2022, we hardly knew ye: defining innovation

Tim Lougheed
December 21, 2022

defining innovation

Everybody wants a piece of innovation, an activity that might open the door to all manner of personal empowerment and economic development. But it is becoming apparent that even the most seemingly successful innovative enterprises can end up limiting our individual freedom or spawning dangerous economic, social, and political inequities. In addition, champions of innovation regularly conflate it with research and invention, as if supporting these areas is sufficient to deliver all the benefits associated with innovation.

Part of what we began to do in 2022, therefore, was establish a working definition for innovation, so that we can better gauge how to establish it, along with what we expect it to do. Dan Breznitz, a professor at University of Toronto’s Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy, has thought long and hard on this topic. He has formulated a detailed outline of his observations and recommendations in a highly engaging book, Innovation in Real Places (Oxford University Press). Although his text draws on examples from around the world, he gave Research Money a specific “prescription” for what Canada should do if it wants its own share of innovation’s promise.

In a similar way, Breznitz chimed in with best practices and learnings that might benefit the federal government’s Canada Innovation and Investment Agency, which was introduced to us in Budget 2022. Even at year’s end, the mandate and make-up of this new agency remain mysterious, though perhaps Budget 2023 will shed light on where it intends to go. Other observers voiced separate concerns to Research Money, about the  budget’s emphasis on innovation at the expense of other aspects of research and development, which they hoped might be better supported in the next fiscal year.

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