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Posts Tagged ‘Conference Board of Canada’

By Hari Venkatacharya

I have the privilege of serving on the Board of the Ontario Science Centre. As someone who was born and grew up in Toronto, I, as many of you, used to visit the Centre regularly while in elementary school. These visitations decreased steadily through high school, and then only occurred in adulthood when friends with children were visiting from out of town.

Over the last twelve years, Lesley Lewis, the current CEO, has done an amazing job of re-vitalizing and collectively re-envisioning not only the mandate of the Science Centre, but also implementing strategies to become further embedded and relevant to the surrounding neighbourhoods.

The professional and ethnic composition of the Board of the Science Centre is testament to the fact that Lesley and Mark Cohon, the Chair of the Board, are truly making this path-breaking institution inclusive and more representative than ever before.

Earlier this week I visited the Centre with some friends visiting from Mumbai, India. Harikrishna Kalyanasundaram and Vidya are a leading bharatanatyam dance guru and Carnatic vocalist, respectively; and their four-year old son, Chaitanya, is already showing signs of being a child prodigy. Chaitanya was very excited to visit the Science Centre to experience the Harry Potter exhibit- which is outstanding, and truly engages children and adults alike.

But most intriguing was how much time Chaitanya spent in making paper airplanes, in the Weston Family Innovation Centre, and how engaged he was at the various interactive exhibits, especially those that included a musical element.

In his young mind, you could see the creative wheels turning about how the experiences he had could lead to further explorations when he returns to Mumbai; and he was already asking his parents when he can visit the Science Centre again!

It is at this earliest of ages that we must engage young minds to experience as much about scientific exploration and artistic endeavour as possible, so that as they grown into teenagers and adults, the awe and wonder they feel about the world around them propels each of them to pursue the dreams that they hold most vividly.

The recent article by Anne Golden, CEO of the Conference Board of Canada, was very lucid in articulating the challenges that we face in Canada to commercialize the great technologies we produce. A significant element that I believe is the intangible quality that allows great success to happen is imagination.

As Albert Einstein famously stated:

“Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

Hari is a seasoned entrepreneur with over a dozen years of experience in building and exiting businesses in Canada, US and India.


The RIC blog is designed as a showcase for entrepreneurs and innovation. Our guest bloggers pro vide a wealth of information based on their personal experiences. Visit RIC Centre for more information on how RIC can accelerate your ideas to market.

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By Stephen Rhodes

Innovation seems like a simple idea in our world economy. Invest in new ideas, processes, products and services and excel on the world stage.
Why is it as a country we have failed to understand that the real economic engine is the innovation that comes from entrepreneur in small business?

We do alright in some respects. We have a highly educated population, reasonable tax incentives for research and development and competitive corporate tax rates.

And our governments are starting to understand  the importance of innovation in the wake of a declining manufacturing sector.

Finance Minister Jim Flaherty devoted a large portion of last week’s federal budget to measures to encourage innovation.

The Conference Board of Canada recently gave  Canada’s a “D” for innovation capacity. Out of 17 countries, Canada placed a disappointing 14th.   RIC Entrepreneur-in-Residence David Pasieka wrote last week “many of Canada’s industry sector policies are designed to preserve existing industrial production rather than generate new, highly innovative ones. Rather than this short-term type of innovation strategy, Canada needs to implement long-term innovation policies that would help transform existing industries into new ones.”

When Industry Minister Tony Clement held a round table with Brampton Board of Trade members a week or so before the budget he said that manufacturing is still the lifeblood of Ontario. He also said we have to get better at how we do it.

That takes innovation.

The issue in Canada is a shortage of investors. Angels and Venture Capitalists are still reeling from the economic decline of the last 12 months. Allowing more foreign investment, as Flaherty has promised, could unleash new investment capital but it remains to be seen how Canadians respond to even more foreign investment in Canada.

What do you think?

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By David Pasieka

The Conference Board of Canada has recently come out with a report card on Canada’s innovation capacity. Out of 17 countries, Canada placed a disappointing 14th and received a “D” grade on its capacity to innovate.   For many of us in the Ontario Commercialization Network, this failing grade is not in our DNA and we need to contemplate appropriate remedial actions.

Innovation is the ability to turn knowledge into new technologically, advanced goods and services. The Conference Board of Canada measured data that outlined the stage of knowledge production, the transformation of knowledge, and market share of knowledge-based industries. Canada’s low relative ranking means that, as a proportion of its overall economic activity, we do not rely on innovation as much as other countries do.  Although Canada is well supplied with educational institutions that produce well-respected science, we do not take the steps to ensure the science can be successfully commercialized into a global competitive advantage.

Canada has been slow to adopt leading-edge technologies and this shows itself in our relatively low productivity level. As other countries develop and adopt more innovation-related business models, their companies are gaining in productivity more rapidly than Canadian companies.

There is some good news to be found in Canada’s innovation report card. Canada received a “B” grade on scientific articles. Canada’s proportion of scientific articles published continues to increase year on year. However, it takes more than just one or two above-average scores to be a leader; it takes coherence – something that Canada has failed to demonstrate.  These scientific papers need to result in technology or processes that can be successfully patented and driven over the goal line to commercialization.

So the question remains – how can Canada become a leader in innovation? Countries that rank higher in innovation capacity not only spend more on science and technology (as a proportion of GDP), but they also institute policies that drive innovation demand and supply. Almost all countries leading the innovation scores have government programs that encourage innovation in the national interest. Innovation policies promote “creative destruction” of the old and hasten the transition to the new. However, many of Canada’s industry sector policies are designed to preserve existing industrial production rather than generate new, highly innovative ones. Rather than this short-term type of innovation strategy, Canada needs to implement long-term innovation policies that would help transform existing industries into new ones.

Although Canada has some strong innovation initiatives, such as federal subsidies for biotechnology research and the national Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SRED) tax incentive programs, we need to go the extra step of fostering demand for innovative products. On a small scale, Canada has demonstrated it is capable of developing innovation strategies to successfully align business, government, investors, and customers. Despite this small step in the right direction, there is a clear need for Canada to commit to becoming an innovative country and to dealing with the economic and policy challenges that it requires.

The RIC Centre is focused on doing our part in helping early stage technology companies accelerate their path to commercialization.  We need to continue and expand our Coaching, Networking and Investor-readiness programs to ensuring we are doing all we can to help improve the scores and bring home a stronger report card the next time about.

David Pasieka is the Entrepreneur-in-Residence at the RIC Centre. Learn more here.  Visit Our Contributors page for more information about David. Read his blog at www.cedarvue.blogspot.com

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StephenBy 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.

InventionAs 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?

Stephen Rhodes is President of The Marketing PAD, a full service strategic communications and marketing company. Read Blogpad or visit  The Marketing Pad online.

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