Canada is an attractive place for scientific researchers from all over the world and has seen net immigration of researchers over the last decade, a newly-published report reveals. However, this is not reflected in the number of patents filed and the country invests a lower proportion of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in research than the OECD average.

Canadian Science and Technology is “Healthy and Growing”

Canadian research in the science and technology fields is in good health and is “growing in both output and impact”, claims a report* published by the Council of Canadian Academies. The report shows that Canada is the only G7 country whose published research volume is increasing at an above-world-average rate. Moreover, a survey carried out among 5,000 leading international scientists places Canada firmly among the elite of the research world, ranking the land of the maple leaf in fourth place behind the United States, the United Kingdom and Germany.  “Over the past five years, real improvements have occurred in the magnitude and quality of Canadian science and technology,” says the Council, pointing especially to biology, clinical medicine, information and communication technologies and physics and astronomy as the key areas where the country excels.  Evidence of growing output, Canada-based researchers published 59% more research papers between 2005 and 2010 than over the 1999-2004 period.

Patent deficit

Canada in fact produces 4.1% of the world’s research papers and close to 5% of the most frequently cited scientific papers – a laudable performance given that the country is host to less than 0.5% of the world’s population.  Nevertheless, only 1.7% of all patents granted worldwide were filed from Canadian institutes.  Moreover, in 2010 the country showed a negative balance of some 5 million dollars in terms of licence income and licence fees paid out for use of technology. However, when it comes to the quality of its innovations, as measured by the number of citations received on its patents, Canada has an excellent record, coming in second behind the United States.  

Below-average investment

One worrying finding is that Canadian investment in research and development has been falling as a percentage of GDP in recent years, with the current figure down on that quoted in the previous report published in 2006.  Today Canada is listed in ninth place worldwide on total annual R&D spending, with around $US24 billion equivalent, far behind the leader, the United States, which invests over $400 billion annually.  In GDP terms, Canada currently spends 1.74%of its GDP on R&D, below the OECD average of 2.4%.  

*The State of Science and Technology in Canada, 2012, which examines research performed in the higher education, not-for-profit and state-run sectors, i.e. excluding the private sector.