Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Research and the Transit of IP

The Ontario Expert Panel on Intellectual Property has recently convened discussion sessions intended to unpack and answer the questions of their mandate. 

Ontario, like many other jurisdictions around the world, is wanting to achieve more outcomes from the investments made in basic research. This is reasonable. Research and innovation policy discussions over the past couple of decades (at least) are concerned with how best to leverage the country’s research capacity into positive social, economic and cultural outcomes.

There are of course several issues with any model that seeks to enable more direct return on investment in basic research, chief among these is that there is seldom a straight and single path to commercialize an invention. And, the aims of science (and here I mean the entire research enterprise across all disciplines) is to create knowledge and freely share this. This is at odds with creating value in the economy.

Still, Canada – and Ontario – would do well to leverage the platform we have: world leading basic science facilities, excellent applied research and experimental development capacity, particularly in the Technology Access Centres, various innovation intermediaries and economic development agencies, and a multicultural population which is suitable for launching products and services into any country.

Key here is ensuring we can create a structured receptor capacity to support the transit of IP from idea to invoice. The logic model for Capacity and Contribution among research performers, which I have previously discussed, is one way to look at how we can better knit together the various system actors and enable them to play to their strengths.

I look forward to seeing what the IP Expert Panel puts together in December.

Research-Innovation Capacity and Contribution Logic Model

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Budget 2019 and Full Spectrum Innovation

Federal Budget 2019 has been touted as a “skills budget” for its focus on supporting education across the primary, secondary and tertiary levels, and right through to entrepreneurship and supporting firms with a slight revamp of research tax credits. The implicit focus on education is noteworthy, as education is an important input to the research and innovation continuum. But some inconsistencies are evident in the ways in which various programs support activities related to education, research & development, and innovation & entrepreneurship. Addressing these will be relatively easy and will help Canadians companies better compete in the global innovation economy.

Several components of the Budget support its focus on skills, notably the new Canada Training Benefit, the International Education Strategy, the commitment to work integrated learning, and new funding through the Tri-Agency for graduate scholarships. Significant investments in Indigenous education and entrepreneurship will provide meaningful opportunities for indigenous people to attain higher education and create jobs via entrepreneurship. These are all very good to see.

Worth pointing out is that enriching the undergraduate experience through work integrated learning will be an important conduit for further downstream research: undergraduates become graduate students or enter industry where they can participate more directly in research activities. Research activities are of course one of the many ways in which work integrated learning offers all students opportunities to learn and work within specific contexts. Research activities, as part of work integrated learning, socialize participants to the practice of R&D and, ideally, its relationship to innovation and entrepreneurship.

The Scientific Research and Experimental Development (SR&ED) Program gets a modest tweaking in Budget 2019, notably eliminating barriers to scale-up firms in accessing the tax credit. These changes to SR&ED are welcome, but do not go far enough. In fact, they highlight a disjuncture in Canada’s approach to education and research and their relationship to innovation.

Over in the Canada’s Student Work Placement Program part of the Budget, it appears we are finally embracing what I call a full spectrum innovation: leveraging disciplines from the Sciences, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math and Design (STEAM+D): “Budget 2019 proposes to expand the Student Work Placement Program to give students in fields outside of STEM—such as the arts, humanities and social sciences—access to work-integrated learning opportunities.” This is positive.

The disjuncture here is when we turn back to SR&ED, we see that “research in the social sciences or the humanities” are specifically excluded from SR&ED eligibility (as is “market research or sales promotion” – more on this below)[1].

The SR&ED adopts its definition from the OECD’s Frascati Manual in outlining the types of research it considers eligible for funding under the tax credit regime. A full comparison of the SR&ED and Frascati definitions of basic research, applied research and experimental development is beyond the scope of this brief review. Suffice to say any astute reader of science policy can see how strikingly similar these definitions are, even though the official history of the SR&ED definition does not once mention Frascati or the OECD.[2] No matter.

