State of the Nation 2012

Chapter 5: Knowledge Development and Transfer

Over the last 15 years, Canada has invested substantially in research in the higher education sector. This investment reaps significant rewards, as the production and refinement of scientific knowledge in Canada continues to be characterized by vitality and high quality, as reflected in key bibliometric indicators. This, in turn, contributes to building a strong foundation for all sectors of the Canadian science, technology and innovation (STI) ecosystem. Given the increasing internationalization of science, it is worthy of note that Canadian researchers are very active in collaborating with their global counterparts, as evidenced through their participation in international co-publications.

Canada’s solid research base, however, does not yield maximum results when it comes to increasing the number of universities ranked among the world’s best that could serve as flagships for Canada and attract even more top academics and students to the country. In addition, Canada continues to face chronic challenges in transferring knowledge developed in higher education institutions to the private sector. This is reflected in our typically disappointing results for licensing activities and the creation of spinoff companies from universities. Improvement in this area will be vital to ensuring that discoveries are translated into practical economic and societal benefits for Canadians.


The production and refinement of scientific knowledge in Canada continues to be characterized by vitality and high quality.


The development of knowledge is the root of a country’s STI ecosystem. Research generates the knowledge that underpins new products, processes, and policies, and it contributes to a more highly skilled workforce that can better meet the demands of the global knowledge economy. Through breakthrough discoveries and the concrete application of those discoveries, knowledge drives our economic and societal well-being.

In Canada, the higher education sector (universities, colleges and affiliated teaching hospitals) continues to be a critically important performer of research and development (R&D). Due largely to increases in government funding, higher education expenditures on R&D (HERD) rose significantly through the late 1990s up to the beginning of the recession in the late 2000s, when growth in spending was very modest. From $3.03 billion in 1990, higher education R&D spending reached $11.53 billion in 2012. Although growing in dollar terms, HERD in relation to the size of the economy (i.e., HERD-to-Gross Domestic Product GDP) has fluctuated over the last decade. After peaking in 2009 at 0.71 percent, HERD intensity declined to 0.66 percent in 2011, as reflected in Figure 5-1.

Despite the recent decline in the HERD-to-GDP ratio, in 2011 (the latest year for which international comparisons are available), Canada continued to rank—as in past years—first in the G7. However, as reflected in Figure 5-2, Canada’s relative position is deteriorating against the broader comparator group of economies. In terms of HERD as a percentage of GDP, Canada ranked ninth out of 41 economies in 2011, down from fourth in 2008 and third in 2006.123 This put its HERD-to-GDP performance in 2011 at 87.9 percent of the threshold of the top five performing countries (Denmark, Sweden, Switzerland, Finland and the Netherlands), although significantly higher than that of the United States (U.S.) (at 55.8 percent of the threshold of the top five performers). This is another measure where securing global leadership can help Canada realize its full STI potential, given the critical importance of knowledge development as a foundation for all sectors of the Canadian STI ecosystem.


Canada ranked ninth out of 41 economies in HERD-to-GDP performance in 2011.

As in previous State of the Nation reports, to look at the results of these investments in higher education R&D, this report uses bibliometric indicators and university rankings to examine Canada’s performance. Considering the slow-moving nature of the academic world, results from these two sets of indicators have not changed significantly since the last State of the Nation report.

Measuring Canada’s Scientific Outputs

Bibliometric indicators are a set of mathematical and statistical methods used to analyze different characteristics of peer-reviewed scientific articles published in international academic journals. Since peer-reviewed journal articles represent the primary mode of disseminating knowledge in almost all scientific fields, bibliometric indicators are now the most widely used quantitative indicators to evaluate knowledge development, and many countries carry out national bibliometric studies to measure research outputs.

There are three types of bibliometric indicators: quantity indicators, which measure the productivity of researchers in absolute numbers through number of publications; impact indicators, which measure the influence of researchers through counts of citations of publications; and structural indicators, which measure, among other things, collaboration among researchers from different countries through international co-publications.

Bibliometric indicators show that Canadian university researchers are prolific publishers, and that their research tends to be of a high quality, particularly in certain fields. The indicators also demonstrate that Canadian researchers are especially well-represented in international co-publications, and they have been very effective at international networking. This is especially important in a global context where the development of knowledge is gradually shifting from individuals to groups and from a national to an international scope.


