Business sector leads all others in growth according to Statistics Canada’s 10-year snapshot of R&D personnel

Guest Contributor
June 13, 2001

Pent-up demand from policy makers will only be partially satisfied by Statistics Canada’s release of a major survey on R&D personnel in Canada. Given the long time lag before satisfactory numbers can be obtained and tabulated, the data are primarily of historical interest only. They suggest that R&D personnel in all sectors dropped between 1997 and 1999, but data for 1998 and 1999 are provisional and will almost certainly increase once final adjustments are made. As it stands, there were 140,440 Canadian R&D personnel in 1999, down 3.9% from 1997, the last year for which actual data are available.

Missing from the survey is any influence since 1999 on research personnel by federal investments in the Canada Foundation for Innovation, the Canada Research Chairs program, provincial initiatives or increased private sector activity. And data for the higher education sector included in the survey are also subject to significant change as Statistics Canada continues its review of procedures for gathering information from universities, colleges and teaching hospitals.

“The data for 1997, 1998 and 1999 are provisionary estimates and they will almost certainly be revised. Values tend to be lower with intentions and forecasts,” says Bert Plaus, chief of StatsCan’s science and innovation surveys section. “Data for 1998 and 1999 will definitely be larger than what’s shown here and will likely bring it back in line with 1997 levels.”

Over the 10-year period covered by the survey (1990–1999), R&D personnel increased by 21%, with the largest jump experienced in the business sector, which rose 43.8% from 53,920 in 1990 to 77.530 in 1999. Researchers accounted for the largest increase in the business sector, rising from 29,670 in 1990 to 49,500 in 1999, an impressive increase of 66.8%. Increases in the number of technicians and support staff were far more modest (21.5% and 3.6% respectively).


Within the federal government, the impact of Program Review and general neglect by its political masters paints a more sobering picture of decreased capacity. Over the same period, there has been a substantial decline in R&D personnel, with 13,780 employed in 1999, down 18.8% from 1990 levels of 16,960.

Support staff took the greatest hit, dropping 33.4% from 5,750 to 3,830. The next-largest decline was experienced in the ranks of technicians, sliding 15.2% from 4,340 to 3,680. Researchers themselves suffered a decline of 6% from 6,160 to 5,790, and the numbers show a modest increase since 1997. Their numbers peaked in 1993 when there were 6,370 employed in federal labs.

The drop in R&D personnel at the provincial level is even more dramatic, falling 32.1% between 1990 and 1999, from 3,990 to 2,710. The majority of the decline occurred within government ministries, which plummeted from 2,820 in 1990 to 1,780 in 1999, a 36.9% drop. Personnel working at provincial research organizations decreased 240 in the same period to 930, a 20.5% drop.

The increasing importance of the private, non-profit sector to the Canadian research enterprise can be seen in the steady upward shift in R&D personnel employed by those organizations. Unlike the federal, provincial and higher education sectors which peaked in 1993 and have generally declined since then, private, non-profit sector has grown each year since 1990, posting a 10-year increase of 60.3%.

total R&D Personnel


In 1998, 46.6% of total R&D personnel worked in Ontario, followed by Quebec (30.0%), British Columbia (8.3%) and Alberta (7.2%).

Federal R&D personnel have a much lower concentration in Ontario if the impact of the National Capital Region (NCR) discounted. Without the NCR, Ontario is home to 31.0% of federal R&D workers, while Quebec is home to 23.0%. But R&D personnel located in the NCR is 5,750 or more than double the rest of the province. When added together, the Ontario share jumps to 59.5%. The impact of the NRC data on Quebec are negligible, since only 230 federal R&D workers attributed to the NCR are located on the Quebec side of the border.

The remaining geographic breakdown of federal R&D is as follows: Alberta (750), British Columbia (690), Nova Scotia (660), Saskatchewan (450), Manitoba (440), New Brunswick (260), Newfoundland (210) and Prince Edward Island (80).

For the business sector, Ontario and Quebec dominate with Ontario home to 50.7% and Quebec accounting for 32.7%. British Columbia and Alberta are next with 7.4% and 5.3% respectively.



Federal Government16,96017,14016,59015,42014,72013,870 13,68013,780
Provincial Governments3,9903,7903,4703,2402,8802,970 2,8502,710
Business Enterprise53,92057,46078,92082,29080,33082,16076,49077,530
Higher Education39,78042,23042,80042,36045,35044,940 44,16044,160
Private Non-Profit Organizations1,4101,7501,8601,9202,020 2,2502,3902,260
Source: Statistics Canada Service Bulletin, Vol. 25, No. 5.

Other News

Events For Leaders in
Science, Tech, Innovation, and Policy

Discuss and learn from those in the know at our virtual and in-person events.

See Upcoming Events

You have 1 free article remaining.
Don't miss out - start your free trial today.

Start your FREE trial    Already a member? Log in


By using this website, you agree to our use of cookies. We use cookies to provide you with a great experience and to help our website run effectively in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service.