2002, the government of Canada launched the innovation strategy (IS)1 that had been foreshadowed by Prime Minister Jean Chrétien,
announcing the intention of moving Canada up into the top five countries as
ranked on the basis of research and development (R&D) spending per capita.2 In this work, we shall look at some aspects of Canada’s
R&D performance in 2003, the year after the IS was announced, to help
define the initial conditions for the proposed growth
Research and development
Contrary to the impression that might be
given by frequent joint labelling, R&D is not one thing. Research and
development are two related but very different processes carried out by
different people working in different places, within different cultures, for
different purposes, and at very different costs. The expenditures reported
under R&D spending are made up of two components that are not
interchangeable, and are balanced very differently in the public and private
At the highest level, research may be
defined as the process of learning that which is unknown to anyone, anywhere.
As used in R&D, development is defined as “the process of working up (an
idea, product, etc.) for marketing etc.”3 It is an essential step in the commercialization of new products.
The contrast between research and development is evident from the definitions,
but it is more useful to show the differences in a list of the main features of
the two processes. This is shown in exhibit 1. Evidently, it makes little sense
to talk about R&D at universities. There is only research at universities,
and no products are developed there. Contrived expressions, such as “Big R and
little d” or “little r and big D”, take only a small step toward precision.
In reality, the cultures of research and
development are so different that connecting them is difficult even within one
corporation driven by a single set of goals. It is even more difficult when the
task is to transfer the results of research from a university, whose goal is to
create and transmit knowledge, to a corporation, whose goal is to create
development are very different
1 As a result of the political changes since late 2003, the “Innovation Strategy” is no longer referred to explicitly. However, even if its specific targets have been abandoned, its major goal seems to continue to influence government policy making.
2 The Rt. Hon. Jean Chrétien, speech in reply to The Speech From the Throne, January 2001.
3 The Canadian Oxford Dictionary, Oxford University Press Canada, 1998.
- long-term programs of exploration and
- in Canada done mostly in the public sector, with
- mainly the work of scientists, and some
- involves theory, experiment and
- consumes wealth
- risk is scientific, and kept to a minimum
through scientific peer review
- open publication, international flows of
information, some patents
- successful research always leads to more
research; it may also produce
- important and revolutionary innovations,
but they are rare and unpredictable