Canada, with a share of only 0.5 percent of global population, accounted for 4.4 percent of the world’s natural sciences and engineering publications.

Bibliometric Quantity Indicators

The distribution of scientific production around the world has changed significantly in the last 25 years, with North American and European countries witnessing a decrease in their relative share of scientific publications and Latin American and Asian countries seeing an increase. International data published by the Observatoire des sciences et des technologies in Montréal124 show that, in 2010, Canada, with a share of only 0.5 percent of global population, accounted for 4.4 percent of the world’s natural sciences and engineering publications—a proportion unchanged from 2008. In absolute terms, this places Canada in eighth position after countries with significantly larger populations: the U.S., China, Germany, the United Kingdom (U.K.), Japan, France, and Italy. With the exception of China, these countries have seen their respective share of world scientific production decrease since 2003. In contrast, Canada’s share has actually increased, defying the trend in global distribution of scientific production noted above.125

Optimizing the Value Chain in the Forest Industry

Photo provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council
of Canada.Established in 2002 under the leadership of Sophie D’Amours and several of her colleagues at Université Laval, FORAC (De la FORêt Au Client—Forest to Customer) Research Consortium brings together the expertise of researchers from disciplines such as industrial engineering, forestry, computer science and management sciences to optimize the value chain in the forest industry.

Companies and clients use web-based decision-making platforms developed by FORAC to model processes that include forest management, wood supply, mill operations, manufacturing and deliveries to customers. FORAC also develops logistics and manufacturing plans that include measurement of environmental impacts. These tools and methods are instrumental in advancing Canada’s leadership in sustainable forest products manufacturing.

FORAC brings under one umbrella eight industrial partners, who contribute roughly one third of the Consortium’s annual budget of $1.5 million. The rest of the Consortium’s funding comes from the Quebec and federal governments, including the Industrial Research Chairs and Collaborative Research and Development programs of the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC).

FORAC’s achievements have earned it the 2012 Brockhouse Canada Prize for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and Engineering from NSERC.

It is useful to not only do a publication count but also look at the number of publications in the most influential 25 percent of the world’s scholarly journals in their category (as determined by the SCImago Journal Rank indicator on the basis of citation data). According to a count of countries’ publications in these top journals, Canada ranks tenth among Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC) countries on a per capita basis, after Switzerland, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Finland, Australia, and the U.K.126 This suggests that Canadian researchers, even though prolific publishers, could enhance visibility for their research results by seeking more actively to publish in top quartile journals.127

Bibliometric Impact Indicators

Bibliometric impact indicators measure the influence of a country’s researchers as reflected by citation counts—the more citations a journal article gets, the more it is assumed to have influenced later scientific research. The Observatoire des sciences et des technologies compiles an average relative citations (ARC) index by country, which measures short-term impact for natural sciences and engineering publications.128 According to this indicator, when a country has an ARC value greater than 1, its publications get more citations than the world average and therefore have more impact. In 2010, Canada’s ARC was 1.32 (up from 1.29 in 2008), which places it well above the world average, but still 24th, behind countries including Switzerland (1.66), Denmark (1.63), the Netherlands (1.59), the U.K. (1.46), and the U.S. (1.38). Canada’s ARC has risen continuously since 2001 (when it was at 1.22) but, with the exception of the U.S., Cambodia and Gambia, all the countries that place above Canada in 2010 saw their ARC increase more than Canada’s during this period. Canada’s relatively lacklustre ARC performance against the top countries is linked to the fact, noted above, that Canadian researchers do not publish as much in top quartile journals, which are, by definition, the journals that receive the most citations.

A breakdown by field of study reveals that Canada’s ARC exceeds the international average in all scientific fields. Canada obtains its best ARC scores in physics, with an ARC of 1.47. Other areas of Canadian strength include clinical medicine (1.46) and earth and space (1.42). For other scientific fields, Canada’s scores are as follows: biomedical research (1.31), biology (1.28), chemistry (1.28), mathematics (1.17), and, engineering and technology (1.05).