What is of consequence is that, unlike the Frascati Manual, the Canadian definition of research in the SR&ED regime omits the humanities and social sciences disciplines. This includes the disciplines of design.

Why is this important to science policy?

According to the Design Value Index published by the Design Management Institute, design-focused companies in 2015 outperformed the S&P 500 by 211%.[3] Design, and more broadly those disciplines in humanities and social sciences, are included in how Canada measures its strength in science and technology.[4] More to the point, lean startup methodology tells us we should embrace the full span of disciplines in order to enact a full spectrum innovation. The design-focused agile development approaches to product and service design and development, including talking to customers, are proven to better shape product-market fit and downstream business success. What we know about successfully supporting and scaling startups means conducting market research and sales promotion, yet these are excluded from SR&ED. And let’s not forget that product development is only one type of innovation. Services are a key feature of the Canadian economy.

The good news is that Canada is updating its definitions of what constitutes research, through the Canadian Research and Development Classification 2019.[5] Taking its cue from the Australian and New Zealand research classification systems (something OCAD University proposed to the Fundamental Science Review), the new CRDC will include the disciplines of design among other disciplines that have emerged in the past 40 years. This new definition will apply to the Tri-Agency; SR&ED would be wise to follow suit and update its own definition.

Budget 2019 expands Canada’s Student Work Placement Program to include humanities and social sciences. This represents a key step forward in ensuring we can create new products and services emerging from our excellent basic and applied research capacity. Modernizing our approach to SR&ED, and thus expanding our definition of what constitutes legitimate activities for creating better products and services for the global economy, will align public education and research activities with private sector research activities, itself a locus of public education via work integrated learning. Enabling Canadian companies to embrace multidisciplinary business methodologies from startup to scale-up will help Canada compete and prosper in the global economy.

[1] https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/scientific-research-experimental-development-tax-incentive-program/claiming-tax-incentives.html

[2] https://www.canada.ca/en/revenue-agency/services/scientific-research-experimental-development-tax-incentive-program/a-brief-history-definition.html

[3] https://www.dmi.org/general/custom.asp?page=DesignValue

[4] See, for example, the Council of Canadian Academies 208 report Competing in a Global Innovation Economy: The Current State of R&D in Canada. Expert Panel on the State of Science and Technology and Industrial Research and Development in Canada. https://www.scienceadvice.ca/reports/competing-in-a-global-innovation-economy/

[5] http://www.sshrc-crsh.gc.ca/funding-financement/nfrf-fnfr/crdc-ccrd-eng.aspx

Friday, February 22, 2019

Building capacity for Indigenous research

OCAD University's new Strategic Research Plan (SRP) received Senate approval last November, after a two year process of consultation and co-design. The themes and priorities of the new SRP build on the history of research excellence at OCADU while opening avenues to expand for the future.

During the development of our new SRP I benefited from conversations with many faculty on issues pertaining to Indigenous research and OCAD University’s commitment to decolonization. This was a key topic discussed by the Research Committee. In discussions with Professors Ryan Rice and Jason Baerg they advanced the idea that the new SRP affords a unique opportunity for the University to demonstrate our commitment to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action.

The SRP has articulated our commitment to “Nothing about us without us,” as outlined in our Academic Plan 2017-2022. This principle stipulates that research involving Indigenous peoples must be led by Indigenous peoples. It is supported by the Tri-Council Policy Statement: Ethical Conduct for Research Involving Humans (TCPS 2 2014) which outlines our responsibilities in Chapter 9: Research Involving the First Nations, Inuit and M├ętis Peoples of Canada.

