26 February 2011

Productivity through Innovation: More on workforce skills and innovation

The ACCC recently released Productivity through Innovation: Applied Research at Canada’s Colleges and Institutes. Key themes include the value proposition of college applied research, the instillation of innovation literacy in college students engaged in applied research, and the emergence of downstream indicators for social and economic productivity enhancements. The link between workforce skills, innovation literacy and productivity is a topic of great interest, and one I will be devoting a fair bit of time to in the months ahead as I noted earlier. I'll be presenting ideas on these issues, with a focus on the measurement of impacts, at two upcoming events: the ACCC Applied Research Symposium in Victoria, BC, 22-23 March 2011, and the Polytechnics Canada Annual Conference in Vancouver, BC, 5-6 May 2011.

A lot of my thinking on this topic has been spurred on by the OECD report on Workforce Skills and Innovation. As my previous post on this says, this report is the most significant data to date on the net effects of R&D and the diffusion of innovation. The Canadian innovation system will be well placed to capitalize on a participatory, people-centred innovation that focuses on the development of innovation literacy at all levels of the workforce, and the multiplier effect that results within industry when undergraduate-prepared students (from colleges and universities alike) are paired with those with graduate training. This is a very important point for all involved in R&D: it is not a zero sum game of choosing one over the other. Rather, acknowledging a fully integrated and complementary approach to fostering innovation lets all components of an innovation ecosystem play to their strengths. GBC made this point in our submission to the R&D Panel, as have others.

It bears repeating: All of us implicated in the Canadian innovation system have a responsibility - a response-ability - to step up and continue to work together with each other and other players in the system. We need to think past the immediate and see the longer term goals of improving social and economic prosperity. In these tumultuous and kinetic times, our productivity challenges demand this of us.

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