Nice article in the TJ today about R&D in New Brunswick and the role of an organization called Springboard and its role in commercialization of research. But what is annoying about these types of articles is that they tell a good story but then try and back it up with out of context statistics.
So we get a good review of Springboard but we get inference that New Brunswick is doing very well in the area of R&D.
The facts, statistical facts, don’t bear this out.
In 1999, according to Statistics Canada’s report on the provincial distribution of the gross domestic expenditures on research and development, New Brunswick was the location for 0.9% of Canada’s total R&D spending. In 2006, that figure had increased to 0.9% of Canada’s total R&D spending. Actually that is not an increase.
In 1999, New Brunswick had the lowest spending on R&D per capita in Canada. In 2006, New Brunswick has the lowest spending on R&D per capita in Canada. $363 per person is spent on R&D in New Brunswick (the latest data is for 2006). The next lowest provincial spend is Saskatchewan at $469 per person. Ontario companies, governments and institutions spend $1,008 per person. You can do the math on the difference.
So my problem with articles like this is that they don’t point out the reality that New Brunswick is not making any headway in this area by any comparative measure. We can find a few great stories – and I love great stories – but policy makers need to decide are they serious about R&D or not.
People say I am sour on this issue. I was told just last week my writing is too negative. Look, folks, we can’t get ahead by putting our head in the sand and living in the world of Pollyanna. In the former governments prosperity plan, they put the gap between per capita spending on R&D between NB and the national average at $350. That is the average R&D spend nationally is $350 more per capita than in New Brunswick. The Prosperity Plan was going to change all that. Read it. I have a copy if you want. Here is the objective from page 17 of that plan:
NB will join the top four provinces in R&D expenditures per capita by 2012.
Not only are we last in Canada in R&D spending the gap is widening. In 2006, the gap had risen to $523 per capita.
We need to talk about R&D and we need to share good news stories about innovative new ideas being incubated in New Brunswick. But we also need to know the facts.