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 2021-2022 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 has been and will continue to be a key driver in strengthening SMEs’ economic resiliency and competitiveness and plays a vital role in shaping sustainable and prosperous communities. Since the last survey conducted in 2019-2020, the number of applied research projects, innovations produced, and investments made by the private sector have all increased substantially, demonstrating the value of college and institute applied research to Canada’s innovation ecosystem and sustainable future.

graphic illustration of a microbe

A diversified expertise

Colleges and institutes from across the country led over 8,154 applied research projects in 2021-22 in all key sectors of the economy (an increase of 26% over two years). These projects include partnerships involving businesses and community organizations of all sizes, including students who gained innovative work experience and contributed to environmental sustainability by helping develop clean technologies and sustainable practices.

8,154 applied research projects in 2021-22
chart graph showing 8,154 applied research projects in 2021-22

Innovation with tangible results

In 2020-2021, research activity at colleges and institutes led to more than 6,436 new processes, products, prototypes and services (an increase of 16%). Eighty per cent 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 8,820 research partners in 2021-22. Sixty-two per cent of these partnerships were with SMEs who do not often 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

These results include data from 100 of CICan’s 141 member institutions, thanks to data-sharing arrangements. For more information about the methodology, please consult the full report.

Detailed report

See the full 2021-2022 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.