By Stephen Rhodes
Innovation is something new or a new way of doing something old. It can involve changes in thinking or approaches, new products or new processes and often is revolutionary in scope. It needs to move us beyond the pale, metaphorically speaking.
Innovation depends on putting invention into practice, making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear and taking it to market where value is created for a customer. An idea may lead to an invention, but it isn’t an innovation until it is commercialized. The benefit is to improve productivity, create jobs, and prosperity, improve our quality of life and along the way create wealth in a economy.
As a country our investment in innovation creates a competitive advantage. Canada has no shortage of good ideas; but we fall short with the support needed to transform inventions into innovations. We have a long list of innovations in agriculture, mining, forestry and fisheries. And there is acrylics, basketball, the Canadarm, the electron microscope, five-pin bowling, goalie mask, insulin, jolly jumper, kerosene, pablum, paint roller, rollerskate, snowblower, telephone and the zipper. Oh, we also invented Superman.
But with our natural resources in great demand around the world, it seems easier and more profitable to invest in resource development. While the prospect of triple-digit oil prices will clearly fuel Canada’s post-recession economy for a while, long-term sustainability will always be an issue.
A Conference Board of Canada report card in 2008 says we are well supplied with good universities, engineering schools, teaching hospitals, and technical institutes. We produce science that is well respected around the world. But, with some exceptions, Canada does not take the steps that other countries take to ensure that science is successfully commercialized and used as a source of advantage for innovative companies seeking global market share.
The Board places Canada 13th in the world in its report card. In short, it says Canada needs to move away from short-term job protection policies that consume important resources and instead support long-term innovation.
What do you think?