24 March 2011

Innovation, entrepreneurship and future-proofing Canadian productivity

I've just returned from the ACCC Applied Research Symposium, which featured excellent discussions, dialog and debate on the state of college applied research, our collaborative efforts at building our capacity, and how we can work together - and with other actors in the Canadian innovation system - to ensure growth in Canadian productivity. This is the third year I've attended the symposium, and I am very impressed with how we've come together. Innovation support continues to evolve across the college sector.

Panelists and presenters gave delegates a good overview of policy needs as well as practical measures that will build system capacity and let us show our strengths in supporting business innovation. The Symposium was nicely foregrounded against the Budget backdrop, which recognizes the key role colleges play in supporting the diffusion of innovation across the country. As the highlights in my last post show, the recognition achieved in the Budget is a strong signal of the applied research advantage offered by colleges and polytechnics. As I've noted earlier, our advantage is our ability to integrate and link workforce education and innovation literacy. The ACCC and Polytechnics Canada press releases show the value proposition we offer to Canadian innovation.

The ACCC Symposium featured speakers from NSERC, SSHRC and CFI, all of whom spoke about the crucial support these granting councils give to the college applied research sector. The Innovation Enhancement Program (formerly CCIP) administered by NSERC on behalf of the Tri-Council is a key vehicle for developing the applied research capacity in Canada. The CFI's new College Industry Innovation Program, launched last December, is helping us to collectively modernize the Canadian college system while building industry innovation support linked closely with education. SSHRC is a key vehicle for linking applied research and business innovation with downstream social and economic productivity improvement. Innovation is a social act, and it is the human sciences that enable us to bridge technical disciplines with business and entrepreneurship--and to develop "user-oriented" participatory innovation with wide applicability.

The Budget shows we all have a role in ensuring that Canada remains competitive and productivity increases. Key here is the development of innovation and entrepreneurship skills - people-centred innovation and the balancing of STEM and non-STEM skills and attributes essential to building a healthy and robust innovation economy in Canada. More on this in the days and weeks to come: the development of an entire workforce with innovation literacy requires an "and" approach - not a zero-sum this-or-that approach, but rather this and that--complementary research capacity working to build complementary skill-sets to future-proof Canadian productivity.

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