17 June 2008

Productivity and the R&D continuum

Judith Maxwell's article in yesterday's Report on Business outlines some key issues around the R&D continuum and Canada's productivity. Most explicitly, Maxwell addresses the complementarity of industry and academic research labs, focusing on the MaRS Discovery District as one example of the kind of collaboratory that fosters synergistic and serendipitous connections and opportunities. Maxwell fails to recognize the role of College research in this equation, what I have elsewhere described as the need to recognize "all facets of the R&D pipeline that includes college applied research [as] part of a fundamental strategy to organize the network effects of utilizing the diverse and complementary capabilities of the innovation spectrum, all oriented toward increased productivity for Ontario and Canada" (*).

Informal networks and communities of interest and practice can enable fruitful collaborations to emerge across the R&D landscape. Making these connections should be the purview of governmental and quasi-governmental organizations (such as TRRA) that play "matchmaker" for industry and research organizations. "Ideas are now the essential raw material for growth and productivity. Informal networks are the 21st century blast furnace, where raw ideas are formed and developed into products and processes that will drive the high growth businesses of our future," says Maxwell. Getting ideas out into the commons where they can be debated and developed, and enabling industry to recognize and utilize expertise from across the Ontario/Canadian network of research labs, remain key challenges for all of us engaged in the research and development enterprise.

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