02 May 2012

"Innovation is a team sport"

Polytechnics Canada CEO Nobina Robinson has an article in the May Policy Options that outlines this concept: innovation as a team sport requires the participation of all involved in the invention to innovation pipeline. The article gives an insider`s view of the Jenkins Panel report and compares the recommendations made by this Panel to Budget 2012 and measures to increase Canada`s innovation capacity.

Robinson points out many salient points on what Canada needs in an innovation strategy, including a reference to our reliance on natural resources that some see as creating complacency. This point is picked up by Alan Bernstein, new head of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research, in an interview in today's Globe and Mail. As I've pointed out, this reliance has led to Canada under emphasizing innovation (applying research to the world) - we see basic research and the production of ideas as one more raw commodity to be exported. We need to add value here in Canada and create a virtuous circle where basic research feeds into applied research that then feeds into business innovation, giving rise to more basic science. Alan Berstein puts this very well: "In Canada, our scientists, engineers and scholars are as good as anyone in creating new knowledge. But, unlike their counterparts in the U.S., they haven't been trained to create companies or new products. We need to develop entrepreneurs and venture capital investors that are as good as their counterparts in the Canadian oil and mining sectors." To Nobina Robinson's point, we need "an innovation strategy that shifts our thinking
to 'demand-driven innovation'" wherein basic science sees itself not in opposition to business innovation, but as a conduit for its realization.

A related postscript: Amanda Lang's op-ed "Why we need to teach our kids how to fail" raises important issues about the need to teach failure. This should be required reading for anyone involved in teaching, learning, research and innovation. Fail fast; learn quickly.

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