R&D in universities

This report came out yesterday from Statistics Canada showing the amount of R&D in the higher education sector in Canada.  I reported not that long ago that R&D in businesses in New Brunswick (funded by all sources) is now higher than several other provinces in Canada.  However, overall R&D expenditures in New Brunswick remain dead last in the country due to the following table.  The table shows the amount of spending in the higher education sector on R&D by source of funds.  New Brunswick is last in Canada across just about every category.

The fact that the feds are wildy underfunding R&D in New Brunswick continues to amaze me.  I would expect some variation but we are lower than the next lowest province for federal R&D by 27% (per capita).  Hopefully the new medical school activity in New Brunswick will start to put a dent in this.

I won’t let the province off the hook, however. Former Premier Lord talked about moving New Brunswick into the fourth position in Canada for R&D spending per capita.  Look at how much more the Quebec, Ontario, Alberta and BC governments spend on R&D in higher education.  This certainly must be a case where the government should lead by example. 

We have been paving every single road in the province in an effort to stave off recession.  Putting 10% of that ‘stimulus’ money into R&D would be a serious catalyst for long term economic development. 

But look on the bright side. Hundreds of millions into paving means less trips to Canadian Tire for wheel alignments.

Estimates of Research and Development Expenditures in the Higher Education Sector, 2007/2008 – Per Capita

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5 Responses to R&D in universities

  1. richard says:

    ” Hopefully the new medical school activity in New Brunswick will start to put a dent in this.”

    I’m afraid we are going to see the opposite. The feds are in trouble fiscally and R&D funding generally suffers when that happens. If you want to see a boost in uni R&D spending, then we might need to see that kick-started by uni re-orgs that give priority to science and engineering R&D – that however would have to be a uni and GNB initiative.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Absolutely agree that we need more focus on research and development in this province. Our wealth will is no longer influenced from chopping down trees and digging up the ground.

    However, when it comes to this data, showing Federal spends at universities, should it be the Federal government’s job to evenly distribute the funding or should they be funding the best quality research? In other words, are we simply not putting forward good quality research proposals?

    Some might suggest that Atlantic Canada is not taken seriously but when you look at our Atlantic neighbours, they seem to be holding their own. Yes, the lack of a medical school or Vet school likely has a big influence. That leads to another question. Should we try to catch up in medical research where the investments are huge, time frames long and commercial successes few or should we target shorter returns on investment such as bio technology, environmental technology and energy technology? I’d argue we need the later.

  3. I think the Feds should fund high quality research and I think the onus is on our businesses and universities to generate those opportunities. I do think there is a role for the Feds to play helping to seed research capacity. If the only criteria was ‘quality’ – we would lose just about every time to the “Big 5” who just announced they want all the research in Canada (if you haven’t read this story you should google it) while relegating the rest of Canada’s universities to undergraduate, non-research institutions.

    For example, we should be using a big chunk of federal dollars to try and attract top notch researchers and research companies from around the world. I find New Brunswickers in particular spend far too much time looking at each other for ideas. We need to find the best and brightest and bring them here to work with local companies, researchers, etc.

  4. Paul says:

    Found a blog that has a nice summary of the “Big 5 controversy” mentioned by David above.

    http://www.universityaffairs.ca/margin-notes/tag/big-five-universities/

  5. richard says:

    “should we target shorter returns on investment such as bio technology, environmental technology and energy technology? I’d argue we need the latter.”

    I’d agree with that, in particular since we have natural resources that supply raw materials for at least some of those targets. Nor would I forget communications technology, where we do have a history and still have some presence.

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