Monday, November 7, 2016

Partnerships and resilient regional economies

For some time I've maintained that partnerships are a key unit of analysis for the development of a robust innovation economy. More to the point, we need to foster and encourage public+private partnerships for research and development - or P3RD. The P3RD Participatory Innovation model provides a mechanism to understand and support the innovation carrying capacity of national economies: the ability to proactively create value from public investments in basic research by fostering private sector receptivity and engagement to the public science and technology (S&T) and private research and development (R&D) systems.

The function of innovation intermediaries are core to Public+Private Partnerships for Research and Development (P3RD). We can best understand this function by looking at how national governments measure R&D and innovation activities. For this we can turn to the OECD Frascati Manual, which outlines Basic research, Applied research, and Experimental development as the continuum of R&D – from idea to invoice.
Basic research
“…is experimental or theoretical work undertaken primarily to acquire new knowledge of the underlying foundation of phenomena and observable facts, without any particular application or use in view.”
Applied research
“…is original investigation undertaken in order to acquire new knowledge . . . directed primarily towards a specific practical aim or objective.”
Experimental development
“… is systematic work, drawing on existing knowledge gained from research and/or practical experience, which is directed to producing new materials, products or devices, to installing new processes, systems and services, or to improving substantially those already produced or installed.”
(OECD Frascati Manual 2.1.64)
This continuum matters, and the goal in standing up P3RD is to locate the activities undertaken within this context. The continuum from basic and applied research through to experimental development constitutes the types of activities that make up the innovation carrying capacity of national economies: the ability to proactively create value from public investments in basic research by fostering private sector receptivity and engagement to the public S&T systems. 

Here is a useful article on the value of partnerships, and the author's perspective on this uniquely Canadian approach. I've called this barn raising the innovation economy. P3RD enacts a participatory innovation and creates resilient regional economies and clusters. More on this in the months to come.

Monday, October 17, 2016

CCA Launches Expert Panel on the State of S&T and IR&D in Canada

The Council of Canadian Academies has launched a new assessment on The State of Science and Technology and Industrial Research and Development in Canada. The Panel is being chaired by Max Blouw, president of Wilfrid Laurier University. As stated in the CCA press release, a multidisciplinary and multisectoral expert panel has been assembled to provide input to the federal ministry of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED). The panel will address the question: "What is the current state of science and technology and industrial research and development in Canada?"

This comes at an important time as the Canadian government is reviewing basic research (the Review of Fundamental Science) and innovation. The CCA has provided key policy input via a series of reports on Canada's research and innovation capacity - see the list here. I am pleased to be serving on this panel (having served on the 2012 report panel). 

Monday, September 26, 2016

Education and skills for full spectrum innovation

The connections between education and the labour market (or careers, from a student perspective) are often seen in light of the need for specific skills sets. Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) get a lot of play here. The thinking goes that as the future is digital, digital (i.e. coding) skills are increasingly in demand. All true. But we need a balanced approach to skills, matching STEM with the arts and design. We call this STEAM+D.

The OCAD University submission to the Federal Innovation Agenda outlines the STEAM+D approach: "Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math + Design – representing the full spectrum of expertise required to enable social and economic innovation."

Others have written about similar concepts in terms of needing a society with a variety of complementary skills, expertise and interests. I have used Technology Readiness Levels as a way to unpack the route from idea to innovation, helping us understand what "full spectrum innovation" means: leveraging complementary (individual, institutional) strengths in the service of innovation. Increasingly this includes the arts, humanities and design. See this piece for an example of the 10 skills you need to thrive tomorrow – and the universities that will help you get them.

Innovation literacy in this context includes the ability to work productivity with others, from different cultures, disciplines, and skills levels. These are essential elements for realizing full spectrum innovation.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Is education an input or outcome of innovation, or innovation an outcome of education?

Today’s Globe has a piece by Ken Coates and Douglas Auld that outlines the theory that a focus on access has led to a natural decline in retention at Canada's post-secondary schools - this is in conjunction with a  stated need to better measure educational outcomes. Besides measuring the effectiveness of education across the country, there is a need to better understand how our publicly funded inputs lead to outputs and outcomes: "The government of Canada and its provincial and territorial partners should identify a small number of crucial elements: graduation rates, career outcomes, personal learning activities, and the commercial and social impact of Canadian research funding and scholarly output."
A Star story on how students want a mix of university and college adds further to this mix. These can be read in conjunction with the hand wringing that accompanies the discourse on skills gaps, real or imagined. And let's not forget this item that came up recently: "Overqualified workers often lacking in basic reading, writing skills: study". 

