A series of articles in the Globe and Mail outline Canada's innovation policy and the context in which research and development (R&D) operates as a pipeline for innovation. The first article outlines the work to stand up the Canadian Innovation and Investment Agency. Many good points are raised about the need for clarity of purpose, but I would sum up the issue as a historical inability to differentiate R&D from innovation. Canada is the G7's highest per capita funder of research in the public sector and the lowest for business R&D. Compounding this is the fact that Canadian companies underinvest in education and training and new technology adoption. This is the three-legged stool of innovation and productivity.
The second article outlines the Artificial Intelligence strategy deployed by Ottawa over the past several years. The challenge here is again the over-reliance on basic research, to the detriment to applied research, and most importantly, experimental development. As I have said before:
This continuum matters. A lot:
The third article in the series offers a clickbait title that detracts from the main issues: the need to increase business R&D as well as receptor capacity in Canadian businesses for innovation and Intellectual Property (IP). This includes not just products (which are easy to patent), but also other forms of IP.
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.
The Expert Panel on Intellectual Property Report: Intellectual Property inOntario’s Innovation Ecosystem outlines 13 types of IP that are essential and important to the intangibles economy. We can add to this things like startups, software, databases, policies, traditional knowledge, practices and positions. A commitment to inclusive innovation means acknowledging that there are many types of IP being commercialized, by many types of people running many types of businesses.
The bottom line here is that it is good to see innovation policy front and centre, it's just too bad that these reports did not unpack many important and related issues: diversity of actors, inputs and outputs; receptor capacity for supporting R&D and IP commercialization; and the role of reskilling for innovation to name just a few (check out two recent reports on the innovation literacy angle - one from Mitacs and the other from the Future Skills Centre).
There are 440,000 small companies, 9,000 medium sized companies, and fewer than 2,000 large companies in Ontario. Not enough of these companies currently perform research and development (R&D). The most reliable indicator we have for R&D performing companies is from the SR&ED tax rebate program; currently only 2% of companies in Canada file SR&ED claims. The lack of R&D performance is clearly linked to lacklustre economic competitiveness.
Small companies that do R&D are more likely to survive and grow, hire more people, export more goods and services, and have a bigger economic impact in their communities. Startups, new companies, and small companies that are seeking to join the global economy in key sectors like health, IT, manufacturing and automotive – they need help finding supports to conduct R&D. The potential here is vast.
This is why we have built the Ontario Collaborative Innovation Platform. By working together the entire Ontario higher education system is able to help support the transit of IP - from idea to invoice.