27 February 2015

Open Access and the Difference Makers

Minister of State for Science and Technology the Honourable Ed Holder today addressed the Economic Club on the federal government's Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy. The biggest news of the day was the announcement of the new Open Access Publishing policy for federally funded research. This is a Big Deal. What it means is that Canadians will have access to all published data of publicly funded research. The Tri-Council agencies have been working on this for some time and this is very good for the Canadian research community and the general public. Breaking down barriers between research and the public is a good thing to do. As a member of the SSHRC Programs and Quality Committee I am very pleased to see this reach fruition; SSHRC has been a strong supporter of this initiative. Congratulations are in order for all concerned.

Minister Holder gave a good overview of the government's new ST&I Strategy, outlining the investments in basic and applied research, from universities to colleges and industry-academic partnerships. He also spoke about the need to encourage more STEM education - I know Canada has a deficit here (as it does in industry investment in R&D, but that's coincidence not correlation or causation). Calling young people in STEM fields "the difference makers" Minister Holder outlined how youth today growing into STEM disciplines and careers are very much part of the foundation for the country's future. Making a difference is what counts, and entrepreneurship - a key tenet of the Strategy - is also a foundation of making a difference. On that note, check out StartGBC - our new gateway to entrepreneurship at George Brown College.

24 February 2015

Balsillie bullish on Canada’s commercialization competitiveness

Jim Balsillie diagnoses the ills of Canada's competitiveness in an article in today's Globe and Mail. "A tale of two economies and headlines" Balsillie states that he is "bullish on Canada’s prospects for the future" provided we can start to focus less on resource extraction (being a price taker) and more on fostering innovation based industries (to be a price setter). It's not that resource extraction industries are not important to our economy, but rather that we need to ensure that we help foster the next generation of entrepreneurs and innovators and to teach them "how to protect their ideas, commercialize them and then maximize the ensuing profit." The one thing I will fault Balsillie for here is his focus on universities as being the only conduit for entrepreneurship. As the federal government's new Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy outlines, Canada's innovation ecosystem is comprised of universities, polytechnics and colleges, who together make up the fabric of education and R&D support for industry. Recognizing this fact will help Balsillie and others realize our shared goal of being like "other innovation nations."

17 February 2015

Sustainability and innovation

The Globe and Mail published a story on sustainability and how it is becoming a growing topic in business schools. Sustainability in this regard is highly related to innovation and our country's ability to compete internationally. George Brown College is active in sustainability is several ways. On the one hand, our Green Building Centre, funded by FedDev Ontario, enables us to conduct applied research with firms interested in the business of sustainability. As we say on our site: "The Green Building Centre acts as a hub of research infrastructure that connects industry to economically meaningful applied research. This new research hub will focus on the Canadian construction, engineering and IT sectors, facilitating applied research in green construction and sustainable building practices." This is an example of how we are leveraging investment from the federal government and private industry to support innovation related to sustainability in Ontario. Building products and processes developed here to support sustainable building are exportable around the world.

Another way we are supporting sustainability is through curricula. Professor Sandra Neill, in our Academic Excellence department, has recently conducted a sustainability audit of our curricula across the college. The audit was supported through FedDev and NSERC funding. Prof Neill found that the "Integration of sustainability themes at the learning outcome level allows the College to . . . Provide highly relevant sustainability skills & knowledge to George Brown graduates—because these are valuable to their employers and communities." This comprehensive audit resulted in not only enabling George Brown to understand where and how sustainability is taught, but she also created useful tools for others to perform the same audit. These tools are freely available here.

02 February 2015

Government has a role in supporting innovation

Here is a good overview of innovation and R&D policy that puts forth the idea that governments have a key role to play in fostering innovation. In essence it offers a view that fostering broad innovation activity in an economy requires a balance between public and private sector inputs. Despite this focus, the article does miss the fact that there are ample public-private R&D (P3RD) and industry-academic partnerships. I've made the point recently that, those who have been quick to criticize the latest S&T&I policy the federal government put out have ignored the fact that partnerships between college, polytechnics, universities and firms is a positive way to promote an innovation economy. Despite this oversight, the article proffers some good questions that are worthwhile to consider. It is useful to have this debate, particularly when half of business we surveyed in 2012 as part of our Toronto Next: Return on Innovation study said it is the government's role to innovate.