UBC has $10 billion impact on B.C. economy

The University of British Columbia is having a larger impact on the B.C. economy than previously measured, according to the first study in Canada to calculate the impact of university research.

UBC had a $10 billion impact on the B.C. economy in 2008/2009, the study finds – more than B.C.’s mining and oil and gas exploration sectors. This translates into roughly five per cent of the province’s economy and a multiplier of 10 on the $1 billion in government investments that UBC received over the same period.

“This study finds that UBC is having a greater impact on the economy than previously thought,” says Prof. Stephen Toope, UBC President and Vice-Chancellor, who presented the study today in his annual address to the Vancouver’s Board of Trade.

“It shows, for the first time in Canada, the dynamic economic impact of research,” says Toope, who today also received a $2.17 million donation from HSBC Bank Canada to support learning and research in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside. “This shows that UBC is more than simply an economic player, UBC innovations are driving and reshaping the economy.”

The study, by economist Walter Sudmant of UBC’s Planning and Institutional Research (PAIR) department, uses a combination of standard and new economic methods for measuring UBC’s economic impact. It is the first in Canada to attempt to measure the dynamic impact of research and innovation.

According to the study, roughly half of UBC’s contributions to the B.C. economy come from direct spending such as salaries and construction ($1.9 billion), visitor and student spending ($618 million) and a global UBC-educated workforce ($2.6 billion).

To measure the economic impact of UBC research, the study employed a formula developed by economist Fernand Martin to measure the effect of university research and development, which has so far been applied institutionally only by the University of California.

It finds that half of UBC’s economic impacts – nearly $5 billion – results from the transformative impacts of new knowledge and innovations generated by university research: new technologies, life-saving medical and pharmaceutical advances, faculty recruiting, professional development and spin-off benefits.

The study also suggests that Canadian research universities produce a larger portion of business innovations than universities in the U.S. Nearly 40 per cent of research and development in B.C. takes place in universities and 70 per cent of that university research takes place at UBC. In comparison, only seven per cent of R&D in California takes place at University of California’s multiple campuses.

“These findings suggest that the economy and business in this country are more reliant on major Canadian research universities for innovations,” says Sudmant. “This is an important finding, because it tells us the top-tier universities play a greater role in driving productivity, which is the vital for increasing economic growth.”

UBC’s previous economic impact study, conducted by PAIR in 2006 using different methodologies, calculated the university’s total economic impact at $6.3 billion in local income and over 39,700 jobs.

Download President Toope’s speech on UBC’s economic impact at: publicaffairs.ubc.ca/download.

View the study at: pair.ubc.ca/reports/EconomicImpact2009.pdf. Learn more about PAIR at: pair.ubc.ca.


Basil Waugh
UBC Public Affairs
Tel: 604.822.2048
E-mail: basil.waugh@ubc.ca

Walter Sudmant
Tel: 604.822.6517
E-mail: walter.sudmant@ubc.ca