21 November 2011

Policy innovation for an innovation policy

I am writing from Innovation 2011 - the annual conference of ACCT Canada, Canada's R&D Partnership conference. There are many interesting and relevant sessions, including the luncheon keynote by Polytechnics Canada CEO Nobina Robinson. GBC Research partner and CEO of Infonaut Niall Wallace is here to participate in a panel discussion on how colleges and polytechnics can aid industry partners in taking products to market.

Of interest also is an article in today's Globe by Rotman Business School Dean Roger Martin. In "Canada, like Steve Jobs, should zero in on innovation," Martin talks about the need for Canada to focus on innovation, not invention, as a key way to solve our productivity problem. Pointing out that Canada invests more per capita than the US on invention, with little to show for it, Martin makes a good point about how some policy innovation around funding and support for industry to innovate will lead to an innovation policy that puts "the user, rather than the scientist, at the centre of the picture." 

There is very timely advice here from Martin, including that it is time we taught innovation skills in the K-12 education system.

This article follows a good piece in Saturday's Globe business section called "Canada's innovation window of opportunity."  It discusses the Canadian productivity problem, innovation and R&D incentives. The Jenkins panel is cited, as is Jenkins himself who says: "the closer we can get to rewarding the outcome instead of the input, the better." This relates well to the need for us to provide the talent for the innovation economy and to educate industry on the need for productivity and the relationship this has to innovation skills.

The ACCT conference on R&D partnerships is a very timely discourse on the need to work together to link industry to the Canadian education system, and to focus these efforts of providing value for industry first and foremost. An open, participatory approach to innovation where we foster and reward market oriented outcomes will lead the way to a more prosperous Canada. Putting the user first means focusing not on what we do, but on what we can do to support social and economic innovation.

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