Editorial - 18-6

Guest Contributor
April 26, 2004

Barring another major downturn in the technology sector, Ottawa’s objective of moving Canada up the list of R&D performing nations appears to be viable. That’s the consensus of a new report on our corporate R&D-performing companies, which places the onus of becoming one of the world’s top five R&D performing nations on a group of 228 companies (see page 4).

The report by Drs Douglas Barber and Jeffrey Crelinsten mines recent data provided by Statistics Canada to provide a fascinating profile of private sector R&D in Canada. It argues that companies with revenues of more than $3 million annually and an R&D intensity of between 3% and 50% — the so-called R&D Leaders group — are well placed to boost their R&D spending by $19 billion from 2001 levels of about $13 billion.

The criteria for selecting these firms excludes many thousands of start-ups and early-stage companies on the grounds that they will be unable to substantively contribute to meeting the target by 2010. The report also discovered that these firms are not moving into the R&D Leaders category in any great numbers. It’s a disturbing trend for which the report does not provide any definitive answers.

Others studies have also lamented Canada’s seeming inability to grow its plentiful base of small firms into medium- and large-sized companies that compete in global markets. Report co-author Barber contends that’s because we focus too much on commercialization and not the commercializers. A major shift in cultural attitudes is required to ensure Canadian companies grow and prosper.

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