Data Catalyst - InnovationOn October 10, presidents of Toronto’s biggest hospitals met with the Toronto Star editorial board. A key topic was the current level of research spending provided by the Ontario government, and in particular (according to one president), how “The uncertainty factor in funding is a really big deal in research.”

The government appears to understand this concern. Ontario’s Innovation Agenda published in April 2013 states that “Ontario is committed to investing in long-term basic and applied research” and that “to be successful, commitment to the innovation agenda must be sustainable and consistent.” But what is the reality of historical research spending?

Data provided via the Open Data site of the government of the Province of Ontario shows big swings in research spending during the 2005–2013 period, affecting all disciplines and institutions receiving funding. (In this chart, “large projects” are those with over $1 million committed. Dates represent the date funding was committed, not actual spending date.)

Data Catalyst - Ontario's Research Funding - Total spending commitment by year
Total spending commitment by year

The $76 million in 2013 research spending commitments were announced for the Ontario Research Fund — Research Infrastructure program earlier this year. There are fewer projects being funded compared to previous years, but there is a continued focus on large projects and key Ontario universities with well-developed research capabilities.

There were 10 distinct programs operating during the 2005–2013 period. However, four programs account for most of the commitments, and in 2013 only one is still in use: Ontario Research Fund – Research Infrastructure. This is also the only program to run for the entire period.

Data Catalyst - Ontario's Research Funding - Ontario Research Funding Programs 2005-2013
Ontario Research Funding Programs 2005-2013

Across these programs, five institutions combined received 57% of the committed spend.

Data Catalyst - Ontario's Research Funding

Here is an interactive table that enables you to explore where the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment has been allocating funding in its research programs. The table lists all the individual projects from the Ministry data, sorted by institution and research area. You can read a short description for each one (mouse over the cell for full text). Checkboxes above the list allow you to filter by research area. The slider allows the selection of projects within a spending range.

The analyzed funding was administered by the Ministry of Economic Development, Trade and Employment. Note that the dollars and dates represent the commitments by the government, not the actual project spending. Government research spending in these programs is matched by private sector spending, proportion varying by program.

John Matyskiel

John Matyskiel provides information design for better understanding, better communication and better decisions. You can find him at See more…