​Suncor jumps ahead of Canadian Natural on R&D top spenders list

Suncor Energy's oilsands base plant. Image: Joey Podlubny/JWN

Suncor Energy is the top oil and gas player on the latest ranking of Canada’s biggest corporate R&D spenders.

The company’s 2017 R&D investment of $350 million put it at number 11 on the list, which is compiled annually by Research Infosource.

Just below Suncor, at number 12, is competitor Canadian Natural Resources, which spent $345 million on R&D in 2017.

Suncor moved up in the ranking, from number 17 last year, and Canadian Natural moved down from number 4. Suncor increased its R&D spend by 75 percent, from $200 million in 2016, while Canadian Natural decreased its by 37 percent, from $549 million.

However, Canadian Natural remained ahead of Suncor in terms of R&D spending as a percent of revenue, at 2.1 percent intensity compared to Suncor’s 1.1 percent.

In total, there are eight oil and gas companies on this year’s list:

  • Imperial Oil moved down to number 21 from number 18, with $154 million in 2017 compared to $195 million in 2016; intensity 0.5 percent
  • Syncrude Canada moved up to number 39 from number 45, with $67.9 million in 2017 compared to $61.9 million in 2016; intensity n/a because the company is a joint venture of other firms
  • Pason Systems moved up to number 73 from number 74, with $25.2 million in 2017 compared to $22.8 million in 2016; intensity 10.3 percent
  • Enbridge moved up to number 75 from number 86, with $22.5 million in 2017 compared to $18.3 million in 2016; intensity 0.1 percent
  • CES Energy Solutions moved up to 78 from 95, with $20.0 million in 2017 compared to $15.0 million in 2016; intensity 1.9 percent
  • Field Upgrading ranked at number 79 after not being included on the list last year, with $19.6 million in 2017 and intensity of 0 as the company has no revenue

Overall, Research Infosource said R&D investment by Canada’s top 100 corporate spenders rose by only 0.7 percent to $12.47 billion compared to 2016. However, the $1.6 billion spent by number 1 Bombardier skews the data, as the second-highest spender, Magna International, invested almost $1 billion less, or $678 million.

Without Bombardier included, combined spending rose by 4.3 percent.

“Fiscal 2017 was a modest year for R&D spending among Canada’s leading firms,” Research Infosource CEO Ron Freedman said in a statement.

“A 4.3% gain in a period of relatively strong economic and business growth won’t do much to improve Canada’s medium-term innovation or productivity prospects.”