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.

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