Science, Technology and Innovation Council presents its findings to Montreal community

Panel examines how Canada and Quebec stack up on innovation front

By Allison Flynn

In today’s global economy, science, technology and innovation are key drivers of economic success.

But how does Canada stack up against the world’s most innovative  countries, and how do Montreal and Quebec contribute to Canada’s innovation system?

On May 20, members of the Science, Technology and Innovation Council (STIC) presented to the Montreal community the council’s recently published landmark report, State of the Nation 2008. The report was presented at an information session with the Chambre de Commerce/Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal at the Montreal Science Centre. McGill Principal and Vice- Chancellor Heather Munroe-

Blum, Dr. Guy Rouleau, professor in the Faculty of Medicine at Université de Montréal, and Eric Bergeron, President and CEO of Optosecurity Inc., joined the discussion, which was moderated by Michel Leblanc, the Chambre/Board’s President and CEO.

The report, a culmination of a year’s work in examining how Canada rates on more than 50 international benchmarks in areas like workforce skills, quality of research, and commercialization rates, concluded

that though Canada is improving, more work is needed as other countries are progressing  more quickly.

“Canada remains in the middle of the pack among countries included in the study and given the importance of innovation, science, technology and education to Canada’s future, this middle-of-the-pack position

is simply not good enough,” Prof. Munroe-Blum said. “As a nation, we need to pull up our socks and set our ambitions higher. We need to move forward or we will fall back.”

As for Quebec and Montreal, much has gone into developing a world-class, knowledge-based economy over the past few decades. Its life sciences, aeronautics and information technology sectors, just to name a few, have grown into leaders on the global scene. “In each of these domains, innovation – creativity that translates into innovation, that then translates into a commercial value – is key,” Leblanc said.

“[Innovation] doesn’t happen on its own. It requires public policy, financial support and sustained engagement from private enterprise.”

And despite its strength, Montreal, like Canada, can do better. “This is why this exercise today for us is so important,” he said.

The panel also outlined Canada’s vulnerabilities, its strengths and suggestions for areas for collective action on the road ahead.

The State of the Nation 2008 report may be downloaded at www.stic-csti-ca.