These are interesting to read at the start of a new academic year, as they collectively raise the issue of the utility of education. Is education transactional (simply for skills acquisition) or is it transformative (fostering citizenship, contribution to society)? I contend it is both

The antimetabole of this post's title should cause us to pause and think about what it is we want out of our education system. If "the goal of education is to make people privately happy and publicly useful," then there is no reason why we cannot state some desired outcomes (productive and innovative society, excellent research output; superior learning experience; engaged citizens) of post-secondary systems. This is about understanding the audience(s) we have - the students and graduates, but also employers and parents. There is a need to articulate the links we want made, rather than leaving these to chance. 

Really this points to the need for Canada to have a national minister of education. Yes, I know this is provincially regulated and run, but so is health, and we have a national minister of health. We are the only OECD country without a national minister of education. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The STEAM+D approach to innovation

Last Friday I had the opportunity to visit Brooklyn's New Lab, "an interdisciplinary space designed to support entrepreneurs working in emerging technologies such as robotics, artificial intelligence, and connected devices." The New Lab is an incubator focusing on growth stage companies, offering prototyping and fabrication facilities along with venture and entrepreneurial support support. There are 29 companies located there spanning the range of fields outlined above. Located in a repurposed industrial space - the Navy Yard - New Lab offers companies a community commons approach to incubation and acceleration. According to New Lab, no other place in the US has prototyping supports, business support, VC funding, and shared work space under one roof that are not part of an educational institution or corporation. It is funded by the civic government, and is a pathfinder for the reshoring of manufacturing and industry 4.0.

One of the member organizations of New Lab is Terreform ONE (Open Networked Ecology), "a non-profit architecture group that promotes smart design in cities." Check out their projects - this is a bold and creative group that shows the value of the STEAM+D approach to innovation: integrating science, technology, engineering, arts, math and design. Students from undergraduate to graduate come to Terreform to engage in a sort of “career discovery” process – a developmental process whereby they discover what they want to do, often building on their thesis projects. Fail and learn is a significant component of the latent pedagogy of the place.

When arts and culture mixes with engineering and technology and design there is a multiplier effect on the innovation. This mix underscores the importance of facilitating interaction among disparate disciplines – this is where innovation takes root.

It is this “amniotic/primordial” zone that encourages experimentation and idea generation. This ideation is a necessary precondition to the design of products and services and their execution through entrepreneurial ventures.

Inside of New Lab: Looking out at the building sign

Inside of New Lab: Shared space with colourful chairs

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Enabling innovation and the creative economy

Canada needs the disciplines of design, of humanities and the creative arts.

We need to out think our transition from simply a resource extraction and branch plant economy.

Digital disruption is rewiring our economy.

The Internet of Things represents significant promise to enable social and economic development.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has given us an unprecedented opportunity to work with Aboriginal peoples on social and economic inclusion.

The Prime Minister has called for a national grand challenge – a focus on Clean and Green Tech and a transition into a low carbon economy.

And millennials want more than simple economics, a focus on social entrepreneurship and a sustainable future.

This future is now. And we need creative thinking, and design thinking, to help realize this creative economy.

OCAD University - the University of the Imagination - is ideally situated to be a catalyst in ushering in the creative economy.

Our graduates are perfectly poised to contribute to new models of social and economic development.

Our graduates are essential to helping Toronto and Canada out think these challenges, and to imagine an inclusive, sustainable future.

Research, innovation, entrepreneurship, creative activities. These are all key to the future of the creative economy.

We need all graduates, from all disciplines, with innovation literacy - the skills and competencies to build a creative, innovative and sustainable future. We need to support the spectrum of research – from basic to applied, from artistic creation to innovation and experimental development. All are necessary, and complementary, to a well functioning and productive society.

For innovation can be taught, learned and practiced. And expanding our research and innovation activities will ensure that we continue to be a leading voice in the creative economy.

I heard John Godfrey once say that “The goal of education is to make one privately happy and publicly useful.” I believe this to be true. And as an enabler of the innovation economy, I am looking forward to helping usher in this future at OCAD University.