Federal R&D Review could spark Innovation Culture

October 18, 2011 at 2:37 pm Leave a comment

Yesterday, the independent panel tasked with reviewing federal R&D funding published its report. The panel made six key recommendations that ranged from simplifying the SR&ED tax credits, to reorganizing the National Research Council (NRC)  into collaborative centres with business, universities and provinces. Interestingly, their first recommendation was to create a new national “Industrial Research and Innovation Council”.  This is significant, as it recognizes the need to embrace innovation in the broader context.

Put simply,  innovation  is the successful implementation of a new idea, product or service. Research is an important component of innovation, particularly for radical (vs. incremental) innovation. Nonetheless, it is the commercialization of the idea, that defines innovation of any type. It’s not clear that the creation of a national council will focus on the later stages after proof of concept, but many organizations, including NRC, have articulated the need for commercial or market relevant research.  Being focussed on the commercial relevance of research will surely benefit a company’s innovation outcomes.

A second proposed benefit of having a central agency deliver R&D/Innovation funding is to make the system less complex for industry to access. It may be beneficial to also divest oversight to organizations that work closely with SMEs, that understand industry needs, and can therefore strategically target funding. A number of European and Australian R&D agencies offer “innovation vouchers” for companies to work with scientific organizations. These are much simpler to administer and are usually managed by the organization.

But beyond linking like-minded organizations and streamlining financial support, Canada needs to enhance its corporate innovation culture. It is one thing to have funding available and another for companies to understand the process of innovation, including how it will benefit their organizations,  how much is needed, where to find resources, etc. The Minister of State for Science and Technology, Gary Goodyear, recognizes that “when businesses don’t invest in research and development of new products, it will be harder for them to remain competitive and grow”. However, suggesting that industry should invest in more R&D doesn’t make it happen overnight.  Aside from research other components are needed  for successful innovation, including support for scale-up and technology transfer, business and market intelligence, proof of commercial relevance along with access to capital at earlier stages of commercialization.

Overall, the recommendations seem practical and a more focussed approach through a central council with the development of a clear federal voice will hopefully lead to recognition of the culture needed to ultimately help Canada improve its innovation success.

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Entry filed under: Innovation News. Tags: , .

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