Entrepreneurial and Creative Society Roundtable

September 8, 2016—Vancouver, B.C.
Entrepreneurial and Creative Society
Hosted by Sarah Lubik

Area of Focus

Creating an Entrepreneurial and Socially Innovative Society.


  • There was much talk about refining the education system to encourage a culture of entrepreneurship and making it more adaptive to change (experiential learning; entrepreneurship/financial literacy for K-12; continuous learning for teachers; innovation education for more mature people);
  • Successful implementation of innovation will require significant changes to existing systems (ex. Health and education) so we need to be comfortable that actual innovation with likely make some groups uncomfortable or upset;
  • Also, social innovation was talked about and many examples were given from the Aboriginal community (e.g., return of salmon to the Okanogan)—this spoke to the point that often innovation derives from adversity; also need to align social innovation with the larger innovation strategy, perhaps part of Canada's brand/what is distinctive about Canadian Innovation.
  • The term "pattern recognition" was used several times, referring to the fact that in Canada we don't have many major successes from which to derive the blueprint for success for start-ups, as is the case in Silicon Valley (e.g., Google employees that learn from within then venture off on their own). There was discussion of identifying Canadian examples, international examples we could use as well as how to apply international models in a Canadian way.

Summary of Discussion

The Roundtable Discussion focused on the following questions:

  • How can Canada build a stronger culture of innovation, entrepreneurship and social innovation?
  • What does it take for Canada to be known globally as the best country in developing and attracting diverse, high end talent at every level?
  • How do we work together to better equip our young people with the skills necessary for the economy and society of the future?
  • What can major companies do to help train Canadians and fill critical skills shortages today and tomorrow? How can they become a more welcoming place for innovators?
  • What do we do really well across Canada to create a more entrepreneurial society? What could we do more of?
  • In five years, if we have become a very entrepreneurial and socially innovative society, what would that look like?

In addition to the roundtable discussion, a Public Forum, comprising approximately 180 participants, explored the roles of civil society, the private sector, governments, and the education system to encourage a more entrepreneurial and socially innovative society.

Key Implementation Considerations/Challenges

Necessity is the mother of invention: Canadians are sometimes afraid to take risks. There is a need to provide incentives to encourage innovation and remove fear.  We need to focus on problems that matter and Canadians and the world collectively care about/are threatened by.

Technology: In a global connected world, technology shifts are changing the landscapes of many industries, and developing new ones. Labour forces and economies around the world need to adapt to the new environment, which means investing in tech skills as well enterprise skills. It's important that Canada's Innovation Agenda prepares the Canadian labour force to participate meaningfully in this changing and interconnected world, meaning we cannot just focus on Canadian issues, but how we are relevant in the world, including identifying what pains and challenges will be relevant to the world in the future and working toward those.

Focus on education: The current education systems are perceived to not meet industry needs, and increased efforts are required to offer cross sectoral exposure between Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) and entrepreneurial/business studies. There was also an emphasis on creating safe places for early failure, getting problem-solving and entrepreneurial skills in to K-12 classes and linking students into businesses, thus also shifting the culture of firms.  Also room education in the mature work force and less included groups of people.

Top Ideas/Outcomes

Policy driven innovation: governments can drive innovation by setting "grand challenges" for society, without being technology prescriptive. For example, Telsat (television satellite) was driven by a policy need for coast-to-coast broadcasting. 

Research and Development (R&D): increase R&D spending (Canada lags as % of GDP); tax breaks for R&D centres; simplify the application for existing R&D programs

Venture Capital (VC)/Foreign investment: an accredited private VC program for foreign investments—investors could have a choice of what fund to pick and control their risk more effectively; Participants noted the need for a more patient VC environment.

Attracting talent: create a new 5-year start-up visa for foreign entrepreneurs looking to venture in Canada, perhaps an entrepreneurial student visa linked to early stage incubators to retain the talent we have just created in universities; invest in and promote universities; the use of trade commissioners was noted as an opportunity to communicate to the world that Canada is open for business.

Education: incentivize more co-op programs and industry fellowships. Opportunities exist to incent co-op based programming to develop experiential learning for students. Incentive interdisciplinary programs that expose students to real life problem solving and create job ready students.

Define "the win": innovation success should not just be measured in terms of economic metrics (output, employment, growth), but in quality of life (social, environmental, leisure time, experiences, health, such as time spent aging at home). The tech entrepreneurship community, First Nations communities and social innovation community need be more aligned through shared outcomes.

Risk: Canadians must embrace more risk taking and competition in its culture (e.g., through the K-12 School System and beyond); celebrate diversity and risk taking culture in immigrants, and minimize risk for entrepreneurs (e.g., entrepreneurship insurance, creating room to test ideas and fail while in school).

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