Canadian universities lag in IP development: Study

Canadian universities lag behind their United States counterparts when it comes to generating technologies for commercial use, according to a recent study.

From Curiosity to Wealth Creation: How University Research Can Boost Economic Growth, a study by the C.D. Howe Institute, compared 10 Canadian universities with those in the U.S. and of dollars allocated to research and development, inventions and discoveries made per year, patents applied for each year, start-ups created each year and dollar value of intellectual property (IP) developed. The study was carried out from 1991 to 2010.
Among other things, the study found, the average patents applied for by the top 10 Canadian universities during the study period was 29 compared to 147.3 for American top 10 universities.
Income from IPs realized by Canadian universities for the period was around $2.3 million compared to $24.4 million earned by U.S. universities.


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“The best Canadian universities spend less than a third as much on research and development as do their U.S. counterparts,” noted Peter Howitt, professor of social science and Brown University and author of the study.

He said the average research expenditure among top 10 Canadian universities was only $2 million compared to an average across the 10 U.S. universities of $6.5 million.

However, Howitt said, this factor alone was not responsible for the discrepancy.

For instance, he said the technology transfer offices (TTO) of American universities are generally more experienced compared to Canadian TTOs.

Canadian universities have a “less experimental culture” than those in the U.S. and venture capital south of the border is more highly developed.

But more importantly, Howitt said, Canadian businesses’ expenditure on research and development (BERD) is only half of that of U.S. BERD.

“It is doubtful that Canada will be able to close the productivity gap with the U.S. in technology transfer until businesses start to play their part instead of relying on universities to do more than their share,” said Howitt.

For the technology transfer ranking of top 10 Canadian universities and summary of Howitt’s report, click here


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