31 January 2012

Re:Forming Canadian Innovation Policy

Stephen Harper's Davos speech has garnered a fair bit of press. Outlining his "fix for a generation" the Prime Minister has addressed the well-worn Canadian R&D and innovation problem and the lackluster return Canada gets on it investments in R&D. Some have noted that this is a foreshadowing of reforms to the SR&ED regime, one  of the recommendations made by the Jenkins Report late last year. It is certainly time to act on the many reports calling for change to our innovation policy. Modernizing our approach to Canadian R&D, supporting the continuum of public sector innovation supports (both "idea push and problem pull") and encouraging businesses to invest in R&D and innovation as matched to the training and support of highly qualified and skilled personnel will go a long way to fostering greater productivity and return on our innovation investments. The problem with making these kinds of policy shifts is that it is difficult to please everyone, and so there will undoubtedly be a clamour of dissent no matter the direction chosen in the next federal budget. Regardless, as a country we need to make the most of the situation, and work together to improve our overall approach to forming a Canadian innovation policy.

18 January 2012

Innovation literacy: key driver of productivity

A recent survey by the Ontario Ministry of Trades, Colleges and Universities indicates that job growth will favour college graduates over university graduates. These numbers are skewed somewhat given that colleges and polytechnics also offer degrees. The point here is that education is a key driver for future job and productivity growth. Another recent story on innovation literacy shows the extent to which both colleges and universities are promoting innovation and entrepreneurship as central to the innovation economy. Over the past few years GBC has promoted innovation literacy as a core outcome for our students engaged in applied research with our partners; it is nice to see this turned into a meme. The language of innovation, and the literacies attendant on it, is important for not just our students and graduates, but also our industry more generally across the country. Future-proofing our economy requires us to promote and understand innovation as a essential skill.

04 January 2012

TRRA Report on College Applied Research Offers Insight on Innovation

A report released a few months ago by the Toronto Region Research Alliance, written by the University of Toronto's Peter Warrian, Stephanie Tombari and Adam Hempstock, offers some good insights into how Ontario colleges are supporting innovation in manufacturing sectors. The discussion makes some very good points about how both universities and colleges support industry innovation, and the need for better communication among all innovation agents. The report is a good snapshot of the early stage, ad hoc approach that Ontario colleges have as we orient our institutions to serving the innovation needs of our industry partners and rely on informal connections to bring applied research into the college mainstream. This is a necessary step in the evolution and modernization of the college system, which includes applied research as a key vehicle for training the talent for the innovation economy. It also emphasizes how innovation is primarily a social activity.

The report makes a useful distinction between large and small enterprises and the relative value each kind of company places on working with a public R&D system support.The assumption here is that R&D is important.

Another useful and correlative report just came across my virtual desk, this one from Innovosource. Perspectives on University-Industry Relationships surveyed 102 leaders from 18 industries and places the responses in the context of relationship terms (attraction, approach, value, inhibitors). While the piece is focused on US research universities, it is instructive to all in Canada who are orienting research capacity toward an instrumentality that looks for opportunities to apply talent and research capacity to business innovation. Canada would do well to not see this application as sullying the research enterprise, but instead as a key way we can become price setters in the global innovation game.