Grow Companies and Accelerate Clean Growth Roundtable

September 1, 2016—Ottawa, ON
Grow Companies and Accelerate Clean Growth
Hosted by Arvind Gupta

More information to follow

Area of Focus

To Grow Companies and Accelerate Clean Growth:

  • How can Canada support the scale-up of innovative companies?
  • Which market-based approaches encourage adoption of clean technologies?
  • What more can be done to increase business enterprise R&D (BERD) spending?
  • How do we promote/create superclusters and value chains?


Facilitate and support the development of industry-led clusters/consortia; Support the development of ambitious targets and grand challenges to achieve national goals; Build programming to link large firms with small and medium sized enterprises (SME) and entrepreneurial ecosystems; Need demand-side innovation policies such as regulations and public procurement to stimulate clean technology innovation; Need to support industry adoption of clean technologies; Simplify and streamline access to government support programs for SMEs and start-ups; Greater availability of data is necessary to inform better decisions.

Summary of Discussion

Industry-led clusters/consortia are an effective mechanism to organize relevant industry actors to: identify sector-wide challenges, pool resources, collaborate on research and development, and interface with the wider innovation ecosystem (i.e. SMEs, academia and government) to develop technologies.

Use focused targets and "grand challenges" to stimulate innovation activity towards desired outcomes.

Promoting the growth of start-ups and SMEs requires an enabling environment that includes streamlined access to government support and strong ties with anchor companies that engage with and support SMEs.

Demand-side policies will stimulate greater innovation. Regulations incent wider adoption of technologies. Public procurement can help innovators de-risk technologies by testing and showcasing them, which is often critical to wider adoption.

Greater availability of data will also enable more informed decision-making by all actors.

Key Implementation Considerations/Challenges

Clusters: Need to support the work of existing industry-led clusters/consortia. Governmental convening power is critical to facilitating the development of cross-sectoral clusters, new clusters that are not currently coherent, or clusters around new or disruptive technologies. Participants mentioned "super clusters" as a mechanism to organize actors across sectors to work on cross-sectoral challenges/technologies. Participants also noted that Canada needs a sector-by-sector based approach to innovation—one size does not fit all. Germany's Fraunhofer was mentioned as a possible model.

Government programs: Government support programs should be streamlined and reviewed to ensure they meet key objectives, while offering the appropriate level of assistance to the SME community. An Industrial Research and Innovation Council (IRIC) was mentioned as a necessary body to conduct this work. In addition, the current view of grant programs is that they are too fractured, vague, and overly administrative; leading to many SMEs preferring simple tax credits rather than engage in the grant process.

Policy Support for Clean Technologies: Need to fully understand how to support clean technology companies grow, in addition to supporting the adoption of clean technologies within "staple" industries e.g. Mining, Construction, Oil and Gas. The needs for start-ups are far different than those required by mature firms to incorporate new and innovative products and services within their processes.

Regulations: While regulations can incent greater adoption of clean technologies, they can also impede innovation if they are overly-prescriptive. Performance or outcomes-based regulations tend to be more effective.

Industry adoption: Greater public sector risk-sharing will encourage industry adoption of new clean technologies. Detailed studies on pilot programs, as a pre-requisite for funding, can be used to demonstrate technologies and de-risk them further. Innovation looks different depending on the firm: for a start-up it may mean creating an entirely new technology or process, while for more traditional/established firms it may mean adopting existing modern technology.

Industrial Research Assistance Program: The National Research Council's Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP) was cited as one of the most effective programs in supporting SMEs. Many wanted to see the 'Concierge' service extended to other government programs.

Labour market and immigration: Access to business development and management talent was cited as a key challenge for many start-ups and SMEs. Canada lags behind comparable economies in marketing and sales culture—firms need help connecting to marketing expertise so that innovative ideas and products can be effectively marketed.

Ecosystem Development: Anchor firms play an important role in the development of clusters, talent and growing firms. More could be done to engage anchor firms in the development of entrepreneurial ecosystems to connect start-ups to their supply chain. It was noted that Canada has large-scale anchor firms in staple industries and these could be more effectively leveraged. Additionally, Canada's venture capital environment is not as developed or aggressive as other innovation hubs—leads to low-risk, low-reward/innovation mentality.

Top Ideas/Outcomes

Clusters: Facilitate the development of industry-led clusters and support the work of existing clusters to identify common challenges, pool resources and R&D efforts, and engage wider innovation ecosystem (including SMEs).

Grand challenges: Identify key cross-sectoral challenges, develop targeted goals and support funding of prizes, in collaboration with industry, to stimulate research and development activities in desired areas of focus.

Procurement: Actively use government procurement as a means to support and grow SMEs and new technologies—carve out a small percentage of procurement funding to be used in such a manner. The U.S. Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) was mentioned as a potential model.

Technology demonstration: Incent industry adoption of new clean technologies by sharing risk with adopters—This approach would incent pilot programs to be well-documented with demonstrate results.

Support to business: Consider more support to help business navigate through various government programs and regulations. For example, dedicated outreach advisors that help businesses navigate programs and issues. Consolidating programs was also cited as a solution.

Data collection: Develop and collect data on labour market information, as well as research and development efforts and exporting by firm size.

Standards/Certification: Certification bodies need to be part of the solution to educate entrepreneurs early enough on standards. It's important that new innovative products and services meet the appropriate technical standards in various markets to mitigate trade barriers.

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