It is also possible to consider bibliometric impact indicators at the institution level. The OECD undertook work to identify the 50 universities with the highest impact (in terms of citations to publications across all disciplines) in the world. In 2009, 40 of the top 50 universities in this respect were located in the U.S., with the remaining ten located in Europe: five in the U.K., two in France, and one in each of the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy.129 No Canadian university was ranked in the top 50 overall, but Canada fared better on a subject-by-subject basis, with its universities placing among the top 50 in 11 out of 16 areas. There were four universities in earth and planetary sciences, and three in pharmacology, toxicology and pharmaceuticals. There were also two universities in each of computer science, engineering, environmental science, immunology and microbiology, neuroscience and psychology. Finally, there was one university in each of materials science, medicine and social sciences.

Uncovering the True Nature of Fundamental Forces and Particles

Uncovering the True Nature of Fundamental Forces and ParticlesNamed Scientist of the Year 2012 by Radio-Canada, Canadian physicist Pierre Savard is helping to uncover the true nature of fundamental forces and particles.

Dr. Savard is an Associate Professor of Experimental Particle Physics at the University of Toronto and a scientist at Canada’s Vancouver-based TRIUMF, one of the world’s leading subatomic physics laboratories. Dr. Savard played a key role in what has been described as one of the most important scientific quests of a generation. As Canadian Physics Coordinator of ATLAS (a particle physics experiment at the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, the world’s largest and highest energy particle accelerator), Dr. Savard belongs to one of two teams that proved the existence of the Higgs boson—a massive elementary particle that gives all objects mass—in July 2012. Dr. Savard and six other researchers from the University of Toronto (Richard Teuscher, David Bailey, Peter Krieger, Robert Orr, Pekka Sinervo and William Trischuk) built an essential component of the ATLAS detector and sifted through ATLAS data using the SciNet computing resources at the university to identify collisions containing Higgs boson candidates.

Apart from advancing our knowledge on the fundamental laws of physics, this type of research contributes to the training of a highly skilled technology workforce and leads to many technological spinoffs. Dr. Savard’s research was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canada Foundation for Innovation and the Ontario Research Fund.

Structural Indicators

In the global knowledge economy, collaboration among researchers from different countries is an increasingly important feature of scientific research. Evidence suggests that international co-publications receive more citations and have more impact, and that the broader the collaboration, the higher the impact of the research. Data published by the Observatoire des sciences et des technologies showed that, in 2010, 48.8 percent of natural sciences and engineering articles published by Canadian researchers were international co-publications. This is a peak reached after a steady upward trend, from 14.3 percent in 1980, 22.7 percent in 1990, 36.3 percent in 2000, and 45.9 percent in 2008. Interestingly, from 1980 to 2007, the difference between Canada’s rate of international co-publications and the average rate of G7 countries increased from 8 percent to 16 percent.130 In 2010, Canadian researchers in natural sciences and engineering collaborated most with researchers in the U.S. (47.6 percent of Canada’s co-publications), followed by the U.K. (13.9 percent), Germany (10.8 percent), France (10.6 percent), and China (10.4 percent).

Increasing International Recognition for Canada’s Leading Scholars and Scientists

The Governor General of Canada, His Excellency the Right Honourable David Johnston, is leading an initiative to enhance the visibility of Canada’s increasing contributions to global research excellence. Recognizing Canadian research achievements serves to promote a culture of excellence and innovation, and to inspire young Canadians to pursue academic studies and careers in research. It also increases Canada’s profile internationally as a top location for study, research and citizenship.

Under this initiative, early steps have been taken to support nominations of Canada’s leading scholars and scientists for major scientific prizes and awards, including Nobel prizes, which have seldom been won by Canadian researchers. The presidents of Canada’s three federal granting councils—NSERC, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC)—have offered their assistance to Canada’s research-based stakeholders in supporting the development of compelling dossiers on their top candidates for international awards.

Measuring the Performance of Canada’s Universities

Globalization has fuelled competition among universities on a global basis and has increased the attention afforded to world rankings of universities as measures of a country’s performance in research. There are currently three major university ranking systems, each of which ranks universities on different criteria: the Graduate School of Education, Shanghai Jiao Tong University (GSE-SJTU) Academic Ranking of World Universities (the “Shanghai ranking”); the Times Higher Education (THE) ranking; and the Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) World University Rankings.

