02 July 2011

Speed to market and user-centred innovation

On Thursday I was interviewed on BNN's The Close, addressing "Innovation in Canada". The segment afforded an opportunity to showcase some of the work that the George Brown College Research Labs are doing to support business innovation in Canada. The interview was timely given the release last week of the Science and Technology Innovation Council's latest report that outlines Canada's still-lagging innovation performance.

It's worth summarizing a few key points: Innovation is adding value - social or economic. It's not about invention - it's about translating invention and/or ideas into something of value. Innovation is not necessarily new to the world (this is invention), but new to a market. Canada has a world leading basic R&D system, but no innovation system and no innovation policy to support knowledge translation into innovation. Businesses don't invest in R&D (c.f. our HERD/BERD imbalance). We need to capitalize on our talent pool - which STIC also reinforced - in order to foster the diffusion of user-centred innovation throughout Canadian culture. George Brown College links the supply of talent to industry innovation demand by mobilizing our students and faculty to address industry needs. Here are three examples:

Theralase - this is an example of new to a market (definition of innovation) - not new to the world. Watch a CTV news clip here. We are collaborating with Theralase Inc. to do a feasibility study and to explore the possibilities of using cell destroying power of the Photodynamic compounds (PDCs) to attack and destroy bacterial contaminants of food. The company also wants assistance in ascertaining the market opportunity and potential commercialization products in this field. The objective of this study is to Do background and market research;  List competitive technologies; Scope the project; and Deliver recommendation on PDC application to the sanitation process in the food service and food manufacturing industry.

Memotext - we are working on helping this company to create protocols for medication compliance prompts for people taking medication. Personalize emails, voicemails, text messages, SMS - prompts to improve medication compliance.

The Green Syndications Vertical Axis Wind Turbine - our faculty and students helped take an unworkable patent and create a product ready for market by establishing proof of concept based on a new five blade VAWT design. See GBC grad Edward Wong's award winning video of the project here.

Connecting the supply of talent to industry demand for innovation is necessary. When colleges engage students in applied research, they gain crucial innovation and entrepreneurship skills. This will lead to downstream capacity to innovate in industry contexts, thereby meeting industry demand for innovation. Colleges occupy this space almost exclusively, connecting our students to crucial innovation experience and socializing industry to spend on R&D. Our role in fostering greater innovation and productivity across the country is unparalleled, and our capacity to increase industry innovation is heightened with recent federal government budget announcements. I will be picking up these threads later in the summer and into the fall as we work on connecting industry to our talent pool, and making a mark on Canada's innovation performance.