A major report released today by Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC) says that harnessing an excellent talent pool is the key to lifting Canada into the top tier of innovation leaders.
State of the Nation 2010: Imagination to Innovation – the second public report from STIC – charts progress from a baseline set in 2008 and compares Canadian performance to global science, technology and innovation leaders. The report also proposes a core list of 20 indicators for future monitoring. The list covers talent, science and technology and other innovation indicators.
The report shows that Canada’s strengths are a strong talent pool and a robust public research capacity. Its two main challenges are to increase private sector investment in innovation and to improve Canada’s capacity to transfer knowledge into the marketplace. State of the Nation 2010: Imagination to Innovation shows that Canada is settling in as a mid-level player despite having an excellent talent pool.
Canadian talent and Canada’s funding for R&D and higher education research continues to rank near the top; young Canadians excel in science, math and reading; Canada is attracting international talent, and innovative excellence can be found in virtually every region and economic sector.
Our challenges include reversing the trend of Canadian industry investing less in R&D than our key global competitors. Despite some real Canadian success stories, low levels of collaboration among companies and between companies and researchers in universities, colleges and government laboratories continue to limit our business potential.
A less innovative economy results in fewer ideas transferred into the marketplace, lower productivity rates and less economic and social benefits for Canadians.
Canada has strong public research capacity
- Canada ranks # 1 in the G7 in terms of research and development performed by the higher education sector (HERD), as a percentage of GDP.
- Canada has a strong international reputation and is attracting new talent.
Canada’s talent pool is holding its own
- Our young people continue to outperform most countries in reading, math and science.
- Among economically advanced countries, Canada has had one of the highest growth rates in university graduates in science and engineering, especially at the doctoral level.
- Canadian universities rank well in lists of the world’s top institutions.
Canada must increase investment in innovation
- Gross domestic expenditure on R&D (GERD), as a percentage of GDP lags behind the G7 and other leading innovators. It declined from 2006-08.
- 8 out of 16 Canadian industry sectors had lower R&D intensity (BERD) than the OECD average.
- Over the 2000-07 period, machinery and equipment investment was less than 75% of US levels and ICT investment was less than half US levels.
- Although Canada is a global leader in indirect support for industry R&D (through tax credits), it ranks low in terms of direct support for business R&D.
Canada must strengthen knowledge transfer
- Business financing of R&D performed by universities has grown substantially but knowledge transfer indicators such as contract research, licence applications and spin-off companies could be better measured to benchmark future performance.
- In 2009, venture capital to support small companies was the lowest since 1996 ranking 7th in OECD with lower rates of return than US.
- Canada must measure collaboration between private and public sector.
- Fostering research collaboration between the public and private sectors will help ensure that Canada’s world-class public research can be successfully translated into benefits for Canadians.
STIC members span business, academia and government. Members said the following about the State of the Nation 2010 report:
“Canada’s biggest opportunity lies in our excellent talent pool. We score very highly in a number of education related indicators. The challenge is how companies and government can deploy and empower our people so we can win in the knowledge economy.” – Dr. Howard Alper, Chair of STIC.
“We’ll be left behind in an increasingly technological world if we continue to over-rely on our resource base to drive Canada’s economic growth. Innovation and the translation of innovation into the marketplace are essential to the future of our children. Canada’s economic and social stability provides an enviable base from which to start charting this future.” – Simon Pimstone, President and CEO of Vancouver-based Xenon Pharmaceuticals.
“Canada’s overall business expenditures on R&D lag behind international innovation leaders. These numbers are trending down when they should be trending up. This is an area that we clearly need to improve and our report shows how individual sectors measure against their international competitors.” – Terry Matthews – leading Canadian entrepreneur, Chair, Mitel and Chair, Wesley Clover Corporation.
“Venture capital is critical for taking ideas to market. The 2009 venture capital rates were the lowest since 1996, half of what it was in 2007. I wouldn’t have been able to start my company in today’s environment.” – Eric Bergeron, Founder and President of Quebec City’s Optosecurity.
“We and others think of Canadians as good collaborators. This report clearly shows that we must do more to leverage each other’s efforts. A knowledge-based economy means building in the ability to deploy knowledge, talent and technology across all business sectors.” – Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, McGill University.
“The many perspectives of Council members made this report stronger. We all learned through this process. It takes us out of silos of business, researchers, higher education and government. The Council thinks Canada can do more than settle in as a mid-level innovator.” – Peter MacKinnon, President, University of Saskatchewan.
The Council, chaired by Dr. Howard Alper, is comprised of 18 senior, highly accomplished individuals from the research, education, business and government communities. The Council provides the Government of Canada with external policy advice on science and technology issues, and produces regular national reports that measure Canada’s science and technology performance against international standards of excellence.