November 14, 2022

Applied research is at the centre of the 2030 Agenda for a sustainable future

In our world, it’s more important than ever that we think creatively about economic, social, and environmental challenges. Innovation is critical, yet Canada’s investment in research lags behind many of its OECD counterparts. While (in 2020) OECD countries invested an average of 2.67% of GDP on research, Canada spent just 1.84%.

Sustainable Development Goal 9 (Industry, innovation, and infrastructure) puts research at the centre of the 2030 Agenda for a sustainable future. In fact, when we talk about applied research, in many cases we are talking about developing new, innovative products and improving existing procedures in ways that contribute to sustainability such as reducing waste, saving energy, making processes more efficient, and more.

College and institute applied research is one of Canada’s strongest motors for innovation, and is recognized as a world leader. In the college and institute context, businesses – especially SMEs and entrepreneurs that often do not have large budgets for research and development – come to their local institution with a problem. There, they get access to state-of-the-art facilities, specialized equipment, and technical experts to help them advance their business.

In real numbers, that expertise led to 8,000 total research partnerships, over 6,400 applied research projects, 5,500 new processes, products, prototypes, and services in only one year (2019-2020). Canadians benefit from these innovation services that contribute to the long-term sustainability of Canadian industry, at a growing rate each year.

At nearly 700 campus locations, college and institute expertise is not only accessible, but also adaptable to any business need. And, over 90% of colleges and institutes have applied research offices ready to support their communities and local businesses with innovative solutions.

These numbers paint a picture of what applied research already offers Canada’s innovation ecosystem and what we can still achieve if we think more strategically about investment.

To build stronger, more resilient communities, (and help rebuild the economy and the work force) it is essential that we give college and institute leaders the resources they need to maximize the impact of Canada’s largest network of innovators.