Skip to main content

A recent article in the Globe and Mail Report on Business defined the status quo and challenges facing Canada’s Innovation performance. I’d say the list is reflective of the situation and provides some calculated direction as to how to approach the future.

Same Old Startup Model, Same Outcomes

Public funding has been hitting the ecosystem for several years now. We have seemingly adopted the incubator/ accelerator model of startup land that preaches that linear pathway to the “low %” success rate of the funded few companies that spin out.

The ratio of rickety startup companies to successful high growth/ global companies is and likely will continue to be low, if we follow the same startup model going forward.

Battling the Big Software Kings

We also have to contend with the US based Venture arms of the Big software kings funding early stage IP development in their own respective labs and programs shadowing our Universities and Tech Hubs. We have seen a trend in early control or acquisition of this IP that is then repatriated as new products back to Canada.

However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing in terms of validating new ideas, applying new technologies or solving business problems. In fact, looking deeper at the process reveals that taking “nascent IP” and applying it to problems and including existing technology partners, brings the value of collective intelligence and strategic partnerships to fruition.

This process is also known as ODI or Output Driven Innovation, vs. the familiar Lean Startup, which is fraught with friction in the form of contests, pitch days and “egos and icons” as investors. Coupled with the linear and time sucking steps of product solution fit and product market fit, it certainly focuses on “winner take all” vs. calculable Innovation Outputs as in ODI.

Private Open Innovation Labs Drive Engagement

Open Innovation has been thriving across technology hubs around the globe for several years now. MIT has it’s SOLVE program in conjunction with GE’s Open Innovation Labs in Boston. Plug and Play Tech Center in Silicon Valley is an innovation powerhouse that has 300 vetted solution teams (vs. startups- “Love the problem, not your product/ idea”) in the campus during it’s seasonal cohort groups.

It’s important to note that these models are collectives leveraging private capital, technology company involvement (GE for example-contributing funding and dormant IP from their own portfolio to build from) and of course some “smat kids” from MIT or Stanford respectively.

Developing our own Networks & Aligning Vectors

We have the same basic resources here. We have to be able to see past the regional ring fencing of R+D outputs and develop our own network of “nascent IP” we can exploit quickly and efficiently. This will take an open mind, some global IP strategies (which are under review and unfortunately lagging other countries) and of course the willingness to view partnerships and licensing as a viable option to drive new IP as innovation outputs.

“Aligning Vectors” as Elon Musk has recently suggested, will get new IP to market more efficiently than gating the linear startups into the usual commercialization path. We can still pick our National winners as best bets to scale globally in the organic sense.

What we can also do is succeed with the “Canada First IP strategy”, which is where innovation outputs get to global portfolio status in an exponential way.