11 April 2013

"The root of productivity is product"

The 12th Annual RE$EARCH MONEY Conference - Budget 2013: Checking the Pulse of Canada's Innovation Policies - convened these past two days in Ottawa. The conference is Canada's premier innovation policy forum, and featured many good speakers and discussion on Budget 2013 outcomes.

The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of State, Science & Technology and the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario opened the conference with a positive message about the state of innovation and where the country is headed. Reinforcing the results of the CCA Expert Panel Review of Science and Technology in Canada, 2012, Minister Goodyear outlined how we are fourth in the world in absolute ranking for basic research output. Budget 2013 builds on this bench strength to get more basic research commercialized and to encourage greater industry investment. It is imperative for us to step our our efforts to increase IP protection and commercialization of the basic research inventions done in our world leading university labs. As Minister Goodyear said, "Invention without IP protection is philanthropy."

Many speakers outlined how Budget 2013 is good for business, as it puts the tools of innovation in the hands of industry and encourages industry to increase investment in R&D partnerships with colleges, polytechnics and universities, as well as increased industry skills training and investment in new equipment. The new IRAP voucher program is one of these tools, and industry leaders are looking to IRAP to show leadership in how this can best spur companies to increase their R&D by tapping into public+private R&D partnerships. IRAP has had its overall budget increased in the last two federal Budgets as the NRC makes the transition into a more industry-facing organization. This is a very positive evolution, and one many are watching closely, ready to provide support.

A positive output of the conference was the focus on product and what customers want. That is, what matters for commercialization and innovation is strong customer demand. Tom Jenkins put it well when he said that "Committing R&D to solving problems creates recursive value" in the community. Brokering "the difference between knowledge and know-how" is the role of innovation intermediaries, which was the focus of a panel discussion that outlined how colleges, polytechnics, universities and granting agencies are using innovation tools articulated in Budget 2013 to increase industry partnerships. Ted Hewitt of SSHRC addressed a common theme of the conference in leading a discussion about metrics and outcomes measurement, talking about SSHRC's focus on "Achievement Reporting" as one way to get the measure of how innovation intermediaries are increasingly encouraging investment in creating social and economic value by bridging labs to the world. Niagara College president Dan Patterson spoke about how college students gain innovation literacy skills while working with industry on applied research projects  reflecting the need for the entire work force to be focused on innovation and productivity.

William Harney, Executive Director of Research & Development, Magna Exteriors & Interiors, articulated the theme of productivity and productization by stating that "the root of productivity is product." It was refreshing to be part of a conversation that acknowledged the value of creating value from research, of encouraging researchers and industry to work together to create products and services, made in Canada, for both Canadian and international markets. This is the future of the R&D enterprise. Kudos to Re$earch Money for another excellent conversation.

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