Editorial – 18-13

By Mark Henderson, Managing Editor

Those who contend that Ottawa is dragging its feet on innovation and commercialization may want to re-visit last March’s Budget (R$, April 6/04). Although its research and commercialization measures were modest, they do point to a coherent policy that’s in sync with the federal government’s previous directives. And unless there is a sudden abandonment of its innovation policy, the next Budget can be expected to provide more of the same.

The ACST-sponsored report on seed and pre-seed venture capital financing appears to be banking on continuing support for innovation (see lead article). Not only has it incorporated existing initiatives into its recommendations to the Industry minister, but it has requested additional funding in the next Budget.

It has suggested that its proposed fund of funds to finance seed and pre-seed opportunities could utilize part of the new capital announced in the last Budget for the Business Development Bank. And there is speculation that the two pilot funds announced for universities and government laboratories could be targeted to address the skills and culture components of its recommendations.

While the government should be commended for its apparent willingness to make innovation a continuing priority, it gets a failing grade on communicating its commitment to a national innovation strategy. You remember the one. It was announced by former Industry minister Alan Rock in February/02. Deadlines for key reports and documents have been missed without explanation. It’s time for Ottawa and the new minister to make their innovation intentions crystal clear.