Sean Moffitt, Managing Director, Wikibrands and CATA National Commentator is interviewed by CATA CEO John Reid on some of the keys to a successful competitive innovation nation: be bold, go global, provide growth capital. After the interview, they discussed a top 15 Innovation Crib List.
Tech alliance pushes for federal innovation ministry (IVAN SEMENIUK. GLOBE)
General Philosophy #1 Be bold and make tough but smart choices - declare our interest in being a world leader at whatever type of innovation we deem to focus on and as a consequence eliminate process/resources that don't support that goal, have our leadership promote our innovation ambition around the world.
Social #1 Eliminate the glass ceiling of innovation - funny how we can turn out more female graduates but fail in supporting them in the innovation ecosystem - with Canada's progressive stance on woman's rights, we have a natural innovation resource here that is uncapitalized and a huge competitive advantage but is untapped due to various biases, lack of support mechanisms and mentorship.
#2 Celebrate the age of the Canadian entrepreneur - unlike a generation ago where the desired jobs were lawyer, accountant and big business leader, fully 70% of people under 30 want to be entrepreneurs - why is it the profile we give these people is considerably lower than the US and restricted to Dragon's Den - we need a better bullhorn to role model the talented people to the masses to emulate. We also need to create alternate education institutions, perhaps all online that promote entrepreneurship as an essential secondary and post-secondary school skill.
#3 Freelancers - in 1990, 10% of us were Freelancers, in a couple years, we will be sitting at 35% - how do we make it easy for the most driven of these people to join collectives of like-mindeds, get office spaces at co-location facilities, streamline regulation to set up and grow, market themselves efficiently and ultimately build businesses bigger than themselves.
Technology #1 Mobile and Leading Edge Capacity - you can make an argument that Canada as a nation is the most connected nation. We spend more time online, watching more video, across more social, with more iPads than nearly every country - we need a leading edge and more competitive wireless services, infrastructure and homegrown innovation to match that appetite
#2 Sovereignty - with fraud, hacking and privacy issues abounding, Canada needs to make business and individuals aware of risks and the need for our own forms of intellectual property rules, copyright, privacy regulation and hosting location, not tied to the USA and that potentially allow for opportunistic industries to create safe tech havens not possible in the US
#3 The Far North - we have a tragic loss of hope among indigenous youth in Canada, there are many of them and throwing money at the issue as we have done in the past will not have sustainable impact. With the right skills, guides, equipment and incentives for leading native youth, we could create a Far North capacity for technology development, natural resource innovation and cultural export to other countries
Economic #1 Leverage crowd economy - as mentioned in our interview, smarter regulation of crowdfunding and sharing economy industries is a no-brainer. Making some good seed bets on parts of the on-demand, crowd economy would make us world leaders as the world hasn't got its stride yet on much of this.
#2 Centralize and scale up innovation - there are something in the order of 24 publicly funded, independently operating innovation centres across Ontario. That is too many. At minimum, when success starts to happen for entrepreneurs and innovators, we should have a cross-provincial system in place that identifies these winners early and provides nation-wide support and adoption quickly.
#3 Mid-Stage Capital - $1.5-25 million raise of funds is next to impossible in Canada, especially if you are in riskier tech industries. When these companies move forward to this stage, they lose oxygen and either raise money through Silicon valley angels or sell out to bigger US firms - either way, we lose the independence, talent and good jobs to another geography. We need a well-administered mid-stage capital fund that rewards companies for expanding here and do away with blind SR&ED credit incentive system.
Environmental #1 Urbanization and City Innovation - Canada is fully 70% urban and many of our top 6 cities rest among the highest rankings of the most liveable, innovative cities in the world. We need to focus support on making these cities beacons of specialized innovation to the developing world who are climbing the ladder of the innovation tables at the same time. Amsterdam and their adoption of sharing.nl could be a role model for us.
#2 Leverage Multicultural culture - study after study provides that diversity of thinking aids business and innovation - many of our cities are blessed with a mosaic of cultures working in a harmonious, distinctive and inventive way of doing business, not possible in other countries due to religious strife, cultural or moral bias, or overt and covert racism. We should provide evidence for a superior innovation ecosystem based on diversity and use in bringing large global innovation centres (like Cisco's in Toronto) to Canada.
#3 Tourism - this remains as an industry that has Canadian-owned and controlled transportation, real estate and hospitality still. We can impact this industry independent of outside influence and gain back a trade surplus here. Given the paucity of tourism innovation worldwide (most investment is focused on media spending) and Canada's vast range of tourism assets, we could develop a tourism experience for the 22nd century right here in Canada through public/private partnerships.
Political #1 Export of New Innovation/technologies - as a country of 35 million people, we need to sell our goods outside of our borders to favourably impact our way of life and revenue base. Criteria should be established for tax incentives and private/public innovation investment schemes that are geared for export vs. selling things to ourselves. Organizations like the C100 should be set up for other industries to take advantage of Canadian business leaders that could provide leverage in other geographies.
#2 Ties beyond US - unlike manufacturing, commodities and agriculture, where goods are heavily dependent on our US neighbour to the south, technology and innovation is not. As one of the most global industries, Canada needs to partner up with a number of global innovation enclaves that may in fact share our challenges given their remoteness or small populations. Here is a section of 50: http://www.bloomberg.com/graphics/2015-innovative-countries/
#3 Specialize/Focus -, Canada can not be all innovation to all people. Sweden is a world leader in innovation despite only having 0.13% of the world's population. They have done this through smart focused investment in only three things: medicine and bioscience, technology and microelectronics, and climate. Canada needs to be just as shrewd in picking some winning industries and focusing money, time and attention on supporting them.
++ Action Item: Add to the Conversation on CATA’s Social Media Forum (11,300 members) at: https://www.linkedin.com/groups/Canadian-Advanced-Technology-Alliance-CATA-37239/about