Within this context the University can ensure that Indigenous faculty are supported to advance their own research agendas as we continue to build capacity for Indigenous research to grow. Suggestions for how we can enact our commitment include:
  • Validating and valuing different paths to academic preparation and accumulated knowledges, not always vested in specific degrees;
  • Developing capacity for Indigenous researchers to meet the dedicated funding opportunities offered by funders;
  • Ensuring that Indigenous faculty and communities lead research involving Indigenous peoples and communities;
  • Providing the space and support for Indigenous research at the University;
  • Asking applicants to internal research funding and to our Research Ethics Board to indicate if their research will help OCAD U address the TRC Calls to Action, as one way to build capacity and awareness.
There will be other suggestions for how we can achieve the goals outlined in the SRP that we can take into account. Taking steps such as these our SRP Implementation will help to ensure that the TRC Calls to Action do not fade from research and practice. Enacting suggestions like these as part of the SRP Implementation will send a clear signal about our commitment to decolonization, help us educate the broader research community with whom we interact—faculty, students, communities and partners alike—on the importance of the TRC Calls to Action, and help us track progress over time against these goals. 

I look forward to supporting the University community as we embark on this exciting next step in our research journey.

Friday, February 15, 2019

Who reads labour market reports?

A huge congratulations to the Diversity Institute's Wendy Cukier and all at Ryerson University for yesterday's announcement of the launch of the Future Skills Centre. This is a significant step forward in Canada's capacity to ensure that all can find meaningful careers and make contributions to society.

Gladys Okine, Executive Director, First Work: Ontario’s Youth Employment Network and member of the Future Skills Council spoke at the event. She made one of the more salient points when she said that students and job seekers do not read labour market reports; what is needed is easily translatable information and support to help Canadians understand what skills and competencies they need to find meaningful employment. 

This is an important point. Demystifying how we can best prepare young people to enter the labour market, and help those who want or need to pivot within careers, is a key step in building a resilient social, cultural and economic society. I look forward to supporting Ryerson and their partners in this important project.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

This is Research at OCAD University

Check out our new poster campaign: This is Research at OCAD University - and see the breadth and depth of research OCADU faculty are undertaking. From the visual to the virtual, and the prototypical to the physical, each poster shows how our faculty are engaging with new forms of knowledge, materials and ideas at the forefront of research and creative practice. And, importantly, they demonstrate to our publics, our students and our partners, the value of ideation, exploration, knowledge and artistic creation.


Friday, January 11, 2019

Advancing Research and Research-Creation: New Developments

Just in time for the new year are two significant developments for Canada from the Tri-Agency.

The first is the release of the new draft Canadian Research and Development Classification; the second is a new Toolkit with an Accompanying Guide for the Responsible Conduct of Research-Creation (RCRC).

The draft Canadian Research and Development Classification is significant in that it represents the first update to the research taxonomy since the inception of the Tri-Agency. This is important for several reasons, chief among these is the fact that new disciplines have arisen in the past 40 years. OCAD University has been advocating for this change for several years. Design and design research, for example, were not locatable within the previous (extant) taxonomy, despite the more than 500 disciplines and sub-disciplines supported by SSHRC. This was a key feature of our submission to the Review of Fundamental Science. See a summary of our position here.

Key here is upcoming consultations on the implementation of this new classification taxonomy. It will be important for all scholars, but importantly those in Art, Design and Media, to provide input as to how the new standard meets (or does not) their disciplinary needs. The OCAD University Research Office will be coordinating responses.

The launch of the  Toolkit with an Accompanying Guide for the Responsible Conduct of Research-Creation (RCRC) is important as it represents a significant step forward in accounting for the conduct of research as it intersects with artistic practice. OCAD University's Senate approved our new Strategic Research Plan last November, and during the 2 years of consultations on this new document our community had extensive conversations about the issues attendant on research and art - what is referred to as research-creation. During the formation of our new Policy on Research Integrity Policy, a requirement for the Tri-Agency Framework: Responsible Conduct of Research (2016), the OCAD University community recognized that research in Art, Design and Media contexts resists easy classification and creates many grey areas where a policy has difficulty in addressing. This new Toolkit will go a long way to addressing these issues.