Breaking Through the Status Quo: Scaling Canada’s Innovation Game

National Arts Centre, Elgin Street, Ottawa, ON, Canada

Canada’s status as a G7 country correlates with the wealth we generate as a global supplier of natural resources and our democratic and open society. As the world shrinks due to rapid technological change, our place among the wealthiest of nations will increasingly depend on our ability to create new wealth and societal benefits from knowledge. This goal has been the focus of innovation policy in Canada for many decades. Nonetheless, it remains an aspirational one, not yet actualized.

Realizing new economic and social gains from knowledge is what innovation is all about. Countries that excel in this enterprise, with the exception of the United States, typically have few natural resources and are small. Think of Finland, Israel or Sweden. So there is no inherent reason why Canada could not be as successful, despite our relatively small population.

Attitudes and beliefs shape our culture and our institutions. If we are to scale Canada’s innovation game, we must identify the people and institutions that are successful in breaking through the status quo by creating value with knowledge – in the form of technology, processes, organizational structures, business models or marketing innovations. Can government policies and programs incent and facilitate such breakthroughs and, if so, how?

This conference will look at a number of challenge areas that keep coming up in studies of Canada’s innovation ecosystem. Instead of repeating the difficulties, we will hear from innovators who are breaking new ground and overcoming old habits of thinking and doing to generate wealth and social benefits from knowledge. From these exemplars, we will review policy implications and how we can generate more success at scale.

Speakers, Panelists, and Moderators include

Preliminary Conference Program

Day 1 - April 10, 2018

07:30 - 08:30

Registration and Exhibits

08:30 - 09:00

Welcome Address

09:00 - 09:30

Opening Keynote

09:30 - 10:15

Federal Budget 2018 & the Innovation & Skills Plan

10:15 - 10:45

Networking Break and Exhibits

10:45 - 12:15

Parallel sessions | SESSION A | This Just In: Collaboration is Key

Superclusters: Canada’s Grand Experiment in Scaling Innovation in Key Sectors
10:45AM-12:15PM

Over the years, Canada has invested billions in strategies designed to scale innovation and commercialization in targeted sectors. Before Superclusters, there was the NCE program, then CECRs, followed by BL-NCEs – a gradual progression toward closer engagement with the private sector. The Treasury Board Secretariat’s recent review of federal government business innovation support documents over 90 existing program streams delivered by 20 federal departments and agencies, and 28 new initiatives introduced in the 2016 and 2017 federal budgets, including the $950M Innovation Superclusters Initiative (ISI). How did ISI get started and what does it offer that is new? How will we know when and if the ISI has succeeded?

10:45 - 12:15

Parallel sessions | SESSION B | A Focus on Agility and Growth

Scaling Canadian Firms
10:45AM-11:30AM

Canada’s start-up ecosystem has enjoyed considerable attention from policy makers, intermediary organizations and investors for many years; but successful, profitable medium-sized and large firms with global customers are still relatively rare. The dearth of Canadian medium and large firms puts our start-ups at a disadvantage in connecting with global supply chains from a domestic base. What lessons can we learn from our small crop of Canadian firms that have scaled success global businesses headquartered in Canada?

Getting the Talent Piece Right
11:30AM-12:15PM

Entrepreneurs and business leaders pinpoint talent as one of the key ingredients for success. The federal government’s Innovation and Skills Plan attempts to address the talent issue with initiatives that include experiential learning opportunities for postsecondary students, but industry’s talent needs are much broader and deeper. How are postsecondary education institutions, including colleges, polytechnics and universities, preparing the full range of talent needed for successful innovation – from trades to technicians and technologists to researchers and designers to managers and customer support to sales specialists, marketers and communicators? How are Canadian firms working with educational institutions and other innovation intermediaries to prepare the talent we need to scale Canada’s innovation game?

12:15 - 13:15

Networking Lunch and Exhibits

13:15 - 14:45

Parallel Sessions | SESSION A | This Just In: Collaboration is Key

Working Together: Navigating Academic Culture to Enhance Public-Private Collaboration
1:15PM-2:00PM

With university faculty merit and promotion firmly tied to publications in peer-reviewed journals, academics that work with industry and help students pursue entrepreneurial ventures are at a disadvantage. How do professors who engage with industry and entrepreneurs navigate this culture and how can policies enhance university-industry interaction to help grow and scale successful Canadian firms with global customers?

Bridging Divides: How Focusing on Challenges Changes the Research Game
2:00PM-2:45PM

Innovation policy makers wrestle continuously with debates about the relative importance of fundamental and applied research. If the goal is wealth creation from knowledge, Canada needs both types of research. With the rise of challenge-driven, multi-disciplinary research, some institutions are moving beyond this artificial divide and engaging multiple stakeholders to create successful collaborative ventures with a mandate to create wealth and improve quality of life. How can we scale these efforts?

