Right Turn: Sightings of innovation in Canada

Author: Stacey Johnson, 04/14/17

If you are a knowledge worker, it may seem as though “innovation” is on everyone’s lips these days.

First, Canadians saw Industry Canada renamed Innovation, Science and Economic Development when Prime Minister Trudeau unveiled his first cabinet. Then, Budget 2017, titled “building a strong middle class” could have had “the innovation budget” as its working title. (If you compare it to Budget 2016, you’ll see words like “growth, building and strengthening” have been mostly replaced by “innovation.”) As part of this budget, the government is committing $950 million towards innovative industries, or “superclusters” – regenerative medicine being one of them – that have the best chance of driving economic growth, plus an additional $1.4 billion for clean tech firms and $125 million for artificial intelligence (AI). You can read my recent post on AI here.

Jim Balsillie, formerly Chairman and co-CEO of Research in Motion, now leads the Council of Canadian Innovators (a business council for tech companies) and he founded the Centre for International Governance Innovation (a think tank). He cares deeply about Canada’s ability to compete as an innovation nation and has written and spoken frequently on the topic. As recently as yesterday (April 13), I heard him on the radio discussing Canada’s ability to compete globally.

On the airwaves and in print, he says innovation has a specific definition. He defines it as “the commercialization of ideas across all industries and sectors” and “getting money for ideas,” which is different from the science and technology that happens in universities and is called “invention.”

In regenerative medicine (RM), Canada ranks second of six “RM nations[1]” in translating academic output into IP.[2] However, the same data also show that Canada is in last place for turning that IP into jobs and companies. Obviously more has to be done.

On April 3, 2017, TO Health! and others launched the first Toronto Health Innovation Week (#THIW), an initiative designed to bring investors, start-ups, enterprises and policymakers together to network, collaborate, learn and make deals. The week appeared to be a success, but it will likely be a while before results are shared. This article in the Financial Post about the BlueRock Therapeutics panel that was included in THIW captures the reasons why Toronto was chosen as a location for the company. Says MaRS’ CEO Ilse Treurnicht, “This is a hugely important next step in terms of the validation of what’s here.” Further, the BlueRock announcement has “made investors look at the opportunities in Toronto,” she says.

Let’s hope. Watch this video from TO Health! on what makes Toronto such a great place for both start-ups and multi-nationals.

 

 

Our regular feature, Right Turn, appears every Friday and we invite you to submit your own blog to info(at)ccrm.ca. We encourage you to be creative and use the right (!) side of your brain. We dare you to make us laugh! Right Turn features cartoons, photos, videos and other content to amuse, educate and encourage discussion.

As always, we welcome your feedback in the comment section.

[1] Canada, Australia, California, Israel, Japan, UK

[2] Total number of patents divided by total number of RM publications represents conversion of academic research to new IP. Data commissioned by CCRM and developed with a global consulting firm.

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Stacey Johnson

Stacey Johnson

For almost 20 years, Stacey has been providing strategic communications counsel to government, corporate, technology and health organizations. Prior to that, Stacey was at the CTV Television Network, first as a researcher, then as a story producer for “Goldhawk Fights Back,” a special ombudsman segment that aired weekly on the National News and Canada AM. Before joining CCRM as the Director, Communications and Marketing, Stacey was the Director of Communications for the Canadian Arthritis Network. Stacey is editor of Signals. You can follow Stacey on Twitter @msstaceyerin.
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