Monday, September 10, 2018

Canada as Global Platform: A Feature, not a Bug

Recently I attended a day long session on innovation skills hosted by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED) at the lovely Bayview Innovation Yards in Ottawa. It was a design thinking session facilitated by ISED’s Digital Innovation Lab,, who did a great job of stepping us through the visioning of the need for innovation skills broadly construed, and what these mean to the economy. The Conference Board's Centre for Business Innovation (CBI) Innovation Skills Profiles provided the basis for skills, covering a range of skills and competencies from conducting, implementing and managing aspects of innovation and commercialization. This is a good basis on which to build a shared, national understanding of the importance of innovation and how it can be taught, learned and practiced in multiple industrial and community contexts. 

During the course of workshopping concepts, a group I was in came up with the concept of Canada as Global Platform for Starting and Scaling Businesses. This emerged as a result of thinking about the oft-heard criticism that Canada is good at start-ups but not scaling, that we perform well in basic research but not experimental development (read: commercialization) and that we need to do something about this. In essence we are proposing that we take what is seen as a weakness and instead see this as a strength. To turn a bug into a feature.

Think of it this way: Canada' greatest strength is our multicultural foundation. This could be viewed as an excellent asset for product and service design and development for almost any global landing spot. 

Platform Canada
  • Leverages the world leading basic research labs in our universities, aided by those colleges and cegeps--in particular those that are home to Technology Access Centres--for the iterative design, development and deployment of products and services to global markets.  
  • Takes Canadian ideas to the world, and enhances the ideas of others that are brought here to utilize Canadian social, cultural and economic knowledge.
  • Launches global businesses - from start-up to scale-up - based on Canadian talent, technology and R&D infrastructure.
There are many issues that need teasing out here, from the role of public funding (via R&D awards and tax credits, for example), to the agency and autonomy of businesses and the people that power them. The bottom line here is that we can take a narrow vertical of expertise - here the ability to launch start-ups - and turn this on its side to create a powerful platform that lets us serve global markets. 


1 comment:

  1. Interesting thinking - and a nice design pivot.

    However, the challenge remains - the substantial value of innovations are generally captured by large companies with the scale to bring them to a large market, and in doing so they generate substantial wealth for their host countries and governments. This contrasts with the investment input required by startups.

    So ... we need to succeed with scaling startups, or the value proposition from creating and selling startups needs to change substantially. Until then, leading nations will thank us for our startups.