State of the Nation 2008 and 2010 reported Canada’s results in all three rankings in detail, while acknowledging the rankings’ many limitations and methodological flaws. The latest results from all three ranking systems show that their respective top ten lists continue to be monopolized by institutions from the U.S. and the U.K. Canada is notable insofar as it is one of only three other countries across all three ranking systems that hosts universities ranked between 11th and 20th place. Canada and Switzerland both have two top 20 rankings, while Japan has one.

However, despite Canada’s considerable investments in higher education R&D, it has shown no consistent progress in enhancing its standings in the top 100 universities in any of the ranking systems since State of the Nation 2008, and it has been unsuccessful in moving any of its leading research universities closer to the top ten. Some evidence even suggests that Canada’s performance is falling slightly in the top 100, while some countries’ performance is improving. Canada is competing in a global environment where some countries are investing aggressively in higher education and research and are adopting targeted strategies aimed at catapulting their universities into the ranks of the world’s best. In this environment, the competitive position of Canada’s research universities could erode, and it could become increasingly difficult to secure and improve their place in the select group of world-leading institutions. Bold initiatives, including a coherent national strategy, are needed to propel more Canadian universities into the very top ranks of the world’s leading institutions.

Asian Countries’ Strategic Investments in Higher Education Research

In recent years, many Asian economies, including China, India, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, and Malaysia, have developed ambitious plans to strategically build world-class universities in support of their economic and societal development. For example, the Chinese government launched the 985 Project, designed to develop 39 universities to meet world-class standards and establish international reputations. Among these 39 universities, nine were further targeted to be developed into world-class, “Chinese Ivy League” universities. Even among the nine, distinctions were drawn to further concentrate national resources on Peking and Tsinghua Universities, in an effort to propel them into the world’s top twenty higher education institutions.1 Between 1999 and 2007, the central government invested Y32.0 billion (approximately US$4.9 billion) in the 985 Project, with more than half of that going to the top nine universities. Since 1999, these nine universities have significantly increased the number of publications they feature in quality scientific journals, and they have seen their relative positions steadily improve in university ranking tables.2

1Richard Levin, “The Rise of Asia’s Universities,” Foreign Affairs (May/June 2012), p. 4.

2Qing Hui Wang, Qi Wang, and Nian Cai Liu, “Building World-Class Universities in China: Shanghai Jiao Tong University,” in Philip G. Altbach and Jamil Salmi (editors), The Road to Academic Excellence: The Making of World-Class Research Universities (Washington: The International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, 2011), pp. 34–36.


Knowledge transfer is the process of transferring scientific knowledge from one organization to another for the purpose of commercialization and/or public benefit. It covers a continuum of activities, involving all sectors and actors of the science, technology and innovation ecosystem, in which knowledge is transferred back and forth between knowledge creators and users who convert knowledge into goods, services or innovation. Knowledge transfer activities are therefore critical to economic and societal well-being.


Canada continues to face challenges in transferring knowledge from academic institutions to the private sector.

As industry grows in knowledge intensity, knowledge transfer will play an increasingly important economic role. This is especially true for the transfer of knowledge and intellectual property associated with discoveries made at higher education institutions. More and more countries are currently designing programs to transfer knowledge from higher education institutions in order to enhance economic development. As universities and colleges become important partners in economic development, this will lead to more complex interactions and relationships among actors of the science, technology and innovation ecosystem.

As the old adage acknowledges, the most important form of knowledge transfer is “on two feet”—in other words, it is through the movement and interplay of people. Knowledge is transferred back and forth between industry and academia when college and university students (at all levels) undertake internships and co-op terms in companies. Internship and co-op programs provide work-integrated learning opportunities for students, by placing them for a particular period of time in firms that foster, and also benefit from, their talents and knowledge. Knowledge is also transferred when graduates find employment that brings their knowledge directly to bear in the job market. Canada’s performance related to these forms of knowledge transfer is addressed in Chapter 6: Talent Development and Deployment.

Industry-academia R&D collaboration is another vital form of knowledge transfer “on two feet.” Collaboration may take many forms, including: experienced researchers sitting on companies’ boards or spending time working in industry; and companies creating university research institutes or funding postgraduate scholarships to better train students to meet industry’s needs. The most meaningful industry-academia collaboration occurs on long-term, discovery-oriented research initiatives with the potential to transform industries and on applied research projects closer to the market. Direct and sustained university-industry R&D collaboration can happen through research networks, which can revolve around university-based research centres established in collaboration with industry. Supporting networks in our large but sparsely populated country is a central design feature of programs supporting R&D in Canada.

