The Current

What should Canada's innovation strategy look like?

Now that national innovation is on Ottawa's agenda, there's disagreement as to what the government can and should do to improve our record on the matter.
If innovation is a race — most experts agree Canada is already lagging behind. (Nicolas Loran/iStock)

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In February, Jim Balsillie told The Current that Canada is lagging behind other countries when it comes to innovation.

The former co-CEO of Research in Motion, which is now known as Blackberry, said we're decades late as a country, but with the Liberal government finally promising to put an innovation strategy into place, there's disagreement about what the government can and should do to improve our track record.

While the government says innovation will be the foundation for economic growth, Dan Breznitz says "we're all waiting to see what they will actually do." But Chad Ballantyne says it's encouraging to hear any talk of innovation coming from our government at all, though he is concerned about how and where they will be investing.

[The government is] ignoring or forgetting about the thousands of bright lights across Canada in communities that may not have the privilege of having university or incubator accelerator.- Chad Ballantyne, founder of The Creative Space

Erika Mozes runs her company, Hyr, out of New York City, but it was founded in Toronto. For her, the issue was startup capital — something that's readily available in the States and why so many Canadian innovators leave the country. So how do we keep these people in Canada? One of the solutions Ballantyne touches on is micro-funding.

Ballantyne says micro-funding is "lesser funds for smaller projects" and something that would keep innovators in Canada as they get their work off the ground. While such funds would be partly from investors, it's another strategy the government could adopt to foster innovation. As for the risk of the government funding fruitless endeavours, Breznitz says that's part of the process.

They should fund a lot of failures. As a matter of fact, if we don't fail a lot we're not innovating and we're not trying hard enough.- Dan Breznitz, Munk Chair of Innovation Studies at the University of Toronto

But furthering innovation doesn't just require funding, it also requires addressing issues of gender diversity.

"One of the most interesting things that I found when I entered this world was just the sheer lack of women that are in the tech community and even in the entrepreneur community." 

Mozes says she's often been the only woman in the room, which is why it's important for the government to actively encourage gender diversity in innovation.

It would be great to see some policy that comes out from the government that would help women investors and women entrepreneurs grow organically.- Erika Mozes, co-founder of Hyr

Guests in this segment:

This segment was produced by The Current's Julian Uzielli and Matthew Kupfer.