Council urges Canada to raise the innovation bar

"We require a coherent and unified vision if Canada is going to become an international innovation leader," says Principal Heather Munroe-Blum. / Photo: Christinne Muschi

More coordination between sectors needed

By McGill Reporter Staff

Passing grades – but needs more effort. That’s how Canada’s performance in science, technology and innovation was graded in a report recently published by the Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC). Appointed in 2007, the Council is comprised of 18 senior individuals from the research, education, business and government communities – including McGill Principal Heather Munroe-Blum – and is mandated to provide the government with policy advice on science and technology issues.

Benchmarking Canada’s performance against more than 50 international and domestic standards of excellence such as research intensity, commercialization rates, quality of research and workforce skills, the report charts the nation’s progress in comparison to global leaders. And while our system is operating fairly well, the report’s authors believe it is in need of a significant upgrade.

“Our Report concludes that although Canada is improving, other countries are improving faster. Canada remains a solid mid-level performer, but given the importance of innovation to our future, this is not good enough. We need to set our ambitions higher in keeping with what Canadians are capable of achieving,” said Howard Alper, Chair of STIC. “We have a strong foundation and a robust research capacity, but we need to conduct research and encourage entrepreneurship in ways that will create opportunities to translate knowledge into marketable assets.”

In order for Canada to position itself in the leading group of innovating countries, it must strengthen and better link all sectors of its science, technology and innovation system.

“Yes, we must raise the bar in terms of our research goals, but we must pursue these goals as a nation, as a collective of Canadian business, universities, colleges, non-profit institutions, communities and all levels of government,” said Prof. Munroe Blum. “Each sector brings to the table a host of strengths and competencies, but we require a coherent and unified vision if Canada is to become an international innovation leader.”

State of the Nation 2008 demonstrates that Canada has a sound base upon which to build its innovation leadership: Canadian research is of high quality; young Canadians excel in science, math and reading; we have implemented measures to attract the best international talent, and Canadian innovative excellence can be found in virtually every region and economic sector.

Seizing opportunities to strengthen Canada’s innovation performance will help develop a stronger economy and enhance Canada’s potential as a leader in science, technology and innovation. Specifically, the Report points to the following areas for collective action:

• Focus science, technology and innovation in areas where Canada can leverage its strengths to achieve global leadership

• Markedly enhance business research and development

• Renew efforts to attract,

better educate and cultivate highly skilled people

• Encourage, recognize, and reward the science and business innovators of tomorrow

• Aggressively pursue strategic international science, technology and innovation partnerships to advance Canadian interests.

A copy of State of the Nation 2008, Canada’s Science, Technology and Innovation System as well as biographical notes on the Council members can be downloaded at