NSERC’s main stakeholders are Canada’s postsecondary institutions, their faculty, their students, and Canadian business enterprises that conduct and fund R&D. Canadian universities, colleges and polytechnics are challenged by increasing enrolments, changing student demographics, aging faculty, and a lack of diversity of faculty and students in some science and engineering disciplines. Postsecondary institutions are striving to better equip their graduates with market-ready skills that employers are demanding. Canadian business investment in R&D is relatively low compared to the average of OECD countries. Canada’s business expenditures on R&D as a share of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) have been on the decline since 2001. Canadian expenditures in Higher Education R&D have not kept pace with other OECD countries over the past decade. With new investments announced in Budget 2018 and Budget 2019 in support of fundamental science and streamlining business facing programs, NSERC continues to implement new program and policy initiatives that will help increase equity, diversity and inclusion within Canada’s post-secondary research enterprise, provide greater opportunities for early career researchers, and improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the agency’s research partnership program delivery.
In addition to continuing to deliver its programs in the most efficient and effective manner possible, over 2020–21 NSERC managed its priorities in response to external influences, including providing support for researchers and highly qualified personnel during the uncertain period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the implementation of actions from the government’s response to Canada’s Fundamental Science Review, the review of tri-agency scholarship and fellowship programs and the direction provided in Government of Canada’s mandate to support innovation ecosystems across the country. NSERC continued to work closely with its partner agencies to advance any new priorities articulated by the Canada Research Coordinating Committee, mandated to achieve greater harmonization, integration and co-ordination of research-related programs and policies.