International Mobility of Canadian Inventors and the Canadian Knowledge Economy

CIGI Paper No. 116

December 5, 2016

This paper begins with an overview of the migratory patterns of “inventors.” It examines how Canada’s inventor migration patterns have changed over the years, and compares the country's performance to that of the top 15 countries of migrant destination and origin. The analysis reveals that the count of names of Canadian native inventors residing abroad exceeds that of Canadian immigrant inventors residing in Canada. This means either that Canadian firms are bringing in fewer patenting inventors than they are losing to foreign firms, or that Canadian inventors residing abroad submit relatively more Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) applications, or both. The rate of Canadian inventor-patent emigration, as measured by the share of Canadian non-resident inventors named in Canadian PCT applications, has risen quickly over time, with the United States being the major destination country; at the same time, the Canadian inventor-patent immigration rate has been rather stable and relatively low. The paper concludes with a discussion of the implications of the findings and policy recommendations. The importance of building a sustainable, supportive climate for innovation is emphasized. A suitable innovation ecosystem would help Canada and Canadian firms to improve talent retention rates by providing a more attractive working environment.

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CIGI Papers Series

CIGI Papers present in-depth analysis and discussion on governance-related subjects. They include policy papers that present CIGI experts' positions or contributions to policy debates, and background papers that contain research findings, insights and data that contribute to the development of policy positions.

About the Author

Olena Ivus is a senior fellow at CIGI, where she contributes expertise on the interface between Canada’s domestic innovation and international trade.