Canada Must Become A Nation Of Innovators, Coalition Says

Canada’s private and public sectors should move quickly to implement reforms that would strengthen the country’s innovation capacity and quality of life, a coalition of leaders from business, academia and supporting organizations said today.

The Coalition for Action on Innovation in Canada – chaired by The Honourable John Manley, President and CEO of the Canadian Council of Chief Executives, and Paul Lucas, President and CEO of GlaxoSmithKline Inc. – says it is committed to building a national consensus on 10 key recommendations to boost productivity, create jobs and raise income levels for Canadian workers.

“We believe that the measures we are recommending would make a real difference in putting our country firmly on track toward an innovative and prosperous future,” the coalition says in a concise 10-page report. (Copies of the report are available at

Echoing previous studies by the Council of Canadian Academies, The Conference Board of Canada, the federal Science, Technology and Innovation Council and other groups, the report says that Canada’s prosperity is threatened on three fronts – by increasingly intense global competition, an aging population and chronically weak productivity growth.

The solution to all three challenges, the coalition says, is to boost Canada’s capacity to innovate.

Canada, the report adds, has a strong record of public investment in research and development.

“Where we are falling behind other countries is in the private sector. We often fail to recognize and develop the commercial potential of our academic discoveries. Businesses are doing too little research of their own and are failing to invest sufficiently in new, productivity-enhancing technology. Inventors who launch new companies find both venture capital and entrepreneurial expertise in short supply.”

“The result is a business community with far too few innovative companies that qualify as global champions.”

The report says governments, the private sector and the research community should move quickly to:

  • Reform the existing system of tax incentives for research and development
  • Expand the pool of risk capital for innovative start-ups and emerging knowledge-based companies
  • Adopt the world’s strongest intellectual property regime
  • Strengthen partnerships between businesses and educational institutions
  • Tap private sector expertise in developing programs to promote R&D and commercialization
  • Speed adoption of innovative products and services
  • Launch a national learning and innovation initiative
  • Make Canada a magnet for top researchers and high-potential students from around the world
  • Nurture and strengthen innovation clusters
  • Establish an independent advocacy body with the single mandate of promoting innovation by Canadian business

Each of these measures, the report says, could be implemented within the next 12 months at little or no cost.

Beyond these priorities, the report offers a series of measures that would provide powerful stimulus for innovation in Canada but that would require additional government spending: tax relief for investors aimed at increasing the flow of capital to innovative companies; tax relief for individuals aimed at increasing the supply of talent; and increased financial support for research institutions targeted at greater commercialization of discoveries.

“The innovation challenge Canada faces is complex. No single policy change will suffice,” the report concludes. “But we believe that each of these recommendations would move us in the right direction, and that it makes no sense to wait. The time for action is now.”