Needed: Innovative thinking on innovation
L Naiman ©2010
It’s the same story every year. Canada’s performance in productivity and innovation remains poor.
Eugene Lang and Diana Carney in a Globe and Mail article published today, say “Successive governments have attempted to tackle the issue, yet progress is as elusive as ever.”
I suspect it’s because much of the focus in the past has been on technology. We need also need to create a culture that support creative thinking, and innovation in spheres beyond R&D.
Lang and Carney ask some great questions:
What makes Canada a less entrepreneurial country than the United States? Why are Canadian university graduates less focused on bringing their ideas to market than their counterparts to the south? And can we change this culture or, at the very least, encourage Canadian entrepreneurs to stay here, rather than setting up shop south of the border?
They make some sound recommendations to help Canada compete globally:
Making government support to innovation more transparent (and accountable) would also help. At present, the federal government delivers a disproportionately high proportion of its support to innovation through indirect tax credits. This results in long-term but opaque funding. Grants and loans would be far easier to track – and cancel if they were not working – and more likely to have a stimulating effect.
A further option for government is to become more strategic in supporting those sectors in which Canada has clear advantages (not just natural resources, but agriculture, aerospace, infrastructure and education, for example). This would require a change in culture: regional sensibilities have militated against such support in the past. It would also require more attention to stimulating trade.
All mature economies wish to increase trade with the dynamic Asian countries: what can take Canada to the front of the queue? Our natural resources clearly give us leverage, but we cannot take that for granted. If we want to ship gas and oil to Asia, we must make sure we have the domestic infrastructure (think pipelines and shipping terminals) in place. But we have to bring more to the table. We have to collaborate and cross-invest in the development of innovative energy products and services. We have to strengthen ties and mutual understanding through educational links between our countries. We have to find ways to help Asian countries respond to their own pressing challenges, including resource issues but also social and environmental concerns.
Source: Needed: Innovative thinking on innovation – The Globe and Mail.
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