Canada’s Innovation Superclusters Initiative (ISI) is capturing international attention and the imagination of Canadian innovators across the country. I was recently in Europe where I heard of ramped up inquiries to our trade officials about Canada’s innovation programs, especially ISI.
With so much interest and high expectation, the slow pace of negotiations between the government and the five supercluster management teams is causing frustration in some quarters. To be fair, $950M is a significant slice of public funds and it behooves the government to make sure it's spent wisely. One wonders, though, how much of the delay is due to a bureaucratic desire for control and to force a preconceived notion of how innovation works onto the funded entities.
A new study looking at another government funding program, the Canadian Accelerator and Incubator Program (CAIP), reveals that funded entities experience major frustration over bureaucratic requirements that have little to do with their mandate to help companies. Furthermore, there is a consistent tension between the government’s desire to create jobs and grow regional economies versus its goal of enhancing innovative firms’ global business success.
A strong recommendation of interviewees in the study, including CAIP-funded intermediaries, client firms and investors, is to separate these two goals. Both are important, but they do not always mix very well. One hopes that the final contribution agreements that the government pens with the five superclusters will give them the flexibility and authority to do the right thing: help Canadian firms succeed globally.