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 2021-2022, 27,000 students contributed to applied research projects at college and institute laboratories and research centres. Their work and the state-of-the-art research infrastructure available at colleges and institutes help support innovation in various sectors of the economy. These immersive experiences also provided students with a multitude of advantages, including the unique opportunity to:

  • gain an inside look into specific industries
  • demonstrate their talent and apply the skills learned in the classroom to real-world scenarios;
  • acquire new skills which are typically harder to learn in the classroom, like client management, project coordination and problem-solving skills; and
  • build their professional identities and networks, which, for many, leads to a job within the field or with a former research partner.
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 $433 million in 2021-22 to support applied research activities, an increase of 18.2% over two years. This growth is mainly driven by significant, time-limited funding injections by the federal government, supported by increased private sector investment, amounting to $137M. Federal government support was key to maintaining and growing college applied research during the COVID-19 pandemic, enabling support to hundreds of businesses across Canada to adapt to the changing needs of the economy.

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.