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.

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