Colleges and Institutes Canada Colleges and Institutes Canada

Applied research at colleges and institutes

Colleges and institutes occupy a critical space in Canada’s innovation ecosystem and their impact continues to grow! Our 2019-2020 applied research survey demonstrates the tangible impact of college and institute applied research across all sectors of the economy and in communities all over the country.

Applied research will be a key driver in economic recovery for SMEs and will help to build more resilient communities as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the last survey conducted in 2017-2018, the number of applied research projects, the number of students involved, and the investment by the private sector have all increased substantially, demonstrating the value of college and institute applied research to Canada’s innovation ecosystem and sustainable recovery.

graphic illustration of a microbe

A diversified expertise

Colleges and institutes from across the country led over 6,400 applied research projects in 2019-2020 in all key sectors of the economy (an increase of 7% over two years). These partnerships involved businesses and community organisations of all sizes, included students who gained innovative work experience, and contributed to environmental sustainability by helping develop clean technologies and sustainable practices.

6,400 applied research projects in 2019-2020
chart graph showing 6,400 applied research projects in 2019-2020

Innovation with tangible results

In 2019-2020, research activity at colleges and institutes led to more than 5,500 new processes, products, prototypes and services (an increase of 24% over two years). Over 85% of these results were achieved in less than one year.

Innovation with tangible results chart

Research capacity and infrastructure

In 2019-2020, 42,000 students contributed to applied research projects at college and institute laboratories and research centres (an increase of 45% over two years). Their work and the state-of-the-art research infrastructure available help support innovation in various sectors of the economy.

Research capacity and infrastructure circle graph

Applied Research Partnerships

SMEs, large corporations, not-for-profit and community organizations all benefit from applied research partnerships. CICan members reported 8,000 research partnerships in 2019-2020 (an increase of 8% over two years). Sixty-seven percent of these partnerships are with SMEs who often do not have the capacity or resources to conduct cutting-edge research on their own.

chart showing Applied Research Partnerships


Colleges and institutes received over $354 million in 2019-2020 to support applied research activities, an increase of 19% over two years. This growth is mainly driven by the private sector, which invested $111 million (an increase of 42% over two years). Private sector contributions now match dollar-for-dollar the support provided by the federal government, demonstrating the value businesses derive from college and institute applied research services.

Funding Chart Financement

Survey methodology and response rate

The global response rate for this survey was 90% thanks to data sharing arrangements. For more information about the methodology, please consult the full report.

Detailed report

See the full 2019-2020 Applied Research survey results for more information.

View the full report

*All the numbers on this page have been rounded to the nearest whole value.