Are Changes Coming to the SR&ED Program?

The Canadian government has embarked on a significant initiative to revitalize the landscape of research and development (R&D) with the launch of consultations on the Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program. This move, announced on January 31, 2024, underscores a commitment to enhance Canadian innovation and retain intellectual property within the country.

The Current State of the SR&ED Program

The SR&ED program has been pivotal in fostering innovation across Canada since its inception. Originating from post-WWII efforts to spur productivity and innovation, the program has evolved into the primary federal initiative supporting business R&D, disbursing over $3 billion annually to more than 20,000 claimants. Administered by the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA), SR&ED stands as a cornerstone of federal funding for innovation.

Issues with the SR&ED Program

Recent amendments to SR&ED guidelines in 2021 marked a significant shift, prompting claimants to adapt to a revamped framework. The replacement of traditional eligibility criteria with a “Why” and “How” test posed challenges, leading to a call for clarity and alignment with historical standards. These changes have raised concerns among businesses regarding the consistency and predictability of the program.

What Aspects are Being Revised?

The Department of Finance has invited stakeholders to weigh in on critical aspects of SR&ED program enhancement, including:

– Effectiveness and Support: Evaluating the overall impact of the program and how well it supports innovation.

– Eligibility Criteria: Revising criteria to ensure they are clear and align with modern R&D practices.

– Complementarity with Existing Programs: Ensuring SR&ED works well with other funding programs.

– Targeting Assistance: Focusing support on areas that drive significant innovation.

– Intellectual Property Retention: Encouraging the retention of IP within Canada.

– Enhanced Accessibility: Making the program more accessible to a broader range of businesses.

Additionally, there is discussion surrounding the potential introduction of a patent box regime, offering preferential tax rates for income derived from intellectual property.

Potential Impact of SR&ED Changes on Businesses

Changes to the SR&ED program could have a substantial impact on businesses. On one hand, they could streamline processes and make it easier for companies to access funding. On the other, businesses may need to adjust their R&D strategies to align with new criteria. The introduction of a patent box regime could incentivize companies to develop and retain intellectual property in Canada, potentially leading to increased innovation and economic growth.

How to Prepare for SR&ED Changes

Businesses should stay informed about the ongoing consultations and potential changes. Engaging with industry groups and providing feedback during the consultation process can help shape the program. Companies should also review their current R&D practices and ensure they align with the proposed changes to continue benefiting from SR&ED incentives.

Common Misconceptions about SR&ED

– SR&ED is only for large companies: Small and medium-sized enterprises can also benefit from the program.

– Only high-tech companies are eligible: Businesses from various sectors, including agriculture and manufacturing, can qualify.

– The application process is too complex: While the process can be detailed, there are many resources and consulting services available to assist.

Understanding the Eligibility Criteria for SR&ED

Eligibility for SR&ED revolves around systematic investigation or search carried out in a field of science or technology by means of experiment or analysis. Projects must aim to achieve technological advancement and involve a level of uncertainty that requires hypothesis testing.

Financial Benefits of the SR&ED Program

The SR&ED program provides significant financial benefits through tax credits. These can reduce a company’s federal and provincial tax liabilities and, in some cases, result in a cash refund. This funding can be reinvested into further R&D activities, driving continuous innovation.

The Role of SR&ED in Canada’s Economic Growth

SR&ED has been instrumental in driving economic growth by supporting innovative projects that lead to new products, services, and technologies. By encouraging companies to undertake R&D, the program helps maintain Canada’s competitive edge in the global market.

Tax Planning Strategies Involving SR&ED

Businesses can optimize their tax position by integrating SR&ED claims into their overall tax planning strategy. This includes timing R&D expenditures to maximize tax benefits, understanding the interaction between federal and provincial incentives, and maintaining thorough documentation to support claims.

Key Differences between Provincial and Federal SR&ED Programs

While the federal SR&ED program is administered by the CRA, many provinces offer additional incentives to support local R&D activities. These provincial programs often have different criteria and benefits, which can complement the federal program and provide additional financial support.


How long has SR&ED been around?

The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) program has a rich history that dates back to the early 1980s. Initially conceptualized as a tool to enhance productivity and innovation in Canada, it was influenced by post-World War II initiatives aimed at rebuilding economies through technological advancement. Over the decades, SR&ED has evolved in response to the changing technological landscape and economic needs, continually adapting its guidelines and criteria to better serve Canadian businesses. This longevity underscores the program’s pivotal role in fostering research and development across various industries in Canada. Today, SR&ED is recognized as the largest federal program supporting business-led R&D, emphasizing the government’s long-term commitment to innovation and economic growth.

What is the SR&ED tax in Canada?

The SR&ED tax credit is a cornerstone of Canada’s innovation policy, designed to encourage businesses to conduct research and development within the country. This federal program offers substantial financial incentives in the form of tax credits, which can significantly reduce a company’s tax liability or even result in cash refunds. Eligible R&D expenditures, such as wages, materials, and overhead costs, can be claimed, providing a critical funding boost that enables companies to undertake ambitious projects with higher risks. By alleviating some of the financial burdens associated with R&D, the SR&ED tax credit aims to spur technological advancements and keep Canada competitive on the global stage. Furthermore, this program is complemented by various provincial incentives, creating a comprehensive support system for innovation across the nation.


The ongoing review of the SR&ED program shows the Canadian government’s dedication to promoting innovation and keeping intellectual property in the country. Businesses should participate in the consultation process and prepare for potential changes to continue benefiting from the program. Staying informed and proactive will help them navigate the evolving SR&ED landscape effectively.