About the evaluation
- The Office of Audit and Evaluation of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) conducted an evaluation of the AgriScience Program to assess the relevance, design, delivery, effectiveness and impact of the Program.
- The evaluation focussed on projects and clusters funded from 2016–17 to 2020–21 and the impact of clusters funded prior to 2016–17. The following methods were used: program documents, program data and literature review; AAFC staff, researcher and industry stakeholder interviews; bibliometric analysis; economic analysis; and case studies.
What we found
AgriScience program summary
- The AgriScience Program is a five-year, $191 million grants and contributions program delivered by the Programs Branch.
- AgriScience provides support for industry-led research, development and knowledge transfer that should lead to innovative agriculture, agri-food and agri-based practices, processes and products.
- AgriScience is delivered through two components: the AgriScience – Clusters Component (Clusters) and the AgriScience – Projects Component (Projects). Funding recipients can access R&D support from the Science and Technology Branch.
- The AgriScience Program addressed industry needs, which include resolving challenges such as growing demand for food and agricultural products; threats due to diseases and pests; and lack of infrastructure and capacity to support ongoing research and development (R&D).
- The AgriScience Program is aligned with government’s role and priorities. Moving forward, it could do more to support the increased federal and departmental focus on climate change and environmental sustainability, as well as other key priorities.
Design and delivery
- Changes to the application and reporting processes increased Program effectiveness.
- While the cluster model is regarded as an effective approach for carrying out R&D, the effectiveness of the current AgriScience cluster model is limited by focussing on individual activities within a cluster, rather than strategically leveraging the cluster as a whole.
- There is no single mechanism to monitor AAFC expenditures. The decentralized management structure used by the Science and Technology Branch has limited its ability to efficiently track and report on its financial and human resources at the Program level.
The AgriScience Program was successful in achieving its intended outcomes of increasing the sector's capacity to conduct R&D, increasing the sector's knowledge base, and developing new technologies. The commercialization of the new technologies developed and their uptake were not systematically measured.
The Program logic model and performance measures do not present the Program's intended economic, environmental and social impacts. Impact measurement of clusters, as a whole, is lacking.
- Recommendation 1: The Assistant Deputy Minister, Programs Branch, in collaboration with the Assistant Deputy Ministers, Science and Technology Branch and Strategic Policy Branch, should clarify the AgriScience Program's strategic objectives, priorities and intended impacts.
- Recommendation 2: The Assistant Deputy Minister, Programs Branch, should require project and cluster funding recipients to develop a performance measurement and evaluation framework to support reporting on outcomes and impacts, including future reporting on results after funding ends.
- Recommendation 3: The Assistant Deputy Minister, Science and Technology Branch, in collaboration with the Assistant Deputy Minister, Corporate Management Branch, should clarify, document and communicate the Science and Technology Branch's AgriScience financial expenditure tracking processes and systems.
Management agrees with the evaluation recommendations and has developed an action plan to address them by April 2023.