Guest Contributor Laura Pedro: The State of Canadian Innovation

According to many prominent academics and business people, the state of Canadian innovation has seen better days.  Canadian “institutions have failed to create a culture of innovation, of entrepreneurship, of creativity, and of intelligent risk-taking,” argues University of Alberta fellow Peter Hackett, the former CEO of the now-defunct Alberta Ingenuity.  The Conference Board of Canada gave the country “D” in innovation in 2010, and Canada ranks dead last out of 25 developed countries in the awarding of PhDs.  Some have even called this struggle Canada’s biggest economic challenge.

Critics and recent studies have pointed to a number of reasons for these distressing facts.  Some say that Canada has grown complacent with its natural resource wealth, while some blame an aversion to risk-taking.

While Canadian innovation is currently struggling, a recent report by The Institute for Competitive and Prosperity provided a number of recommendations.  First, the authors argued that Canada needs to encourage a culture that unites talent in common pursuit, rather than separates it, and one which nurtures “forgiveness of failure” in the pursuit of innovation.  Second, they argued that Canada must stop basing its innovation strategy on incentives such as low taxes, and instead support talent and projects built as a result of competitive pressure, both globally and domestically.

Fortunately, there are some positive signs of the state of innovation in Canada.  There are successful regional clusters such as Waterloo, Ontario, home to Research in Motion (creator of Blackberry), Open Text, two prominent universities and more than 700 high-tech businesses.  This cluster has the potential to be a blueprint that other regions can pattern themselves after.

Some, however, suggest that the key to enhancing innovation across Canada is to treat the sector like the one thing Canada indisputably leads the world in: hockey.  Start young, nurture talent, and then wring out every ounce of potential.

Laura Pedro is a Program Assistant with the Canada Institute at the Woodrow Wilson Center.

Sources: ComputerWorld Canada, CTV News, Edmonton Journal, The Globe and Mail, Montreal Gazette

Photo Credit: Innovation Canada courtesy of flickr user cstmweb

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One Response to Guest Contributor Laura Pedro: The State of Canadian Innovation

  1. Laura says:

    Follow up story on Canadian start-ups in the Globe and Mail. Maple Leaf Digital Lounge (http://www.mapleleafdigitallounge.com/) created to bring together Canadian innovators and help ‘sell’ their ideas/products at SXSW.

    See full story: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/your-business/start/location/maple-leaf-lounge-sells-canada/article1957102/

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