Government of New Brunswick

Expand our capacity for innovation and competitiveness

After a period of sustained growth between 2001 and 2009, in the past few years gross domestic expenditures on research and development in New Brunswick have started to decline. As of 2013, inflation-adjusted annual investment into R&D (public and private sectors) had dipped back to the expenditure level in the early 2000s. The business enterprise sector has witnessed the sharpest decline in R&D spending dropping by 56 percent between 2007 and 2013.

Gross domestic expenditures on research and development ($Millions) – New Brunswick


Natural sciences and engineering, social sciences and humanities 2007 constant prices

Source: Statistics Canada CANSIM Table 358-0001

The focus needs to be on encouraging the private sector to invest in research and innovation.

The subject of innovation has been part of the economic development lexicon in New Brunswick for nearly two decades. There have been multiple plans and initiatives meant to boost our innovative capacity as a province and increase competitiveness. These have resulted in modest progress yet the Conference Board of Canada recently gave New Brunswick an overall D- for its innovation capacity. Of particular concern, the province was given a ‘D’ in labour productivity. According to Statistics Canada, labour productivity in the business sector rose by seven percent across Canada between 2007 and 2014 which is not a particularly good performance. New Brunswick actually witnessed a decline of two per cent in labour productivity over the same period.

This represents a serious challenge. The economy of the province faces greater global competition than at any time in its history. Investment, talent and ideas flow across borders like never before. Our firms, institu­tions and the public sector must take innovation and competitiveness more seriously or our economy and ultimately quality of life will suffer.

Government needs to be innovative and has an important role to play both as a source of innovation and an enabler of new ideas and creativity across the economy. But what is the right role for government to foster innovation and competitiveness and thus creating a positive environment for long term economic growth?

Government has a role to play in stimulating early stage research and creativity. It should foster an environment where entrepreneurs with innovative ideas can thrive and it should use government itself as a platform for innovation. We need to foster entrepreneurship, foster start-ups and accelerate their growth across sectors of our economy, both social and economic.

However, government also needs to ensure that busi­ness-driven innovation is a core component of its strategy moving forward. Tom Jenkins, founding CEO of Open Text, a hugely successful Canadian technology company, has often been quoted as saying “Canada is so busy in­venting, we forgot about innovation”. Invention converts money into ideas and innovation converts ideas into money. Government needs to continue to focus on the latter part of the formula while continuing to encourage the former.