditures on research and development are 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 2019, actual gross preliminary data for 2020 and intentions data for 2021 at the national level. Data for research and development (R&D) spending intentions for 2021 were collected before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Provincial-level data are available only for 2019.

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.

R&D funding comes from seven sectors: the federal government, provincial governments, business enterprises, higher education, private non-profit organizations, provincial research organizations, and the foreign sector.

GERD data presented in this release are performance based and correspond to the sum of intramural 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 the Statistics Canada website.

The higher education data source was modified to include revised time-use coefficients in 2012. Users should exercise caution when comparing data with historical datasets.

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, which 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 (

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