13:15 - 14:45

Parallel sessions | SESSION B | A Focus on Agility and Growth

The Regulatory Environment
1:15PM-2:00PM

The Council for Economic Growth is calling for more flexibility and agility in Canada’s regulatory system. Especially in sectors that are evolving rapidly – think financial services and medical cannabis for example – outdated regulations are hampering Canadian entrepreneurs in seizing new opportunities. What can we learn from jurisdictions tackling this issue in specific sectors – in Canada and elsewhere?

CRA rules around not-for-profits and for-profits
2:00PM-2:45PM

With the emerging interest in policy circles in social innovation, impact investing and purpose-driven business, the old distinctions between not-for-profit and for-profit enterprises is becoming blurred. Tax rules developed in the old economy are creating barriers for purpose-driven social enterprises and non-profit organizations and charities alike. We look at some innovation projects and examine the policy implications for scaling such ventures to enhance Canada’s ability to create wealth and enhanced quality of life from knowledge.

14:45 - 15:15

Networking Break and Exhibits

15:15 - 16:45

Parallel Sessions | SESSION A | This Just In: Collaboration is Key

Stop talking, start walking: EDI should be Canada’s competitive advantage
3:15PM-4:45PM

Studies of firms, organizations and communities show a positive correlation between success and effectiveness with Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Yet cultural and institutional inertia continue to stall the spread of EDI practices in the private, public and non-profit sectors. The Canadian government has made equity, diversity and inclusion hallmarks of Canada’s approach to innovation. This panel looks at some of the exemplary practices and attitudes that are putting Canada at the forefront of the EDI movement.

15:15 - 16:45

Parallel sessions | SESSION B | A Focus on Agility and Growth

New Federal Government Initiatives in Demand-driven innovation Procurement
3:15PM-4:45PM

One of the ubiquitous issues Canadian entrepreneurs raise is government procurement. Federal and provincial government rules and culture make it difficult for Canadian SMEs to sell to government, putting them at a disadvantage when they approach global customers who ask: “why isn’t your own government a customer?” The federal government’s Build in Canada Innovation Program attempted to address this issue with a supply-driven approach, matching Canadian tech SMEs with government departments. This year BCIP is piloting a demand-driven approach in which government departments present challenges and firms bid to provide solutions. Another new program within ISED, Innovation Solutions Canada, is being modeled after the US SBIR program in which government departments fund companies to provide solutions to in-house challenges. Defence Canada is piloting its own procurement experiment, IDEAS, where companies can work in secure “sandboxes” on potential solutions for the military. How will this new approach accelerate the growth of Canadian firms that provide products and services to governments in Canada and around the world?

16:45 - 17:15

Keynote

17:15 - 18:15

Reception and Exhibits

18:30 - 20:30

Dinner and Innovation Conversation

Day 2 - April 11, 2018

07:30 - 08:30

Registration and Exhibits

08:30 - 09:00

Opening Keynote

09:00 - 10:30

Parallel Sessions | SESSION A | This Just In: Collaboration is Key

Lessons from the North
9:00AM-10:30AM

Northern Canadian communities have developed innovative solutions that incorporate local knowledge and practices to complement standard techniques and procedures from the South. This panel looks at some of Canada’s northern successes and draws lessons for the rest of country.

09:00 - 10:30

Parallel sessions | SESSION B | A Focus on Agility and Growth

Corporate Drivers of Innovation
9:00AM-10:30AM

The recently announced Venture Capital Catalyst Initiative (VCCI) has identified x funds-of-funds that will invest in start-up and scale-up firms to help grow Canadian companies. In addition, BDC Capital launched a professional development program for fund managers, based on a successful Kauffman Foundation course. Less well-known is BDC’s new corporate venturing program to engage Canadian and foreign companies that do not have dedicated venture capital divisions to co-invest in VC rounds for Canadian firms. In this panel, we hear from some of the companies and investors that are driving innovation in Canada.

10:30 - 11:00

Networking Break and Exhibits

11:00 - 12:00

Plenary Panel | Using all of our Heads: Getting Government Departments to Connect, Collide and Collaborate

Ministerial mandate letters have explicitly charged Ministers to collaborate with other Ministers to develop an all-government approach to Canada’s innovation and skills agenda. New structures have been put in place to facilitate this process, including the appointment of a Chief Science Advisor with a mandate to coordinate STI activities across departments, the formation of the Canada Research Coordinating Committee (CRCC) to align the work of the federal granting councils, and the creation of the Accelerated Growth Service to coordinate federal government departments and other service providers in helping high growth firms accelerate their growth. This panel looks at how these initiatives will build a cohesive and collaborative approach to move the needle on Canada’s innovation performance.

12:00 - 12:30

Conference Close

13:00 - 16:00

Afternoon Workshops

Partners & Exhibitors

Gold