Government performed R&D spending as a percentage of GDP, G7 countries from 1991 to 2018

What is this metric and why is it important?

Research and development performed by government labs and facilities (GOVERD) complements R&D performed in the higher education and business sectors—often pursuing research that could have economic or social benefit, but which is not being pursued by other sectors. We express it here as a percentage of GDP.

How is Canada doing?

  • In 2018 at 0.11%, Canada ranked among the lowest spenders on government-performed research and development, below the OECD average of 0.24% and far below leaders such as Korea (0.46%). 
  • It is important to recognize that how countries perform on GERD and HERD reflects in part how they organize public research and development. For example, Canada tends to conduct public research more often in higher education institutions than in government facilities.
  • Canada’s GOVERD steadily declined from 0.29% in 1991 to 0.11% in 2018, while the OECD average declined from 0.3% to 0.24% over the same period.  
  • There is variation across provinces; however, only PEI (0.25%) manages to exceed the OECD average (0.24%). 

Metric discussion

Government expenditures on research and development (GOVERD) is the amount of money (or value of funded time for research) that is spent by government research facilities, regardless of the source of funding. To be clear, it does not constitute the amount of money governments budget for R&D—whether in government facilities, higher education, or industry—but only the cost of research activities performed by government researchers and facilities.


Like research performed in the higher education sector, government R&D can contribute to the stock of basic and applied knowledge that can be used for health, social, economic or other innovation. Additionally, government-performed R&D allows researchers to further develop skills and knowledge, which ensures that there are people who can assess, implement, and manage technologies and innovations developed elsewhere that could have benefits for Canadians. This is an especially critical capacity when it comes to regulatory assessment of new technologies, medicines, medical devices, and other innovations that could pose risks to people and communities. 


Limitations

GOVERD data should be assessed alongside HERD data, as countries may make different choices about how to organize their public research. Some countries that perform well on GOVERD perform less well on HERD and vice versa—despite having roughly equal levels of public research activity when the two are combined.

© Inclusive Innovation Monitor 2021