21 August 2012

Congratulations and a celebration of Canadian research

Two Canadian researchers - from Ryerson University and the University of Toronto - have been honoured by MIT for their contributions to innovation. The Globe and Mail reports MIT to honour two professors transforming the world from Toronto, showcasing Hossein Rahnama of Ryerson University's Digital Media Zone and Joyce Poon of the University of Toronto's Electrical and Computer Engineering.

I saw Rahnama present at a past OCE Discovery conference, where he won an award for his start up as a graduate student. It's impressive technology, and his comments on the challenges of conducting research in Canada bear repeating:

“Curiosity-driven research has to be there, but as a country we are doing terrible at translating that into jobs and commercial successes,” Prof. Rahnama says.
He has found it hard to find early adopters for his technology in Canada, and earlier this year set up a London office to focus on European users.
“In Canada, we have to commit to a lot of prove points and pilots,” he says. “In Europe, especially Nordic countries, it’s much easier to get companies to try technologies.”
This is a good lesson for all involved in research in Canada - basic and applied - as we work collectively to foster more home grown innovation. And speaking of basic and applied research, here is a good piece on the history of this distinction: Basic research turns 67. It also contains a link to Vannever Bush's 1945 article Science, The Endless Frontier. Both are interesting in light of Canada`s recent efforts to revitalize our moribund record on turning research into innovations. Uncovering the ideological roots of the bifurcation of research is interesting and necessary context for our discussion on innovation.

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