Reinventing innovation and commercialization policy in Ontario

Released October 2004

In this Working Paper, the Institute reviewed the factors at play in innovation and are proposing that Ontario assess two complementary factors - the support for innovation and the pressure for innovation. The Working Paper refers to funding for R&D and availability of scientists and engineers as examples of support. In the area of pressure it is referring to the forces that compel firms to innovate – sophisticated and demanding customers and capable competitors.

“We’ve concluded that government policy in Canada has focused too much in the area of support for innovation, and within that has concentrated excessively on hard sciences and technology. For innovation to occur there also needs to be support from effective managers who are driving company operations and strategies,” said Roger Martin, Chairman of the Institute. Public policy needs to drive towards creating greater pressure on businesses. No matter how much government support is given for innovation, businesses only innovate to the extent their customers and competitors pressure them to. The evidence in the Working Paper indicates that this pressure is lacking in Ontario.

The Working Paper concludes that government policy in innovation and commercialization has to move beyond narrowly defined R&D and venture capital availability. Ontario needs to step up the percentage of the work force with advanced degrees, more business school spaces are required, and Ontario’s challenge is to enhance the innovativeness from its current mix of industries, not find new industries. 

Topics: Government investment and innovation, Business growth and innovation