Although there are many excellent examples of industry-academia collaboration in Canada, the need for increased collaboration among the partners of Canada’s science, technology and innovation ecosystem has been a consistent message of State of the Nation reports. In the World Economic Forum’s 2012–2013 Global Competitiveness Report, a survey of business leaders ranked Canada 15th out of 144 economies in terms of university-industry R&D collaboration (down from 7th place in 2010–11 and 14th place in 2008–09), behind countries such as Switzerland (first place), the U.K. (second), the U.S. (third), Germany (11th), and Australia (13th).131 Caution should be exercised when interpreting results because this ranking lacks the methodological rigour of more quantitative data, since it reflects the perceptions of business leaders in Canada about Canada relative to the perceptions of business leaders from other countries about their respective countries.

Knowledge Transfer at Work in the Oil Sands

Knowledge Transfer at Work in the Oil SandsIndustry and academia are collaborating at the Centre for Oil Sands Innovation (COSI) to find new ways to ensure the environmentally, economically and socially sustainable development of Canada’s oil sands resources.

COSI was established at the University of Alberta (U of A) in 2005 through a partnership between Imperial Oil Resources Ltd. and the university’s Faculty of Engineering. Since its creation, COSI has developed into a research network that employs more than 100 research personnel through the involvement of provincial government agencies, private companies and four other Canadian universities—the University of Victoria, the University of British Columbia, Queen’s University and the University of Ottawa. Research projects carried out at COSI typically engage university and industry researchers in partnership at every stage of the research cycle, from identification of research ideas and assessment of the potential value to the industry, to execution and evaluation of the research results.

Oil sands research at the centre focuses on minimizing water and energy use, lowering greenhouse gas and other emissions, and yielding high quality products at lower cost. For example, a research group led by U of A professor Dr. Natalia Semagina recently developed catalysts for fuel upgrading based on metals that are less expensive than platinum currently used in refineries. The research problem was identified by Imperial Oil, and the U of A research team proposed an efficient methodology to solve it. Frequent meetings between the university research personnel and the industrial scientists allowed efficient knowledge exchange and helped tailor the academic fundamental science to the needs of the company. The newly developed catalysts are intended to improve the quality of fuel, reducing its negligible environmental and health impact, as well as to reduce the energy consumption for fuel upgrading technologies.

Since its inception, COSI has received funding from its industrial partner, Imperial Oil Resources Ltd., as well as from Alberta Innovates and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada.


Earlier Detection and Better Treatment of Diseases through Gene Analysis

Sequencing the human genome, along with new ideas about the role of so-called “junk” DNA, are exponential leaps forward in understanding how our bodies truly work—and these advances are setting the stage for one day providing individuals with medical care custom-tailored to fit their unique DNA. The McGill University and Génome Québec Innovation Centre is playing an important part in advancing this work, by decoding the role a person’s genetic sequence plays in disorders such as cardiac disease, asthma and Type 2 diabetes. The end goal: earlier detection, more effective treatments and improved quality of life for millions of Canadians. Earlier Detection and Better Treatment of Diseases through Gene Analysis

The Innovation Centre provides complete DNA and RNA analysis services—including novel methodologies for single-molecule sequencing and functional annotation of genomes—to industrial users and academic institutions. The centre has also attracted industrial partners, working with IBM, for example, to identify solutions to deal with the massive amounts of data generated by genomics research.

The work of the Innovation Centre has already proven instrumental in many large-scale genomic investigations. The Finding of Rare Disease Genes in Canada (FORGE) project, for example, uses the Innovation Centre’s Next-Generation Sequencing technology to quickly analyse a person’s genetic code, allowing researchers to identify genes that cause birth defects, intellectual disability and other problems. Researchers in the Canadian Pediatric Cancer Genome Consortium are using that same technology to learn the hidden weaknesses of six of the most aggressive childhood cancers.

