How Canada is falling behind in R&D
A country's commitment to R&D may be determined by calculating its GERD (Gross Expenditure on Research and Development, measured as a fraction of GDP). Currently, the U.S.'s GERD stands at 2.6%, Japan's at 3.2%. Both China and the E.U. are expected to be at 2.2% by 2010, but there was much hand-wringing going on in Europe when E.U. research commissioner Janez Potocnik announced recently that Europe's GERD had only increased by 0.2% from 2002-2003.
So what's the problem north of the 49th? Well, our GERD actually declined from 2002-2003, and, according to Wells, it has continued to do so. Paul Martin's Liberal government speaks proudly of our public-sector investment in R&D, but Canada's problem is relatively low private-sector investment in R&D. Now, this is hardly a problem that government is capable of addressing in any significant way (without further regulation of the private sector), and I'm not sure how Wells would solve it, but he may be right in his prediction that in this century "Canada will become more of a place where the new giants buy their steel and crude oil so the high-margin products of the future -- cities and machines and software and business processes -- get built elsewhere".
In other words, we're in trouble. We're falling behind because we're not investing adequately in the future -- and because our political leaders (both Martin and his opponents) simply aren't willing to address (and likely aren't even capable of addressing) the problem in any real way. For all the talk recently of Canada's paltry commitment to foreign aid, there won't be much room for foreign aid if our economy doesn't continue to expand. And that's not going to happen without a more serious commitment to R&D, both public and private.