Entrepreneurial and Creative Society Roundtable

August 8, 2016—St. John's, NL
Entrepreneurial and Creative Society
Hosted by Tyler Wish

Area of Focus

To enhance culture, skills and talent in Canada's innovation ecosystem:

  • How can we instil creative-thinking, innovation and entrepreneurship as part of Canada's core principles?
  • How can Canada better equip our youth with the rights skill for the future-economy (e.g. quantum computing, AI, big data, precision medicine)?
  • How can Canada more successfully retain and attract the top talent needed for starting and scaling innovative, globally-competitive companies?

Highlights

Need for entrepreneurship to be embedded within educational institutions; developing programs that foster idea generation and challenge the perception of failure; engaging youth, women and indigenous populations; internationalization; access to funding.

Summary of Discussion

Creative thinking and entrepreneurship need be taught early; values are developed through formative experiences at the grass-roots level. Youth can safely gain an innovative mindset both in/outside school.

Canada's immigration system can both support and challenge entrepreneurial activity.

An innovative society is heavily dependent on government procurement, access to funding and market/population density. While the Atlantic region has successful examples of collaborative venture capital funds, growth capital presents a larger challenge.

Key Implementation Considerations/Challenges

Access to Capital and Funding: Smaller jurisdictions still struggle with injecting capital (including venture capital) into the innovation ecosystem. Program funding does not always reached smaller companies in the regions. Taking a cluster approach to innovation could limit regional access to venture capital funding. Participants noted the strong role of angel investors and anchor companies.

Immigration Process: Participants recognized the value in Canada's Start-up Visa Program and the Temporary Foreign Worker program but noted that long wait/approval times (for both entrepreneurs and their families) hinder the recruitment of specialized international talent.

Culture of Selling: There is a gap of sales-related education and culture in Canada. Participants suggested the need for the concept of profits, customers and sales to be part of entrepreneurial discussions.

Experiential Learning: Represents only a small fraction of the country's learning strategies. Silos in education limit creative-thinking and business skill development.

Education: Entrepreneurial activities should be included early in the K-12 curriculum, keeping in mind that not all innovators/entrepreneurs attend university or college. Early-stage start-up companies often face tremendous difficulty in securing funding for work term opportunities for students.

Federal Programs: SR&ED Tax Credits were flagged as an excellent concept but some companies have challenges qualifying. The ITB Program was noted to be largely beneficial. Historically, innovation outside the key population centres has growth from significant investment in mega-projects.

Top Ideas/Outcomes

Youth Education: Establish funding for programs that connect youth, entrepreneurship and STEM to instil values of creativity and innovation and provide opportunity to learn from failure. Close the gap between students involved in entrepreneurial programming in university/college and starting a business after graduation (e.g. through student loan deferment).

Student Work Terms and Mentorship: Make grants/stipends available to small businesses and micro start-ups that are willing to hire post-secondary students. Implement entrepreneurial and business mentorship programs across the country.

Marketing Canadian Education Abroad: There's an opportunity to improve upon marketing the value of a Canadian education, and in particular, the value of the country's community colleges.

Collaborative and Experiential learning: Incorporate entrepreneurship into experiential learning opportunities and industry/academic collaboration. Incentivize the integration of disciplines to better respond to market needs and equip graduates with the full range of skills required to successfully start a business. Participants noted that successful companies find a balance between STEM and Liberal Arts.

Immigration Policy: Retain the talents of international students who have already made a commitment to Canada. Make it easier for immigrants to start a business. Allow individuals to transfer express entry streams if necessary.

Indigenous communities: Improve access to broadband, funding programs and mentorship to enable increased participation of individual communities. Learn from the strong history of innovative thinking that indigenous communities offer.

Procurement: Allocate a portion government procurement for SMEs and start-ups. Allow federal department budgets to include an amount of funding to purchase higher risk innovative products/services.

Expand Tax Credits: To incentivize individuals with a specific skillset to move to Canada and to incentivize Canadian entrepreneurs living abroad to move their businesses back to Canada.

Increase Access to Funding: establish collaborative seed and venture capital programs between governments and private sector (success stories exist in the Atlantic Region). Provide stipends to early stage businesses with less stringent guidelines (e.g. requiring business plans) and fewer strings attached.

Flexibility in Requirements: There is a need for more flexibility in program eligibility requirements. Re-evaluate the metrics that are used to access program/capital funding eligibility.

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