01 May 2007

ROI2: Return on Investment; Return on Innovation

The Ontario Centres of Excellence Discovery 07 conference today presented the results of research and innovation conducted in the Ontario R&D sectors. CONII had a presence with the Colleges Ontario booth, promoting Ontario Colleges as open for applied research business.

Ray Kurzweil gave the morning keynote speech, appearing via 3D holographic representation, and even signing copies of his book remotely using a haptic robotic arm developed in Canada.

Speaking about the exponential expansion of computational capability, Kurzweil said “Explosive growth is seductive,” as doubling small numbers leads to doubling large numbers which takes us from the trivial to the profound very quickly. Kurzweil’s prognostications provide fodder for our creative future mediated by technology. While some may take issue with Kurzweil’s idea that we will by 2029 upload our consciousness into a computer (healthy skepticism), there can be no denying that there are many social and technologic consequences to innovation.

Innovation was the theme of the day, as was going from mind to market. The commercialization of science and its outputs is a key driver of Ontario’s economy, a point made during the lunch address by Sandra Pupatello, Ontario’s Minister of Economic Development and Trade. Our knowledge based society is predicated on our ability to imagine the future and to apply this to design and development, while concurrently studying the implications of the pace of innovation.

Applied research taps innovation, and promotes industrial research partnerships that give us a return on our investment (time, money). We would do well to remember that there is also a return on innovation. This is perhaps more difficult to measure. But in the realm of ideas and innovation we create a gravitational pull with predictions projected on the blank slate of a future state. This gravitational pull shows us the realm of the possible, and draws ideas in its general direction as a path of discovery. “Software is always on the edge of what’s capable” said Kurzweil today. This edge is the purview of applied research: taking ideas to innovation and beyond.

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