Innovation Roundtable

September 9, 2016—Kelowna, B.C.
Across all Action Areas
Hosted by Arvind Gupta

Area of Focus

Entrepreneurial & Creative Society; World Leading Clusters and Partnerships; Grow Companies and Clean Growth


Talent: Developing, attracting and retaining it, is central to Canada's success now and in the future.

Culture: Foment more risk tolerance. Need to seed entrepreneurial culture in schools, starting at the primary level and continuing through to post-secondary system.

Capital: Growing companies need access to more debt and risk capital, in particular mid to late-stage financing: examine tax credit system and the Science, Research and Engineering Development (SRED) tax credit program; examine the flow-through share model for applicability to people-intensive sectors (e.g. information communication technologies (ICT)). Be agnostic about capital flow; capital reaping profit is what incents sector growth.

E-commerce, material sciences and clean tech are horizontal technologies that impact all sectors. It is important to encourage energy efficiency across the economy.

Summary of Discussion

Recurrent themes were the need to address talent gaps, the challenge of accessing capital for growing companies and the lack of an entrepreneurial/risk-taking culture in Canada. There was consensus that government move away from trying to be all things to all people, in all regions of Canada. Set up networks that support centres of excellence and strength, and build creative society around that. (Example: agri-food has competitive strength in Kelowna, Prince Edward Island and Guelph. Network these centres and further build up excellence.) Great science excellence resides in Canada. Consider mechanisms to improve knowledge translation, commercialization, and assure connectedness among systems and application to society.

Key Implementation Considerations/Challenges

Every natural resource project in Canada has an Indigenous aspect as Indigenous communities are located where the resources are. Indigenous rights and title need to be recognized and accepted. If First Nations have confidence, their communities will remain healthy and safe, and support resource development. Consider resource development using a holistic model that takes into account environmental integrity; safe and healthy communities; and all values that reflect the web of life. Federal government is in position to affect this. Resource companies can pay for it.

Continue to invest in commercialization systems that look for ways to exploit ideas from universities—better signals to professors, more talent mobilization via students, affiliate programs where companies get inside views. Look carefully at programs that are working before creating new ones. Some cited as effective: CanExport and Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) Engage grants. Run programming for longer periods; two year programming is too short-term.

There needs to be significant alignment between the innovation agenda and immigration programming. Wait times, quotas and other administrative barriers need to be eliminated.

To spur greater ICT adoption and enhance company capabilities to reach new markets through tools such as e-commerce, better internet connectivity is an essential requirement in areas beyond CMAs (census metropolitan areas).

Top Ideas/Outcomes

Challenge accelerators to get involved in the K-12 system to promote entrepreneurship and the value of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematical (STEM) skills.

Brand and leverage Canada's reputation of excellence: safe, clean, quality… It is attractive to countries. Some participants cited their success in growing their offshore markets by incorporating these qualities into their business development, marketing and export strategies. It is also important to keep research and development (R&D) connected to core businesses (e.g. University of British Columbia—Okanagan (UBCO) Learning Factory).

Find where excellence and innovation is occurring and reward it, rather than picking winners. Consider federal/provincial programming to empower regional specialities, including a role for government as convener to coalesce consensus around regional strengths. Local champions are key agents of change and are central to a dialogue to build consensus and buy-in.

The vision and strategy of the Innovation Agenda has to be a long-term, a multi-year commitment—and inclusive. Consider innovation in all realms, not just technology and industry: but also health, social sector and civil society, as this will have enduring benefits. Anchor innovation in the resource sector, health care systems and other assets / infrastructure that can't be moved offshore or easily sold.

Create more porous boundaries between universities, public sector delivery systems (e.g. health) and industry. UBCO has attracted a partnership between a Canadian firm, Avcorp, and a multi-national enterprise, Boeing,—to establish a 'learning factory' loaded with a variety of sensing technologies to develop advanced manufacturing, populated with researchers who work on real-world examples.

Put the same amount of effort that has gone into company start-up into scale-up, with a particular focus on support for firms that still need R&D support even if they are revenue-positive. To make it more attractive for capital to come to Canada, look at existing successful models in Canada (digital media and angel tax credits in British Columbia).

Life-long learning is a growing trend. Education institutions need to adapt to both an increasingly older intake cohort and offering education / skills upgrading throughout a working person's life.

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