The University of New Brunswick has released a new innovation ecosystem map, which demonstrates the importance of R&D to the provincial economy and makes a call to increase research spending.

The university on Tuesday released the New Brunswick Innovation and Ecosystem Map in a ceremony at Planet Hatch in Fredericton. The map was produced by Global Advantage Consulting, which concluded R&D is essential to the long-term growth of the provincial economy.

“There is a significant innovation gap our province is experiencing,” said UNB Vice-President of Research David MaGee in a statement. “The percentage of government and private R&D investments is remarkably lower here when compared to the rest of Canada.” 

The study finds that New Brunswick’s share of Canadian gross domestic product has shrunk from 1.7 percent in 2013 to 1.64 in 2017, marking a loss of about $1 billion in annual economic output.

To reverse that decline, the paper argues the province needs more innovation to underpin growth in exports. But in 2016 New Brunswick accounted for only 1 percent of Canada’s research and development, or a total of $354 million in research spending. Only one-third of this R&D was conducted by the private sector, compared to a level of 50 percent across Canada. Making matters worse, New Brunswick has the lowest level of higher education R&D, or HERD, spending per person of any province in Canada.

The study said 55 percent “of all R&D in NB happens at post-secondary education (PSE) institutions. This is not the situation in other provinces. Yet, New Brunswick PSE institutions receive less government funding than other provinces.”

The innovation map shows that per capita HERD spending in New Brunswick is $245, far less than $487 in Newfoundland and Labrador and $440 in Nova Scotia. The Nova Scotia government, it says, spends $100 million more on R&D than New Brunswick’s government.

The statement says that UNB plays a key role in driving innovation in New Brunswick, accounting for 70 percent of the sponsored research in the province.

As well as calling for more government spending on R&D, the UNB document calls for the province to:

  • Grow collaboration between higher education, governments, not-for-profits and the private sector;
  • Develop a joint strategy to attract government and private sector investments;
  • Focus on innovation in areas of strength and high potential;
  • Encourage small and medium-sized enterprises to adopt new technologies;
  • Train more talent in key industries, such as cybersecurity and cleantech, to help attract large companies and investments;
  • Provide incentives and infrastructure for companies to come to New Brunswick and stay;
  • Determine key export markets;
  • And diversify export partners and products.

“UNB excels in mobilizing knowledge and launching new sectors within our communities, such as smart grid and cybersecurity,” said UNB President and Vice-Chancellor Paul Mazerolle. “The map shows us the importance of working together to ensure we’re making investments that count. We need to focus on areas of high potential and work together to attract more companies and talent.”


Disclosure: UNB is a client of Entrevestor.