Data Check: Ottawa’s support for business R&D rises, but at what cost?

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The Expert Panel appointed for the federal government’s Review of Federal Support for Research and Development estimates that federal support for business R&D rose to almost $5 billion in 2010, an increase of 13 per cent since 2007 (after inflation). Meantime, according to Statistics Canada, inflation-adjusted business support for R&D fell by more than 15 per cent in the same period.

Statistics Canada show that between 2007 and 2010 direct federal funding for business R&D rose by 16 per cent after inflation, while, in contrast, federal R&D funding for higher education rose by a mere two per cent. As a percentage of Canada’s GDP, federal support for business R&D and its support for higher education R&D are headed in opposite directions.

This pattern does not bode well for federal funding of basic research at universities, where in fact the bulk of basic research occurs. Even though the Expert Panel estimates that 15 per cent of direct federal funding for business R&D (excluding “commercialization”) was for basic research, that figure includes funding that goes to universities for business-centered research.

This article originally appeared in the OCUFA Report. To receive stories like this every week in your inbox, please subscribe.

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