Research, discovery and innovation

Two male researchers in a university lab.The story of discovery at Canadian universities is the story of scientific research that saves lives, technological innovations that help businesses compete, social science research that informs public policy, humanities research that contributes to our arts and culture, and new ideas that improve quality of life at home and around the world.

Prosperous societies are innovative societies, and innovation begins with basic research. The research conducted at Canada’s universities provides the basis for innovation throughout our economy. This is evident not only in new and improved products, goods, services and processes, but also through new approaches to marketing, organizational behaviour, business practices and external relations.  

Today, more than ever, university research matters to Canadians. The importance of university research to Canadian innovation and quality of life is reflected in investments by the federal government and other external funding partners. Funding from the federal research granting agencies – the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research – not only supports graduate and post-graduate scholarships, but also allows faculty members to engage students in their research.

Quick facts

  • Universities are a $30-billion enterprise. 
  • Universities undertake $10 billion worth of research activities.
  • About 55 to 60 percent of research performed by universities is externally funded.
  • The federal government is the largest external funder of university research, providing $3 billion annually for the direct costs of research, institutional costs of research, infrastructure and salary support.
  • The university sector is the second largest performer of research in Canada after the private sector.
  • Federal funding of the institutional costs of research for Canada’s universities averages 23.3%, while U.S., U.K., Australia provide 40% to 60%.