The LearnNB community has been provided with a number of PDF articles on innovation – mostly Canadian perspectives. These are in preparation for the quarterly meeting this Wednesday, September 22nd. The documents have been hidden away (password-protected) in the collaborative work space for LearnNB (I can set up an account if you want one). I have also posted the names of the articles on the public LearnNB blog. A quick search today has shown that most of these documents are freely available, and I’ve done a quick synthesis of a few.
What follows are some short summaries of the documents that caught my attention.
A series of three articles from Research Money by Alan Cornford, (significant subscription fee required) provide some interesting observations on innovation. Cornford states that increasing R&D spending will not increase innovation capacity, as only 3% of of public R&D spending results in measurable innovation; the only way to measure innovation is through the outputs – or local wealth generation; and there is plenty of VC money available, but not enough finance-worthy ventures. The key to driving innovation is having the right people. He also shows that private sector investment has 15 times the return on investment as that of the public sector. His main recommendation is not to weaken public R&D spending, but to strengthen it through private partnerships, especially with small and medium sized enterprises. Cornford is also in favour of enhanced R&D tax credits and the channelling of government investment into "community innovation idea outreach" to communties and SME’s
Where local SME (small and medium enterprise) R&D receptor capacity is limited (as in most of Canada), the universities, polytechnics
and colleges can conduct applied R&D for local SME industry and therefore benefit from these increased R&D investments, while community SME innovative capacity grows.
Cornford also produced a report for ACOA in 2002, entitled – Innovation and Commercialization in Atlantic Canada , which I have not read yet.
A different perspective is presented by Douglas Barber, who in 2003 surveyed the 120 most innovative companies in Canada, (those who spent more than 3% on R&D) and determined that the main issues around innovation were inadequate tax
incentives, lack of qualified workers, uncoordinated government support and regulation concerning R&D. These companies included Atomic Energy of Canada Limited, BCE
Emergis Inc., Corel Corporation, GlaxoSmithKline Inc., Pratt & Whitney Canada Corp., and Sierra Wireless, Inc.. This paper focuses primarily on large companies, not SME’s.
Denzil Doyle in a 2004 report for ITAC (PDF) examined the selling of Canadian high-tech companies and purchases by foreign investors. This again focuses on larger companies, not the smaller companies that are predominant in Atlantic Canada. Doyle concludes that:
This paper has been written on the assumption that Canadian policy makers want to position Canada as a global player in the worldwide high-tech industry. In order to achieve
that goal it will not only have to create a favourable environment for foreign-owned branch plants but it will have to grow several world class companies with the majority of
corporate decision-making carried out in Canada. Examples of such companies are Nortel Networks, Cognos, ATI Technologies, OpenText, McDonald Detweiller Associates, and
Research In Motion.
While Canadians can be proud of their R&D skills and achievements in nearly every field of technology, more attention should be paid to ways and means of commercializing
more of the resultant technology in Canada. This will require the development of a financing industry that is capable of launching companies properly and of taking financial
control of them when the original investors decide to exit their investments.
Other documents available from the government of Canada, include: Knowledge Matters: Skills & Learning for Canadians
This document addresss, at a very high policy level, how the government can foster learning for in public education, build the workforce, and attract more immigrants.
The series of government documents on innovation are good for those planning initiatives that they wish to align with government policy – good until the next election.
A shorter paper, by Peter Josty on technology commercialisation focuses on Alberta’s situation, and provides some case-specific information, as well as a short SWOT analysis. This is a quicker read than some of the others, with a Western perspective.
I’m sure that you’re seeing some common themes (tax credits), and there are more documents that I haven’t read yet. I hope that this quick summary provides a bit of an overview for my colleagues who will be at the meeting in Fredericton this week. See you there.