Entrepreneurial and Creative Society Roundtable

August 22, 2016—Calgary, AB
Entrepreneurial and Creative Society
Hosted by Mark Podlasly

Area of Focus

Foster a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship, build skills to embrace global changes, leverage Canada's diversity and attract top global talent:

  • How can Canada become the best country in attracting and developing talent?
  • How do we work together to equip youth with the right skills for the future economy?
  • What more can be done to cement Canada's place in social entrepreneurship


Addressed various issues across Canada's innovation ecosystem including the need for a world-class education system, the need to develop and attract highly skilled talent, the importance of engaging youth in meaningful work and the role a strong social enterprise sector plays investing in areas of R&D and inclusive innovation.

Summary of Discussion

The Government could promote a definition of "social entrepreneurship" that would appeal to interested entrepreneurs.

There is a need for a world-class education system (K-12 through post-secondary) is a key driver for attracting and developing talent. Canada may be seen as having a limited market for highly qualified and highly skilled personnel owing to its limited market size. Need to develop creative, design-thinking individuals.

Funding and supports are in place in Canada to support creating and testing new innovation, but that there are challenges between developing a new technology and its commercialization/mass production. De-risking the adoption of innovation will be important, in particular for large operations based organizations operating in traditionally sectors such as the gas and oil sector. Companies would sometimes rather be the first second-adopter of new technologies than take expensive risks on new technologies.

Key Implementation Considerations/Challenges

Education: It is important to align education curricula with the workforce of tomorrow by encouraging creativity, problem solving and "design thinking" while still ensuring that core skills of reading, writing and mathematics are taught in relevant, applicable ways. The role of private-public partnerships in ensuring that skills match employer needs, creating greater linkages between the K-12 system and post-secondary researchers to inspire the pursuit of education and the need for cohesion between provinces in developing a coherent education strategy.

Skills: Need to develop creative, design-thinking individuals. Need for improved recognition of immigrant qualifications, attracting foreign students and talent, and supporting centres of research excellence that push the boundaries of research disciplines.

Social Entrepreneurship: It was noted that there are some regulatory gaps in Canada's social enterprise sector, in particular the need for a federal hybrid incorporation structure that considers both the financial and social missions of social enterprises as is found in British Columbia and the United Kingdom. It was suggested that Government promote approaches to social enterprises that fundamentally seek to alter social conditions for Canadians.

Education: Citing the complexity of navigating Canada's distinct provincial and territorial education systems, the Government could look at a Canadian Education strategy in consultation with provinces. Participants emphasized that education should promote creativity and problem-solving, examples of which included the novel approaches to pedagogy offered at youth summer camps organized by the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology.

Innovation Funding Platforms: There was recognition for the Government and organizations to better identify and fund research and development into grand challenges requiring step-change innovations. Examples of this included EVOK Innovations and the COSIA Carbon X-Prize.

Top Ideas/Outcomes

De-risking Innovation Adoption: There should be incentives created in Canada to help de-risk both R&D and the adoption of new technologies. Companies in Canada believe there is too much risk in being first adopters and thus are opting to be first at second-adoption.

Education: In order to compete for international students Canada requires a holistic, country-wide education strategy developed in consultation with the provinces. Three examples were noted: Australia engages international students via the Ministry of Tourism and International Education; Sheridan College 'connect with a trades person' program to give young people an opportunity to see what a trade is like at an early stage; and the credit for learning program at Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) which allows grade school students to earn credits for trades at SAIT 'summer camp'.

Skills: Create centres of excellence or promote clusters in Canada that exploit the country's competitive advantages and pursues research at the cutting edge of science. Additionally, encourage greater collaboration and open innovation among Canadian companies and academia.

Social Entrepreneurship: Three specific recommendations were made to better grow and support Canada's social enterprise sector: 1) Government could encourage market development opportunities for social enterprises by doing more social screening in the procurement process; 2) Government could stimulate investment in Canada's social finance sector by providing matching funds to social enterprises receiving investment or by supplementing the supply of social finance capital available; and, 3) Government could enhance business offerings available to social enterprises. There needs to be a hybrid form of business that bridges the limitations that currently exist for not-for-profit organizations and publicly traded companies.

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