The Canadian Government, now over a number of decades has talked about job and wealth creation through innovation, about securing a future based on new generation industries developed from science and new knowledge. While our track record in research has been laudable, our success at commercialization has been at best poor. Insanity is often defined as repeating a task over and over again and expecting a different result. Something has to change if we expect to turn this around.

But this surely won’t come about by supporting policy forums, by producing well researched and well written reports on research, on innovation or on economic development. Neither will it come about by the Federal Government’s generous investments in Super Clusters, in providing Venture Capital funds to BDC or other venture capital fund of funds or even by doubling the critical national granting agencies’ budgets.

We need to create an ongoing systematic review of policies and funding programs throughout the “Innovation Spectrum or Continuum” and on a continuous basis make sure that key elements are not falling through the cracks.

I use the analogy of a linked chain where the links are individual components of the innovation continuum and the notion that the chain is only as strong as the weakest link. This is critical in the Canadian context if the Innovation Agenda is to succeed.

The Links:

  1. Strong Research Based Academic Institutions

  2. Effective Government support for research

  3. Strong Intellectual Property (IP) Protection and Management

  4. Effective and Rewarding Technology Transfer Mechanisms

  5. Proof of Principle Funding

  6. Early Stage and Angel Seed Funding

  7. Effective Managers and Entrepreneurs to drive Start-Up Companies

  8. Venture Capital and Follow on Funding

  9. Corporate Receptors (to allow some technologies to stay in Canada)

  10. Public and Private Procurement Processes Favouring Canadian Products

Following on the axiom that the process is only “as strong as the weakest link”, it is essential that government policies and programs pay close attention to each of the critical components of the research/innovation continuum.

Venture Capital will not be attracted if we do not have ideas coming out of our universities that are well protected by solid IP policies. Businesses will not survive if we do not have effective, entrepreneurial management and they will not thrive at least initially if they cannot sell their products in Canada.

My biggest concern is that while I believe that Prime Minister Trudeau’s government is clear that they must represent a single innovation continuum and their agenda demonstrates a will to invest, they may be doing so in a fragmented manner. Supporting Research, Innovation and Economic Growth as three separate entities is an approach that will ultimately be to the detriment of Canadian innovation.