25 October 2010

Innovation key to improving productivity, standard of living

An interview today with Kevin Lynch offers continuing insights into why it is important to foster innovation and productivity as we seek to improve and enhance our standard of living. I've posted a couple of links to some of Lynch's works in the recent past - his insights are sound regarding the need for fostering improved business R&D investment vis-a-vis our investment in R&D through higher education institutions. Realigning the HERD|BERD imbalance is one key step in fostering improved productivity thus our standard of living.

Elsewhere in today's Globe is a piece on the sale of Nortel's Ottawa campus to the federal government. This is a sad indictment of Canada's failure to support private sector R&D. As I noted in my post on the Economy n+1, Nortel was responsible for a large portion of our reported BERD. Economy n+1 is the next stage of growth, past 2.0 and 3.0, anticipating a future state where social and economic productivity growth is part of the fabric of Canadian life. This requires us to be less risk averse. As Canada will rely on immigration for all net new labour force growth starting next year, we have an opportunity to capitalize on those who take the risk to leave their countries to settle in Canada. I think this bodes well for future change. As agents of change we have difficult times to get through to be sure, but change we must as a society to fix our ailing productivity.

15 October 2010

Industry Canada sponsors Expert Panel on Research and Development in Canada

Minister of State for Science and Technology Gary Goodyear yesterday announced the Government of Canada’s Expert Review Panel on Research and Development. This is welcome news that will enable all partners in the Canadian Innovation System to further our capacity to engage industry in R&D and improve social and economic productivity. As the announcement states, Canada leads in Higher Education R&D investment, but lags seriously in Business Expenditures on R&D.  Realignment of this imbalance is a crucial step toward improving productivity and equipping and engaging the next generation of innovation economy workers  who will be well prepared to take on leadership positions with entrepreneurial and problem solving capabilities. As I noted in my last post, teaching innovation literacy as a core competency of every student across the entire education spectrum is one way we can help Canada boost our capacity to innovate.

The Expert Panel as announced by Minister Goodyear is a timely temperature check on how well our innovation system is responding to the needs of industry, and what we can do to further the goal of enhancing industry R&D and innovation more broadly. Nobina Robinson of Polytechnics Canada, of which GBC is a member, is a member of the expert panel.

Of note today corresponding to this key announcement is the report from the Conference Board of Canada on the role of immigrants in improving Canada's innovation capacity. With all net labour force growth set to come from immigration by next year, immigrants as "the embodiment of innovation" will be central to our national performance on innovation and improving productivity. Integrating immigrants swiftly into the labour market, taking advantage of their high degree of education and skills, and equipping them with the tools to get working productivity as quickly as possible are key concerns. George Brown College has been very active in this area, with many programs designed to do this, including our Research Commercialization and Innovation program (currently being revamped for its next intake).

13 October 2010

10 things to improve innovation

A report out today from the Coalition for Action on Innovation in Canada lists 10 easy things Canada can do to improve and foster innovation. I've pasted this list below. Download the complete report here.

The list is interesting for its focus on spurring industry R&D spending through incentives, as well as a target on education. We should be fostering innovation literacy throughout the entire school system across the country.

What is missing from the list is simply marketing: letting firms know that the postsecondary institutions that comprise the public sector facet of the innovation system is here and ready to work with them on improving products, processes and practices. A study last year by NSERC that looked at industry awareness of their R&D programs (whereby industry can partner with an academic institution) showed a very low rate of knowledge (only about 7%) on how NSERC for example can help firms innovate with PSE partners.

And speaking of partnerships: NSERC yesterday announced three new platforms for funding college applied research in concert with industry partners.

Ten things Canada can do quickly – and pretty cheaply – to become a leader in innovation:
1. Make R&D tax credits open to public companies and businesses that lose money.
2. Create government-sponsored “co-investment funds” with private investors to finance emerging companies.
3. Adopt the world’s strongest intellectual property regime.
4. Launch pilot partnerships between retired entrepreneur coaches and startups.
5. Enlist more retired executives to help the government dole out R&D funds.
6. Use the federal government’s buying power to spur adoption of new products and services.
7. Set a national target of a 90-per-cent high-school graduation rate and boost master’s and doctoral graduates.
8. Help foreign graduate students gain permanent immigration status.
9. Form a national network to share know-how among existing clusters of innovative companies and industries.
10. Create an independent advocacy group to push innovation by Canadian companies.

06 October 2010

Toronto Community Foundation launches 2010 Toronto Vital Signs

Toronto Community Foundation President & CEO Rahul K. Bhardwaj yesterday launched the 2010 Toronto Vital Signs, a comprehensive annual report on 11 key indicators of Toronto's quality of life. Bhardwaj gave a speech to the Canadian Club to launch the report, which was accompanied by an open letter with advice for the new mayor of Toronto. The letter outlines the need for Toronto to step up to the real challenges we face, promote collaborative leadership, and enable Toronto to emerge as a truly global city. Bhardwaj's speech was broadcast live by Rogers, and will be available online later this week.

The Vital Signs summary offers an excellent overview of some of the challenges we face in ensuring we have a livable and vibrant city. These challenges are germane to our overall productivity as a city and a region. From improving learning opportunities and the conditions of  the creative class, facilitating immigrant integration for an active workforce that can meet the skills gaps and shortages with innovation literacy, to ensuring we have an efficient and effective transportation system, we have much to celebrate but also lots to work on with respect to working, getting started in Canada and  improving our overall health and wellness. The 11 indicators in the Vital Signs report offer key insights for improving productivity. It is incumbent on us all to heed these insights, and to ensure they are front and centre in our ongoing discussions about how we can best be enablers of the innovation economy and to create a healthy, vibrant and innovative society.

George Brown College is the lead research partner for the Toronto Community Foundation's Vital Signs.