Science, Technology and Innovation Council: Aspiring to Global Leadership

2012 report on the state of Canada's science, technology and innovation system

Media Release

(Ottawa May 21st, 2013) A major report released today by Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC) has concluded that Canada continues to tread water as a mid-level performer in science, technology, and innovation (STI) and is calling for Canada to aim higher and aspire for global leadership on key STI measures.

The State of the Nation 2012 report, Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation System: Aspiring to Global Leadership - the third public report from STIC - charts progress from a baseline set in 2008 and compares Canada's performance to global science, technology and innovation leaders.

Canada has much to celebrate with respect to the high quality of our talent and our strength in generating new knowledge. However, Canada continues to lag in private sector investment in innovation and transferring knowledge into the marketplace, as well as deploying our STI talent to best advantage in the labour force.

"In order for Canada to create jobs and opportunity in a competitive world, we must aim higher," said Dr. Howard Alper, Chair of STIC. "We cannot be satisfied with the status quo or incremental progress. That is why STIC members have identified five areas, in particular, where concerted action is needed to reach global leadership."

"For each of these areas, we have identified the world's top five performing countries and the threshold that Canada would have to attain to break into their ranks," said STIC member Simon Pimstone, President and CEO of Vancouver-based Xenon Pharmaceuticals. "We believe that enhanced performance in these five areas will help secure Canada's future as a global STI leader, bringing significant economic and societal benefits."

The five key STI indicators identified by STIC as strategic areas for improvement include:

  • Business Performance of Research and Development (BERD) as a share of GDP
  • Business investment in Information and Communications Technologies
  • Higher education expenditures on Research and Development (HERD) as a share of GDP
  • Science and engineering doctoral degrees granted per 100,000 population
  • Share of human resources in science and technology

"Canada continues to improve in terms of science and engineering doctoral degrees granted per 100,000 population," said STIC member Heather Munroe-Blum, Principal and Vice-Chancellor, McGill University. "However, in 2010, Canada ranked only 15th in the OECD on this measure – we need to continue to improve our performance if we are to compete with, and break into the ranks of, the world's top five performing countries."

"Canadian business investment in research and development has continuously declined over the past decade. In 2011, Canada ranked 25th out of 41 economies," added STIC member Sophie Forest, Managing Partner, Brightspark Ventures. "Increased business R&D investment is essential to Canada's future as a nation of innovators."

The Council, chaired by Dr. Howard Alper, is comprised of 18 senior, highly accomplished individuals from the business, research, education, and government communities. The Council provides the Government of Canada with external, confidential advice on key science, technology, and innovation policy issues, and produces the biennial, public State of the Nation reports that measure Canada's STI performance against international standards of excellence.

A copy of STIC's State of the Nation 2012 report, Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation System: Aspiring to Global Leadership, as well as biographical notes on the Council members, can be downloaded at http://www.stic-csti.ca.

For more information:

David Rodier, Hill & Knowlton
david.rodier@hillandknowlton.ca
613-371-9834


Backgrounder

State of the Nation 2012 — Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation System: Aspiring to Global Leadership

Canada has an opportunity to take better advantage of those science, technology and innovation areas where we are strong and enhance our performance in those areas where we are weak—to reach for global STI leadership and reap the resulting economic and societal benefits.

The third State of the Nation report from Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC), Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation System: Aspiring to Global Leadership, tracks the country's science, technology and innovation (STI) performance against key comparator countries. New to this 2012 report, STIC identifies five areas, in particular, where concerted action is needed to achieve global leadership.

The State of the Nation 2012 report confirms that Canada has much to celebrate with respect to our knowledge and talent fundamentals. But there are also key areas where our performance is lagging, areas where we must improve — in some cases significantly.