The Innovation Centre is led by Scientific Director Mark Lathrop, who joined McGill in 2011, returning to Canada with a wealth of cutting-edge research experience, including laying the groundwork for the Human Genome Project by co-founding the Centre National de Génotypage in Paris in 1998. Since its inception, the Innovation Centre has received funding from Genome Canada, Génome Québec, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, the Fonds de la recherche en santé du Québec and the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

In addressing Canada’s performance on knowledge transfer, it is important to consider indicators associated with the “demand-pull” model and the “supply-push” model. The “demand-pull” model is when universities and other research organizations are solicited by industry to find solutions to production and innovation problems (reflected here in contract research data). The “supply-push” model is when institutions transfer academic inventions to existing firms or to new ventures via the licensing or spinoff of intellectual property (IP).

Unfortunately, as in State of the Nation 2008 and 2010, the absence of internationally comparable data constrains the ability to compare Canada’s “demand-pull” and “supply-push” knowledge transfer performance relative to peer countries. Cumulative evidence, however, suggests that Canada—while showing some positive signs regarding “demand-pull” knowledge transfer—continues to face challenges in transferring knowledge from academic institutions to the private sector. This is disappointing, especially given the Canadian government’s explicit focus on commercialization since the mid-2000s. Improved performance in this area will be necessary to ensure that Canada benefits fully from its investments and strengths in knowledge development.

Demand-Pull Knowledge Transfer

Knowledge Transfer through Contract Research

The companies and organizations that contract research to universities and hospitals do so to address a specific problem or need. This makes contract research an especially effective mechanism for transferring knowledge that has practical applications and potential commercial value.

In 2009, Canada’s 95 universities and university-affiliated research hospitals undertook research contracts worth $1.65 billion, down from the almost $2 billion in 2008 reported in State of the Nation 2010, a decrease that could probably be attributed largely to the economic crisis. Still, the 2009 value represents an increase over 2005, 2006, and 2007, when Canadian universities undertook research contracts worth $1.00 billion, $1.15 billion and $1.27 billion, respectively.132 This compares very favourably to the U.S. where, in 2009, research contracts accounted for $4 billion of total research expenditures in a sample of roughly 185 U.S. institutions (universities, hospitals and research institutions).133

From 2005 to 2008, universities’ and research hospitals’ contracts with Canadian firms and non-profit organizations accounted for approximately 33 percent of the total value of research contracts, while their contracts with the federal and provincial governments accounted for roughly 20 percent and 25 percent, respectively. Foreign sources (governments, business enterprises or organizations) accounted for the rest (22 percent).

It is interesting to note that the value of Canadian business funding of higher education R&D (much of it through contract research) has increased over time, to reach a high of $896 million in 2009, as reflected in Figure 5-3. After reaching 6.33 percent of total business R&D expenditures in 2009, the higher education sector’s share declined to 6.13 percent in 2012, but this remains notably higher than in 2001, when it was 5.18 percent.

Supply-Push Knowledge Transfer

Licensing Technologies

Indicators based on licences measure commercially valuable knowledge transfer to the private sector and indicate leveraging of public investments in the higher education sector. The most recent numbers reported by Statistics Canada show either stagnation or a drop in Canadian licensing activities. According to the Survey of Intellectual Property Commercialization in the Higher Education Sector (2009), 76 percent of the 95 responding Canadian universities and university-affiliated research hospitals were engaged in IP management, down from 81 percent in 2008. According to the same survey, those same institutions created 537 new licences and options (i.e., the right to negotiate for a licence) in 2009, basically unchanged from 2007 and 2008, and they had a total of 2,662 active licences, down from 3,343 in 2008.

Bridging the Commercialization Gap between Academia and Industry

The Centre for Drug Research and Development (CDRD) (a Centre of Excellence for Commercialization and Research (CECR)) is Canada’s fully-integrated national drug development and commercialization centre. Its mandate is to transform discoveries stemming from publicly-funded health research into new medicines to treat human diseases and viable investment opportunities for the private sector.

