26 November 2008

Report from the ACCT Annual Conference

The Alliance for Commercialization of Canadian Technologies held their annual conference in Ottawa on 24 and 25 November. The agenda offered many interesting sessions on three tracks: educational, operational and strategic. It was interesting to note in several sessions where metrics were discussed that there is a general feeling that, while metrics are useful, success stories are even more so, as these give life to the data. Both Polytechnics Canada and CONII have made success stories a core facet of how we transmit metrics and the impact(s) of applied research. (Success stories from the GBC Research Labs can be found on our Research Archive).

A session by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada featured data from their publication "Momentum: The 2008 report on university research and knowledge mobilization." This report calls for better collaboration models across the R&D spectrum (a favourite topic of mine) and better mobilization of highly qualified (and skilled) personnel, in particular "the development of skills conducive to entrepreneur sip" and fostering "responsiveness and adaptability of the workforce." This is commensurate with GBC's Research Commercialization and Innovation program and our focus on innovation literacy.

Day 2 of the conference featured an entire track devoted to College and Polytechnic research, innovation and commercialization. In these sessions there were many good presentations on how to engage students in industry research projects, and the general need for and move toward complementarity.

13 November 2008

When in doubt, innovate

With recent news that the global economic meltdown proceeds apace, and the Conference Board reporting that Canada yet again scores a "D" on innovation, this is a good time to reinforce the idea that innovation should be a priority, particularly during trying economic times. As one writer put it in reference to the auto industry seeking a billion dollar bailout, now is the time to enable these industries to find their way toward a more sustainable future. In a word: innovate.

Where Canada lacks in innovation, we have a significant opportunity to reinvigorate our industries through the "creative economies," in Richard Florida's terms. This point was reinforced by the recent Conference Board of Canada sponsored International Forum on the Creative Economy: "Arts and culture industries play a vital role in attracting people, business, and investment, and in distinguishing Canada as a dynamic and exciting place to live and work."

While not a panacea, creative thinking may help us to find ways to lift us out of our innovation doldrums while increasing social and economic productivity.

10 November 2008

College applied research in the news

Today's Report on Business contains the Report on Colleges: Innovation section with a story "Moving to the front lines of applied research." It's a good overview of how college applied research fits within the continuum of research and development within Canada. There is also a call out on the College and Community Innovation program launched in Budget 2007 as part of the Federal Science and Technology Strategy:

Funding a key player
The vital role that Canadian colleges play in the applied research world was emphasized last February when it was announced that up to 25 college-based R&D projects would be supported with a $48-million, three-year College and Community Innovation (CCI) program, managed by the Natural Science and Engineering Research Council.

Although it welcomed the move, the Association of Canadian Community Colleges (ACCC) expressed concern that it had taken seven years from the time it began pushing for federal support of R&D activities before the CCI, first developed as a $1.8-million pilot project, became a permanent program.

"This is a real breakthrough. It's the first time the government has recognized the college contribution to research and working with the private sector ... Now we need to demonstrate the value added for Canada: local economic development and productivity enhancement," said James Knight, president of the ACCC, which represents more than 150 colleges and polytechnics.

The group intends to document the outcomes of the research receiving CCI funding to lobby for more government support.

07 November 2008

Innovation Summit a Success

The recent CANARIE/ORION summit - Powering Innovation - brought together "Canadian and global leaders and innovators in science, research, education and information technology to discuss and showcase new and innovative technologies that are transforming the way we conduct research, collaborate, teach and learn." UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert Birgeneau opened the conference with examples of public private partnerships (P3) models for funding research and development activities. Another keynote by John Kao offered good insights into the value of translation - that is, the need for translators or interlocutors in the research enterprise. These are people who can speak the language of science, but can also relate well to industry. The skills to do this are what we are teaching in our graduate program in Research Commercialization and Innovation (RCI). We foster what we call Innovation literacy: the ability to think creatively, evaluate, and apply problem-solving skills to diverse and intangible issues within industrial problems and multidisciplinary contexts. We believe that fostering innovation literacy in our highly qualified and skilled graduates is a key differentiator of the Polytechnic advantage, particularly as regards applied research conducted in close concert with industry and community needs.

Kao also spoke about the need for countries - equally applicable to institutions - to find a niche in which to excel, rather than trying to be all things to all people. Douglas Van Houweling, Founding President & CEO of Internet2, talked about supporting the "next generation of collaborative discovery" alluding to the network ecology that goes beyond science and technology to include the entire spectrum of the human investigative endeavour. Including the arts and humanities in this way acknowledges the key role all disciplines have in shaping the foundation for tomorrow's civic cyber-infrastructure, which will be founded on the tools being used for advancing science (i.e. Internet2).

From industry we heard from Adam Froman, President & CEO of Delvinia Interactive, who challenged the audience to think beyond academic boundaries and to support applied research that moves in concert with, and at the pace of business. While acknowledging the importance of fundamental and basic research, fostering applied research in concert with industry - the purview of Colleges - will enhance industrial productivity. Froman reminded us that we need to reward failure as much as success when it comes to innovation, as these are necessary stepping stones on the path to successful innovation.

03 November 2008

Chefs' House in the news

GBC's new teaching restaurant - the Chefs' House - is featured in this article from 1 November. The Chefs' House opening coincides with the $20m renovation of the Culinary and Hospitality building.