Global (R)Evolution Panel Series: Innovation, Start-ups & Technology

WHAT WE HEARD: Canadian Innovation and its Link to Global Development Efforts

For better and for worse, technology and innovation have defined the way human beings relate to each other and interact with mother earth for millennia. As significant as the impact of technology and innovation on society is, it seems we rarely ask ourselves what values and worldviews drive our innovation and technology agendas.

Through our domestic policies and federal budget, Canada has consistently made significant investments in innovation and emerging technologies. Provincially as well, civil society, private sector and governments are finding new successful ways of innovating through social and environmental challenges. Yet, these efforts are seldom connected to similar efforts worldwide. 

Through our global development efforts, Canada is also seeking to foster innovation. Yet these efforts are siloed from most of what is taking place at the leading edge of innovation and technology domestically. 

Yet it is clear now that when it comes to technology and innovation the local is the global. Canada has traditionally thought of its exports as natural resources. We must now develop the strength to export our ideas and innovations. We must also ask how our domestic innovation agenda impacts people in developing countries both positively or negatively, and uncover what opportunities for impact we are missing by remaining mostly domestically focused.  It is also important to recognize new ways of learning, new ways of partnering, new ways of innovating and creating value that are emerging in Canada, and ask how those could contribute to a global movement toward greater sustainability and shared prosperity. Unlocking Canada’s inclusive, social and sustainable innovation strength for global impact could be a significant boost to our contribution globally and our future prosperity.

After speaking with our group of expert panelists, here’s what they had to say about this issue:

Canada needs a global impact innovation platform.

It is clear that Canada is already setting out to be a leader in the creation of technology and innovation to solve social and environmental challenges. For example, it is recognized that new technologies will play a significant role in helping us achieve our emissions reduction targets, and in that sector, Canada will be first customer to Canadian innovators – driving the incentive to create and commercialize. Likewise Canada recognized early the potential of Artificial Intelligence in creating social and economic value and invested in superclusters. Yet – If we limit our efforts and frame of thinking to a domestic perspective, we will miss the opportunity to deliver global impact.  Indeed, Canada does not hold a monopoly on innovations that are socially inclusive and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. We can learn from innovators around the world if we make the effort to connect. Further, our most successful innovations ought to benefit the entire world. 

In order to transcend our inward, domestic bubble, we need to set moonshot goals that are challenge specific and extend their scope globally. This will create the premise for powerful collaborations. We must foster connections and learn from other innovation ecosystems in the world and consider a holistic perspective on innovation – the technical, the political, the policy and the social aspects of change.

When it comes to innovating for global impact, Canada needs a global impact innovation platform that brings innovators together across borders, taps into the Canadian tech and innovation ecosystem and gavanizes creativity and partnerships around specific global challenges. The platform should be housed separate from the government so it can be nimble and take risks but it must be a platform that is funded by the government in the long term so it can facilitate, experiment and accelerate key initiatives without having to seek returns and revenue – at least not in the short term. The platform should be supported in addressing the general risk aversion prevalent in Canada and create an experimental based culture. A government funded platform on a specific set of challenges, modelled in a way that helps crowd in investment from others is a way to significantly scale our innovation and technology sector. On the back end of this platform, the key will be monitoring and evaluation. Measuring creates accountability with government and taxpayers ensuring we are achieving the desired impact set out while enabling partnerships and giving power to those in the community.



“Innovation, Startups & Tech: Paving the Way Post-Pandemic to Economic Growth” 


Watch the Innovation, Start-ups & Technology Panel: