27 September 2012

The State of Science and Technology in Canada

The Council of Canadian Academies today released the assessment of Canadian S&T. The news is quite good, with Canada performing very well in many areas, in particular Clinical Medicine, Historical Studies, Information and Communication Technologies (ICT), Psychology and Cognitive Sciences, Physics and Astronomy, and Visual and Performing Arts. There are many aspects of Canada's S&T enterprise that contribute to this excellence, notably our world leading tertiary education attainment levels.

Of particular note is the appearance of colleges and Polytechnics in this assessment (see pages 114-115). There are some good metrics of applied research outcomes, tracked very effectively by Polytechnics Canada, that the college and Polytechnic community would do well to bolster over the coming years as we continue to support business innovation through applied research.

See the following link for the complete report:

24 September 2012

Anne Sado, President of George Brown College, speaks on Toronto Next: Return on Innovation, Empire Club, 29 October 2012

Anne Sado, the President of George Brown College, will speak at the Empire Club, 29 October 2012, on Toronto Next: Return on Innovation. Here is a summary of Anne's presentation:

Innovation has achieved a rare conceptual status; virtually every business and entrepreneur aspires to achieve it yet its definition is open to a range of interpretations. Governments, businesses, think tanks and academic institutions across Canada place it at the heart of their strategies, but tangible commercial returns remain elusive. Anne Sado, President of George Brown College, will be releasing results of the college's comprehensive research report, Toronto Next: Return on Innovation, to reveal what is constraining our innovation potential and more importantly, the strategies to effectively convert R&D to profit.

12 September 2012

The Honourable Gary Goodyear announces funding for Connected Health and Wellness Project

The Honourable Gary Goodyear, Minister of the Federal Economic Development Agency for Southern Ontario (FedDev Ontario) today announced funding for the Connected Health Wellness Project. George Brown College is a proud partner in this project, which is led by York University and NexJ Systems. The full list of partners is as follows: NexJ Systems Inc., York University, the UHN's Centre for Global eHealth Innovation, OSCARService Inc., McMaster University Innovation, PryLynx Corporation, Centennial College, Rogers Health Care, George Brown College, North York General, Research In Motion, Seneca College, Trivaris, Southlake Regional Health  Centre, Tyze Personal Networks, and Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (an affiliate of Harvard Medical School).

The Connected Health Wellness Project brings together industry and academic partners to create systems for managing personal health. The Food Innovation Research Studio will lead the work for GBC's component on developing healthy recipes and other nutritional content for delivery over mobile devices via NexJ's Health Coach application.

11 September 2012

Canada leads world in tertiary, college education

The OECD released its annual Education at a Glance report today, and once again, Canada is at the top of the OECD in terms of tertiary education attainment. As in past years, this is only when you combine college and university education.  Significantly, Canada leads the OECD for college (Tertiary Type b - vocational) education as well, and moves up to 8th place for university (Tertiary Type A) education.  It is worth quoting in full the following:
The international tertiary-type 5A classification refers to largely theory-based programmes lasting at least three years, and typically covers university undergraduate and master’s degrees as well as high-skills professions (e.g. medicine, dentistry, law). Tertiary-type 5B programmes are shorter in duration and focus on practical, technical or occupational skills for direct entry into the labour force. In Canada, community colleges and polytechnics are included in this category. For the purposes of this note, the term “college” refers to both community colleges and polytechnics. It is also important to note that many community colleges and polytechnics in Canada offer both tertiary-type 5B and non-tertiary post-secondary type 4 programmes, including occupational preparation and adult education programmes. Statistics Canada data on tertiary education do not allow for distinguishing between some adult education and occupational preparation programmes, so international comparisons of tertiary education systems should be considered with some caution.
This is very good news for Canada. A strong education system ensures a productive and innovative society - at least in theory. While Canada still lags in innovation and productivity, we can take heart in these latest results as they point to the potential our population has for increasing both of these key socio-economic indicators.

But the news is not all good: "many countries surpass Canada in the rate at which their tertiary education attainment levels have grown in recent years." And, "During the global economic crisis, the number of young Canadians who were neither employed nor in education and training increased." This last factor is somewhat worrying.

As I noted earlier, it is time for Canada to align the "two solitudes of education", and to link our world leading R&D and training capacity to explicit outcomes. This will help students understand the relationship of education to employment outcomes, while also help to orient our R&D to industrial outcomes. I see these as very important and intertwined necessities.

07 September 2012

Literacy, Science: cornerstones of the innovation economy

Craig Alexander, senior vice-president and chief economist at TD Bank Group, reminds us that tomorrow is UNESCO's  International Literacy Day in a Globe op-ed Don’t take literacy for granted. This is important; as Alexander points out, literacy and numeracy are fundamental to productivity and prosperity. On a related note, the Globe Editorial says that we must step up our efforts in Selling science to students, in relating how Canadian students are behind our peer countries in pursuing - and even understanding - science. Science and literacy are fundamental to ensuring that we have a well educated and high functioning work force. I've noted in the past how we need a combination of STEM/nonSTEM skills, and that these form the basis for innovation literacy. It is worthwhile to pause on International Literacy Day and reflect on our need to ensure the education systems we have can truly meet the needs of the economy now and in the future. As the Globe points out, because education is a provincial issue, we don`t have a national focus that would enable us to be on par with our international peers. These topics are of relevance on any day, and not just  International Literacy Day. They are important context for the release on 27 September of the Council of Canadian Academies' report on The State of Science and Technology in Canada.

06 September 2012

The two solitudes of Canada's competitiveness

A report out today showing that Canada has slipped again in international competitiveness ratings offers (again) sobering statistics on our need to get our innovation and prosperity house in order. A couple of things stand out for me in this report - the focus on education and the point made that "Switzerland’s scientific research institutions 'are among the world’s best, and the strong collaboration between its academic and business sectors, combined with high company spending on R&D, ensures that much of this research is translated into marketable products and processes.'”

As noted, Canada does not take advantage of our "well-educated workforce," primarily because we do not see education as a single entity. The bifurcation between college and university - as evidenced by recent press reports on the difference between college and university graduate salaries, for example - prevents us from realizing the true potential of an articulated education system. (Today's Letters to the Editor has an excellent rejoinder to this discussion from Colleges Ontario president Linda Franklin.) I've written about this before, and also about the fact that Canada is #1 in the OECD for post-secondary education attainment only when you include both college and university together (OECD Type A and Type B education).

On the issue of "strong collaboration between its academic and business sectors," this is a topic of great importance for Canada. We need to realize that industry-academic partnerships are a positive path toward greater innovation capacity. Other countries understand this better than we do; Canada would be wise to embrace what I have elsewhere called P3RD: Public+Private Partnerships for Research and Development. We eschew strong connections in education and research with industry at our innovation peril.

And so there are two two solitudes: the two solitudes of education (college and university) that are treated as a parallelism in Canada; and the two solitudes of industry and academic R&D and production.

On  the former, let's invest the debate with what might be possible with a nationally articulated education system (timely given that Ontario is in the midst of a large scale educational transformation consultation). On the latter, let's take seriously the outputs of the Jenkins panel report and the upcoming release of the Council of Canadian Academies' report on The State of Science and Technology in Canada. And on this note, you can hear a podcast with Expert Panel Chair Dr. Eliot Phillipson discussing this important work on the CCA site.

05 September 2012

Council of Canadian Academies to release report on The State of Science and Technology in Canada 27 September

I have had the privilege of serving over the past year or so on the Council of Canadian Academies Expert Panel on the State of Science and Technology in Canada. The findings from this work will be released on 27 September at the Economic Club of Canada in Ottawa. Eliot Phillipson, chair of the Expert Panel, will launch the report with a talk titled Science And Technology In Canada: Where Do We Stand?:
The Council of Canadian Academies is releasing an evidence-based assessment on the State of Science and Technology in Canada. This assessment was conducted by an 18-member expert panel of distinguished and multi-disciplinary experts from Canada and abroad. The Panel has developed a comprehensive assessment of the state of S&T in Canada, with a focus on research performed in the higher education sector, as well as in the not-for-profit and government sectors. The Panel’s report provides an authoritative assessment of Canada’s overall S&T strengths, as compared with international peers. It also addresses improvements and/or declines in research fields, highlights emerging areas of S&T, and provides insights on provincial areas of strength and specialization. The collective findings are comprehensive and represent one of the most in-depth examinations of Canadian S&T ever undertaken.