2022, we hardly knew ye: populating innovation

Tim Lougheed
December 21, 2022

Populating Innovation

Amidst the endless chatter about advanced robotics and AI systems, it is easy to forget that innovation continues to be driven by people. Or, as most entrepreneurs like to call them, talent. Mad scrambles for investment financing or strategic minerals are nothing compared to the global competition for individuals with a bent for doing the many different tasks innovation demands — from conducting exotic, highly specialized technical processes to selling finished products to potential customers who might have little to no idea why they need a particular innovation that may be on offer.

The House of Commons’ first-ever Standing Committee on Science and Research, which has been spearheaded and chaired by the Honourable Kirsty Duncan, emphasized this point in its mid-year report. Its recommendations revolved around the financial resources government should invest in the research community, which above all is an investment in the people who make up that community.

The Centre for Future Work, a think tank that weighs the effect of innovation on jobs, offered a critique of Canadian firms that were shying away from investing in new technology by placing heavier demands on their respective workforces, to achieve similar gains in productivity. Although it is often thought that robots will put human beings out of work, a report from the Centre insisted employers should be spending more money on this new infrastructure, which will dramatically improve the working lives of their employees.

Finally, if employers are having trouble finding the high-powered employees they need, they only have themselves to blame, according to AJ Tibando. Her company, Palette Skills, specializes in helping people transfer their skill from areas that might not be formally linked to science and technology, but which can be readily adapted to thrive in such enterprises. Many of those same enterprises overlook these candidates, she told participants in this year’s Research Money conference, because human resources departments adhere to limited definitions of what qualifies as talent in an innovation-driven industry.

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