25 August 2015

Innovation in Canada

The Globe and Mail has been running a series of articles on innovation in Canada, kicked off back in May by a piece by Jim Balsillie. These articles are not really telling us anything we do not already know: Canada spends more per capita on basic research than our G7 counterparts, but we are at the bottom when it comes to business investment in R&D (and education and training and new technology, while we are at it). A couple of weeks ago there was a good article by Ian Klugman and Kevin Lynch on how the Toronto-Waterloo corridor could be Canada’s own Silicon Valley. For the first time in the series an author (or authors in this case) acknowledged that there is an innovation intermediary system comprised not just of universities, but also of colleges and polytechnics. I suppose in some respects it is short hand for post secondary education for most writers and editors to simply say universities, but we ignore the wider system at our detriment.

The key point here is that, while we certainly need to focus on more startups emerging from our world leading basic science labs, we also need to focus on what we can do to help those companies who want to innovate. A well functioning innovation intermediary ecosystem includes the span of PSE institutions all working toward their particular strengths.

The Greater Toronto Area is emerging as one of these, with world leading university research labs and hospitals functioning well alongside smaller universities and start up ecosystems along with colleges and polytechnics that are each doing their part for the whole.

Ensuring everyone across the educational outcome spectrum is well equipped with innovation literacy skills - and knows how to work with others in the system - will future proof our economy. A good thought for a week when the world's markets are taking such a beating.

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