Bridging the Commercialization Gap between Academia and IndustryBased in Vancouver, CDRD combines a not-for-profit drug development platform with a commercialization vehicle, CDRD Ventures Inc. (CVI). Both CDRD and CVI have developed a number of partnerships with leading global pharmaceutical companies, including Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Johnson & Johnson and Roche. Through these partnerships, specific funding has been committed to help advance Canada’s most innovative and therapeutically promising health technologies towards commercialization, and to provide valuable commercial expertise into early-stage technology development. Under these partnerships, CDRD and/or CVI drive the development of projects jointly selected in cooperation with each of the industry partners. CDRD/CVI, along with the respective industry partners, collectively determine the most appropriate development paths for the intellectual property associated with the selected projects and assess opportunities for collaboration, funding, management and commercialization of these technologies.

CDRD/CVI has operational facilities located on the campuses of the University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University and the BC Cancer Agency. In February 2013, it was awarded with $8 million in new funding as a result of the federal government’s latest CECR competition.

The Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM) also publishes data on knowledge transfer activities by Canadian universities. The data in AUTM’s 2011 Canadian Licensing Activity Survey derive from a considerably smaller sample than that captured by Statistics Canada (covering approximately 40 Canadian universities and affiliated research hospitals). In being less comprehensive, the data should be considered indicative of Canadian activity. AUTM data are, however, more recent than Statistics Canada data and allow comparisons with U.S. data, reported in AUTM’s 2011 U.S. Licensing Activity Survey, which captures about 185 American institutions.

People-Centred Information Technologies

Sheelagh Carpendale is at the forefront of efforts to ensure that information technology devices serve the people who use them in practical, intuitive ways that support the way we live and work. She is the NSERC/AITF/SMART Industrial Research Chair in Interactive Technologies and the Canada Research Chair in Information Visualization at the University of Calgary. There she leads a research team—one of the few in the world—developing interactive tabletop display applications that receive input through natural human actions rather than a mouse, keyboard or special input device.

Dr. Carpendale draws on her broad, interdisciplinary research expertise—including fine arts, psychology, ethnography, information visualization and human computer interaction—to enable the design of innovative, people-centred information technologies. By studying how people interact with information, images, technology and each other, she designs more natural, accessible, interactive and understandable visual representations of data.

Dr. Carpendale’s partnership with Calgary-based SMART Technologies has influenced the development of its interactive whiteboards and has prompted the company to include interactive tabletops as part of its multi-touch displays used in classrooms and offices around the world.

Dr. Carpendale’s involvement with Canada-wide research collaborations funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC)—networks such as NECTAR (human-computer interaction), SurfNet (touch-based interaction) and GRAND (digital media and technology)—has played an important role in the development of her work, which earned her a 2012 E.W.R. Steacie Memorial Fellowship from NSERC.


Overall, as reflected in Figure 5-4, the data reported by AUTM show that U.S. institutions are generally more successful than Canadian ones at creating licences, keeping them active, and earning licensing income. The AUTM 2011 Canadian survey confirms the stagnation reported by Statistics Canada in the creation of new licences and options between 2007 and 2009134 and suggests a continuing decline since that time. The AUTM 2011 U.S. survey reveals that the creation of new licences and options also stagnated somewhat in the U.S. between 2007 and 2010, but then increased significantly in 2011. With respect to active licences, AUTM reported a marginal improvement for Canadian institutions since 2009, and a more significant improvement in the U.S. Finally, according to AUTM numbers, licensing income at Canadian institutions increased to $65.9 million in 2011, while remaining somewhat constant in the U.S., at US$2.46 billion. Despite the increase in Canadian licensing income, this nonetheless means that a Canadian institution received, on average, approximately $1.6 million from licensing income, while a U.S. institution received, on average, approximately US$13.3 million.

Making University Intellectual Property More Easily Accessible—The Example of Southern British Columbia Research Universities

The Southern British Columbia Research Universities (The University of British Columbia, The University of Victoria and Simon Fraser University) have recently launched an initiative to reduce the burden associated with negotiating a licence agreement with these institutions and to make their IP more accessible. Through this initiative, they are aiming to harmonize their technology transfer practices and create simple and inexpensive ways for entrepreneurs and industry to access university-generated IP and technology. Funding requested by the three universities from the British Columbia Innovation Council will support the formation of the BC Express Technology Licensing Program, which will provide standardized and simplified licence agreements for commercial partners, and the Open IP Program, which will streamline industry access to non-patented innovations developed at these universities.

