Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Budget 2018 delivers smart science policy

The federal government's Budget 2018 is an advance for the science, research and innovation communities. The overall approach to gender equity, diversity and decolonization is important and timely.

The government has clearly heard the call from the Fundamental Science Review to increase our investment in research. There is a strong focus on supporting interdisciplinary and international collaborative research, which is essential for not only uncovering new areas of knowledge, but for realizing the value of ideas as they are translated into application, products, services and other innovation. This underscores the importance of design disciplines as crucial to Canada's innovation carrying capacity.

And here's the big news: "Budget 2018 proposes an investment of nearly $4 billion in Canada’s research system to support the work of researchers and to provide them access to the state-of-the-art tools and facilities they need" (p 82).

This is smart policy. Linking investments in science and technology ($3.2B investment in "research" writ large) to national priorities and, importantly, diversity and decolonization, is imperative for inclusive innovation. It is also in line with other leading OECD countries that set national priorities and focus on the spectrum of research - from idea to invoice - in order to realize the benefits of public investment in the production of public knowledge.

The most important aspect of this budget for innovation policy is the section on Leveraging the Full Potential of Business-Academia Collaboration. Changes and investment here to NSERC and CIHR promise to make public+private partnerships for R&D (P3RD), and additional funding for colleges continues the growth of capacity in the college sector to perform an important innovation intermediary function that links skills development to product and service development. The special focus on the Technology Access Centres is important as these are exemplary organizations adept at enabling private sector innovation.

The focus on the spectrum of research - from Basic Research, Applied Research to Experimental Development - is picked up in the re-imagining of the National Research Council (NRC). New investments in the NRC are absolutely necessary and essential to enable the NRC to start to really expand a focus on translating the world leading ideas uncovered in Basic Research into real innovation in the world. Among the $1.1Bn in funding that provides important inputs to capacity, the NRC gets a DARPA-like entity "to fund its scientists to work with innovators from post-secondary institutions and businesses on multi-party research and development programs." This is long overdue.

But things get really interesting in the Innovation Canada – Accelerated Growth Service section and "the creation of four flagship platforms" to deliver business innovation programs. I have elsewhere outlined the importance of focusing on the full spectrum of research activities and the lack of investment in Experimental Development (see my Capacity and Contribution Logic Model). This is a significant development that promises to help get more ideas turned into invoices by helping manage the process of research through to experimental development through a simplification of business innovation programs (a result of the Horizontal Review that Budget 2017 called for).

The Women Entrepreneurship Strategy is welcome news. This will help us focus on those outputs of innovation that are not typically valued, as outlined in this excellent article  from last week. This adds to "the Government’s coming reform to federal innovation programs [that] will include a universal goal to improve the participation of underrepresented groups, including women entrepreneurs, in the innovation economy." I also read with note the Intellectual Property Strategy. The launch of a Patent Collective is long overdue - all publicly-funded R&D performers should enter such a patent pool to mobilize stranded IP.

This is good science and innovation policy that provides new funding support for Basic Research, and support and services for Applied Research and Experimental Development, notably within the purview of public+private partnerships for R&D (P3RD). The diversity lens is essential and will result in a more inclusive Canada.

This is #smartsciencepolicy.

A Capacity and Contribution Logic Model incorporating TRLs and Frascati research definitions

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Decolonization, diversity and equity for inclusive innovation

Here is an interesting article about inclusive innovation and some of the tacit biases that exist in how we value the activities and outputs of R&D. In Women entrepreneurs are innovating in their businesses; it’s time to help them succeed the authors provide a very compelling case about how women have been largely excluded from the valorization of innovation because of a focus on products over all other forms of innovation.

In essence they argue - convincingly - that the focus on just products (usually technology) over services is devalues the types of businesses that women start, which they describe as being more services based. They outline the full spectrum of innovation that the OECD defines: product, process, organizational and marketing innovation.

Innovation happens in all sectors and across all platforms - social, economic and cultural. Broadening our definition of what constitutes a valid activity in a sphere of work has a commensurate and follow on effect on what outcomes are valued (a point I made earlier in my discussion about Capacity and Contribution).

As the authors point out: "Using this definition, we start to see these women in a new light – they are innovating in all sectors and in every aspect of their business. While we need to increase the number of female entrepreneurs in science and technology, it is important to recognize their contributions to Canada's innovation in all sectors and aspects of their businesses."

When we value the full spectrum of innovation and all of those participating we have a platform for understanding - and creating - inclusive innovation.

This should be required reading for all engaged in supporting research and innovation. 

Friday, February 16, 2018

Creating gravitational pull in the innovation space

Yesterday the federal government announced the winners of the supercluster competition, with five winning bids spanning the regions of Canada in important industrial sectors: AI, proteins, ocean research, digital technology and advanced manufacturing. OCAD University is very pleased to be part of the advanced manufacturing group.

The supercluster narrative is of course based on the work of Porter et al that sees public and private actors working together in support of promoting discovery through basic research, applied research and realizing market value of these via experimental development.

There is significant potential here for Canada to amplify our move into the innovation economy. These investments will help transform the economy from simple resource extraction into one that focuses more on product and service design and adding value to the raw materials we have in abundance (and here I include the ideas that emerge from basic research in our world leading universities). Translating basic research into market success - moving from idea to invoice - is essential in the global economy. The supercluster initiative will create gravitational pull, fostering public+private research and development partnerships (P3RD) in support of resilient regional economies.

Definition of supercluster: noun; astronomy: a cluster of galaxies which themselves occur as clusters.