06 May 2009

State of the Nation's Innovation

Canada's Science, Technology and Innovation Council has released their report on the state of innovation in Canada. State of the Nation 2008 offers benchmarking data on how we fare at innovation, science and technology. As per other reports, notably our "D for Innovation" from the Conference Board of Canada, the STIC report says we are mediocre at best.

The report is released while much talk abounds regarding the funding of basic research, the setting of national research priorities, and the role of applied research. Suffice to say, basic and applied research are both important - we need to support curiosity-driven research that does not have a clear path to commercialization at its outset. But we also need to focus our research priorities (as Canada has done in the Science and Technology Strategy), and fund work that fits with these areas. Some have said that this is the wrong approach. But Canada cannot afford to not focus efforts. Our tax base will not support a wide-open field of inquiry, and we must compete on the world stage, and so support those areas where we can have the most impact.

We must also fund applied research and the commercialization of innovations. Where Canada has historically been good at invention and innovation, we have not been effective at exploiting innovations for social and economic productivity. This has to change. The STIC report is yet another wake-up call.

No comments: