Montreal – The federal government should push forward with greater urgency to develop a more ambitious and comprehensive innovation policy, recognizing that innovation is the ultimate source of future prosperity for Canadians, says a new publication from the Institute for Research on Public Policy.
Ottawa recognizes that Canada’s economic prospects must rely on stronger productivity and innovation performance. Yet for decades, successive governments’ attempts to promote business innovation have failed. The economy remains stuck in a low-innovation equilibrium, and productivity growth has been exceptionally weak for 30 years.
“What is needed is a more potent incentive to change Canada’s business culture and prompt firms to innovate,” says Peter Nicholson, founding president of the Council of Canadian Academies, a former policy adviser to the Prime Minister’s Office and former business executive.
He advocates rebalancing innovation policy to place greater emphasis on the “demand for innovation.” The idea is to directly affect the profit-seeking behaviour of firms and push them to innovate by creating new market opportunities or intensifying competition.
Because of its profound link to productivity and growth, innovation policy must be seen ultimately as a whole-of-government responsibility, says Nicholson. Such a change of approach would require not only clear statements of priority from the top but also making every relevant ministry accountable for specific elements of innovation policy and for collaborating to make the whole greater than the sum of the parts.
The author points out that the factors that have allowed Canadian businesses to sustain healthy profitability over the past several decades, despite their poor innovation performance, are no longer sustainable. As globalization, technological change, environmental sustainability and population aging continue to reshape the world economy, they will inevitably force a shift to innovation as a core business strategy to survive.
Facing the Facts: Reconsidering Business Innovation Policy in Canada by Peter Nicholson can be downloaded from the Institute’s website (irpp.org).
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