Canada’s relatively poor performance in licensing activities could signal that Canadian universities are less focused than American ones on producing the type of knowledge that firms need. Canada’s poor performance could also suggest that companies are discouraged by the excessive amount of time and resources typically associated with negotiating a licence agreement in Canada.

Spinoff Companies

The creation of spinoff companies from universities and university-affiliated research hospitals can be viewed as a reflection of these institutions’ commitment to commercialization. The number of spinoff companies created on a yearly basis by Canadian institutions is notably lower than that in the U.S. The most recent edition (2009) of Statistics Canada’s Survey of Intellectual Property Commercialization in the Higher Education Sector provided no updates on spinoffs, but according to the 2008 edition, Canadian universities and university-affiliated research hospitals incorporated 19 spinoff companies in 2008, down significantly from 50 in 2007. The number of spinoff companies incorporated on a yearly basis since 1980 showed a steady upward trajectory through to 1999, with a strong peak from 1995 to 1999, and a steady decline since then. This downward trend saw Canadian institutions revert back in 2008 to pre-1990 numbers in terms of spinoff creation on a yearly basis, as reflected in Figure 5-5.

Data gathered independently by AUTM in its licensing surveys confirm the general downward trend in spinoff creation in Canada between 2000 and 2010. The surveys also show, however, for a sample of approximately 40 Canadian institutions, an increase from 50 spinoff companies created in 2010 to 68 in 2011, which represents a significant 36 percent increase between the two years.135 It will be interesting to see if this marks the beginning of a new upward trend in Canada. AUTM’s U.S. data—based on a sample of roughly 180 U.S. institutions—show that the number of spinoff companies created annually by universities in the U.S. went up continuously between 2006 and 2011, from 462 to 670. To put this in comparative terms, this translates into about 1.7 spinoff companies per reporting institution in Canada in 2011, in contrast to 3.7 spinoffs per reporting institution in the U.S. These results suggest that U.S institutions are much more active than Canadian ones in generating spinoff companies. Canadian technology, engineering, and natural science students and researchers could benefit from better training—through entrepreneurship courses in developing and commercializing research products with commercial potential.136

123Where data for 2006, 2008 and/or 2011 were not available, data for the next closest year were used to calculate the ranking. See years used in Figure 5-2.

124The bibliometric section of State of the Nation 2010 drew on international data published by the Observatoire des sciences et des techniques in Paris, which differs from the Observatoire des sciences et des technologies. These data were not updated on time to be used in this report. Differences in calculation methods account for the differences in the numbers reported in State of the Nation 2010 and in this 2012 report. In terms of trends over time, however, the results published by the two organizations are strongly correlated, thus making this bibliometric analysis complementary to the one offered in State of the Nation 2010.

125Observatoire des sciences et des technologies (Thomson Reuters–Web of Science).

126OECD, Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2011, Paris (2011), p. 94.

127This conclusion is corroborated by the Shanghai Jiao Tong University Ranking, which measures, for all ranked universities, the number of papers published in the two most prestigious scientific journals, Nature and Science, between 2006 and 2010, and the number of papers in these two journals per staff. The performance of most of Canada’s top-ranked universities on these indicators is generally well below their overall rankings.

128This indicator is based on the number of citations received by natural sciences and engineering papers from a given country for a three-year period following their publication. These citation counts are then normalized by the average number of citations received by all papers in the same subfield, taking into account that citation practices vary from one subfield to another.

129OECD, Science, Technology and Industry Scoreboard 2011, Paris (2011), p. 42.

130Observatoire des sciences et des technologies, “Research in Canada 2007: a Collaborative Affair,” S&T Observation Note no. 22 (December 2009), p. 4.

131World Economic Forum, Global Competitiveness Report 2012–2013, n.p. (2012), p. 515.

132Statistics Canada, CANSIM Table 358-0025, January 2013.

133Association of University Technology Managers, U.S. Licensing Activity Survey: FY2011, n.p. (2012), p. 19.

134Association of University Technology Managers, Canadian Licensing Activity Survey: FY2011, n.p. (2012), p. 36.

135Association of University Technology Managers, Canadian Licensing Activity Survey: FY2011, n.p. (2012), p. 43.

136Association of University Technology Managers, U.S. Licensing Activity Survey: FY2011, n.p. (2012), p. 37.