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Activity Masquerading as Achievement

By Douglas Kennedy, RBC Managing Director, Centre for Global Enterprise

Over a year has passed since the Federal Government announced its ‘Innovation Agenda’ that was going to transform the Canadian economy. In short order Canada was to become a global leader in innovation and the creation of the jobs of tomorrow. The 2016 Federal Budget followed up with close to $4 billion in spending for research, developing innovation clusters and clean technology.

How are the results of the Innovation Agenda being measured? If we go by the number of consultations, round tables and citizens’ engagement initiatives, it has been a roaring success (see attached). But what about the practical quantifiable results? Measurable things such as increases in patent applications by Canadians, the number of new Canadian tech firms listing on a stock exchange, the increase in the number of new computer science, industrial design and science graduates choosing to work in Canada rather than seek their fortunes elsewhere, the number of Canadian companies hitting $500million (or even $100mm) in sales for the first time and so on?

By such concrete standards perhaps not much has changed. Perhaps such practical evidence of progress is not even being measured to assess the value Canadians are getting for what is, after all, an investment of billions of dollars. Kind of sad. What makes it is even more depressing is the fact we have all seen this movie before. Many of the challenges, prescriptions and priorities in the Innovation Agenda could have been taken, point by point, from Compete to Win by the Competition Policy Review Panel of the Federal Government. It was published a decade ago by a different government and a different party in power. Same old activity masquerading as actual achievement, same old Canadian fixation with process over progress.

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