25 June 2009

ONE Way to Work Together in Support of Innovation

John Wilkinson, outgoing Minister of the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation (MRI), yesterday launched the Ontario Network of Excellence (ONE) during a speech at the Economic Club of Canada. The announcement is an update on the Ontario innovation system, and outlines how MRI is leveraging the considerable, collective assets supporting R&D in the province. Central here is the idea of an innovation ecosystem that MRI has been promoting for some time. This is the collaborate to compete model whereby all aspects of the system function in a complementary fashion in support of research, development and innovation. All of us involved in the innovation equation are oriented toward the same goal of increasing social and economic productivity in Canada.

Features of ONE include a client-focused and collaborative approach to the Ontario Commercialization Network whereby the parts are better integrated and coordinated, in order to make it easier for industry to access the intellectual and financial capital needed to create and improve new products and services. This is a transformation of the Ontario innovation system, said Wilkinson, calling it a "reboot" whereby industry can "access, understand, navigate and collaborate" with any part of the whole. This any point of access philosophy is in keeping with the kinds of systems approach many jurisdictions have constructed, from the EU, to the Boston Corridor and Singapore. A virtual, distributed research cluster built on the principles of a mesh network will offer seamless service delivery in support of R&D and innovation.

Four pillars will define ONE:
  1. The Ontario Centres of Excellence will lead the academic/industry partnership development portfolio, something OCE is already excelling at.
  2. Bringing new technologies to market will be led by MaRS, primarily through their Business Accelerator Program.
  3. Regional Innovation Networks across the province will provide points of presence and contact for industry for the network.
  4. Strategic financing will be provided by MRI.
All of these will be conjoined and oriented toward common metrics. These metrics, perhaps the most significant aspect of ONE, will ensure accountability and delivery on results. The metrics will be consistent across the network. ONE will "make geography irrelevant," as the focus will be on common innovation service delivery where the quality of ideas, depth of commitment, and the drive to succeed will be defining factors in the overall success of all, working together.

George Brown College, and our partners in the Colleges Ontario Network for Industry Innovation (CONII), are a core part of this network. Funding received in the last provincial budget has supported the continuation and expansion of CONII. GBC's own innovation support services are founded on this model of articulation and complementarity, and the ability to work within the innovation ecosystem in support of our common productivity goals.

Education is the foundation of the innovation economy, Wilkinson reminded the audience. Bringing talent into the innovation system is a key differentiator of the global economy where capital and labour are increasing mobile. The Ontario education and innovation systems will be well placed to integrate as the new MRI minister. John Milloy, is also Minister of Training, Colleges and Universities. Our focus on fostering innovation literacy in our graduates commensurate with work on industry-facing applied research projects is fully aligned with the direction MTCU and MRI are headed. This is a significant step forward in ensuring that Ontario can regain its competitive edge and be a global player in research, development and innovation.

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