Talent

Canada has a strong STI talent base

  • Canada's highly-educated population continues to be an asset, with 51 percent of the adult population having attained a university or college education, one of the highest levels in the world.
  • Canada is increasing the number of science and engineering graduates we produce. From 2006 to 2010, there was an impressive 32 percent increase in the overall number of science degrees granted and a 7.3 percent increase in the overall number of engineering degrees granted.
  • However, to further enhance this talent base, Canada must produce more graduates at the doctoral level. Production of doctoral graduates reflects a country's potential to engage in cutting-edge R&D and to train the next generation of talent. In 2010, Canada ranked 15th in the OECD in the number of science and engineering doctoral degrees granted (per 100,000 population). This positioned us at about 64 percent of the threshold that we would have to attain to break into the ranks of the top five performing countries in this area.
  • On a positive note, between 2006 and 2010, Canada experienced 48.7 percent growth in the number of science doctoral degrees granted and 38.6 percent growth in the number of engineering doctoral degrees granted.

Canada needs to do much better at deploying its STI talent

  • Canada's performance in the measure of employing human resources in science and technology (HRST) in the labour force continues to disappoint. In 2008 (the latest year for which internationally comparable data is available), Canada's HRST share of the services labour force was about 39 percent, positioning Canada in the middle ranks among OECD countries. Canada's HRST share of the manufacturing labour force, at 11.5 percent, was among the lowest in the OECD.

Knowledge

Canada has strength in generating new knowledge

  • Substantial investment in research in the higher education sector has reaped significant rewards, as the production and refinement of scientific knowledge in Canada continues to be characterized by vitality and high quality. With a share of only 0.5 percent of global population, Canada accounted for 4.4 percent of the world's natural sciences and engineering publications in 2010 — eighth after other countries with significantly larger populations.
  • But Canada cannot be complacent on this front. Canada's higher education investment in R&D (HERD) as a proportion of GDP has fluctuated, declining to 0.66 percent in 2011. With this decline, Canada's rank among 41 economies has dropped from fourth in 2008 and third in 2006, to ninth in 2011.

Canada must do better at transferring knowledge into the marketplace

  • There is considerable knowledge transfer that takes place "on two feet" (through the movement and interplay of people). In addition, the value of Canadian business funding of higher-education R&D (much of it through contract research) has generally increased over time. Canada ranked seventh among comparator countries on the measure of business funding of higher education R&D to GDP.
  • However, Canada continues to show disappointing results in terms of traditional knowledge transfer indicators such as licensing and spin-off companies.
    • In general, U.S. institutions are more successful than Canadian ones at creating licences, keeping them active, and earning income from them.
    • There was also a general downward trend in the number of spinoff companies created from higher education institutions between 2000 and 2010 — although promising signs of an increase in 2011.

Business Innovation

Canada's private sector must increase investments in innovation

  • Canada underperforms on the measure of business expenditure in R&D (BERD). Although preliminary data suggests that BERD in Canada increased very slightly in 2011 and 2012, BERD intensity (BERD as a percentage of GDP) has been in almost continuous decline for the past decade. At 0.89 percent in 2011, Canada's rank among comparator countries on BERD-to-GDP fell to 25th (of 41 economies).
  • Although Canadian business investment in ICT is growing, on the measure of ICT investment intensity, Canada still ranks in the middle among countries of the OECD. In addition, Canada's ICT investment intensity gap with the U.S. is increasing. ICT investment intensity in the business sector in Canada averaged only 42 percent of U.S. levels over the period from 2000 to 2010.
  • Canada also performs poorly on venture capital investment as a share of GDP, ranking 15th out of 27 comparator countries.

About the Science, Technology and Innovation Council

The Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC) is an important element of the federal government's Science and Technology Strategy announced in May 2007, which encourages a more competitive Canadian economy and improved quality of life for Canadians through science and technology. The Council is an advisory body composed of 18 senior, highly accomplished individuals from the business, research, higher education and government communities that provides the Government of Canada with external advice on science, technology and innovation policy issues and produces the biennial State of the Nation reports that measure Canada's STI performance against international standards of excellence. www.stic-csti.ca

A copy of State of the Nation 2012, Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation System: Aspiring to Global Leadership, as well as biographical notes on the Council members, can be downloaded at http://www.stic-csti.ca.