Patent applications by Canadians declining across the country: study

TORONTO – Viewed through the lens of patent applications, Canadians are coming up with fewer bright ideas these days, according to a new study by the C.D. Howe Institute.

The Toronto-based think-tank says in a study released Friday that it found all provinces have seen a decline in patent application rates in the past decade, a concern since “innovation is often viewed as a talisman for economic growth.”

Alberta and Ontario consistently outperform the national average in domestic patent applications per capita, with inventors in the utilities, construction and computers and electronics sectors producing a disproportionately large share of patents for the Canadian market.

“By contrast, residents of the Atlantic provinces, and Canadian inventors in the pharmaceuticals and medical equipment sectors, are not producing a large share of patents for use in Canada,” it said.

“Though pharmaceutical products have sometimes been seen as a Canadian innovative strength,our analysis seems to indicate that when Canadians do contribute to these sectors, their contributions may be intended for international markets.”

According to a chart, Quebec ranked third in patent applications in the study, which grouped various periods between 1990 and 2012.

British Columbia finished fourth in periods studied between 1990 and 2004, but has been bested by Saskatchewan ever since 2005. Manitoba came next, ranking well above the Atlantic provinces.

Meanwhile, the institute said that 85 per cent of patents filed in Canada involve no Canadian inventors.

“This can bring significant benefits to Canada in the form of foreign innovation, but some studies also suggest that Canada might be better able to absorb foreign technologies in sectors with a high domestic innovation capacity,” it added.