Rob Annan at the Don’t leave Canada behind blog has issued kudos along with some measured comments about the government’s Oct. 14, 2010 announcement of an expert panel to discuss ideas for greater Canadian business innovation and to review Canada’s research and development (R&D) funding for business,
“Through this panel, our government is taking action to improve its support for innovation and to ensure that investments are effective for Canadian businesses and workers,” said Minister of State Goodyear. “We are committed to helping Canadian businesses acquire the tools they need to grow and create new jobs; this panel will help achieve that goal.”
“Canadian business spends less per capita on research and development, innovation and commercialization than most other industrialized countries, despite the Government of Canada investing more than $7 billion annually to encourage business R&D,” said Minister Blackburn [Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of Veteran Affairs and Minister of State Agriculture (Quebec)]. “This review will help provide recommendations on how the government can bolster Canadian businesses, create jobs and bring new ideas into the market place for the benefit of all Canadians.”
The panel will conduct a comprehensive review of all existing federal support for business R&D to see how this support could be enhanced to make sure federal investments are effective and delivering maximum results for Canadians.
The Research and Development Review Expert Panel is composed of six eminent Canadians chosen for their experience in business, academia and government as well as their knowledge of R&D and innovation practices and policies.
The panel’s chair, Thomas Jenkins, is Executive Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of Open Text. The other panel members are Dr. Bev Dahlby of the University of Alberta, Dr. Arvind Gupta of the University of British Columbia, Mrs. Monique F. Leroux of the Desjardins Group, Dr. David Naylor of the University of Toronto and Mrs. Nobina Robinson of Polytechnics Canada.
I’m not familiar with anyone on the panel although I have heard of Open Text and the Desjardins Group.
Rob notes, a type of research which has been excluded from the review, in his Oct. 15, 2010 posting,
So, basic research funding through the tricouncil will be untouched by the review. Which is good, since that isn’t where the problems in our innovation pipeline are to be found (there may well be all sorts of problems with basic research funding, but that’s a task for another panel…). It’s in effective knowledge transfer and business R&D where the problems seem to lie. [emphases mine]
As per Don’t leave Canada behind, a group of business people headed up by John Manley and Paul Lucas, Coalition for Action on Innovation in Canada, announced on October 14, 2010 (the same day as the expert panel was announced) a plan with recommendations to achieve the same goals. (You can download the plan from here.) From Rob’s posting,
A coalition of Canadian business leaders and high-profile academic administrators is working to frame the discussion. The blue-chip membership released a set of recommendations yesterday (the timing not coincidental) for how it wants the government to act. My sense is that their plan includes too much of “more of the same” recommendations – expanding SRED, expanding tax credits for innovation investment – rather than any really innovative ideas.
Like Rob, I too took a very quick look at the plan. I agree that there’s a lot of the ‘same old, same old’ recommendations and what popped out for me was the insistence on this,
Adopt the world’s strongest intellectual property regime.
A robust climate for innovation is only possible if Canada’s regulatory processes encourage the development and launch of innovative products and if our laws ensure that inventors and those who invest in their ideas can fairly reap the rewards of their work. Canada should aim for a reputation as the best place in the world in which to research, develop and bring to market new products and processes. To achieve that goal, it is imperative that Canada seize current opportunities to improve its protection of intellectual property and thereby create a more attractive environment for investment in innovation. Beyond legal and regulatory changes, businesses need consistent, timely and relevant treatment of intellectual property developed at post-secondary institutions. IP policies at institutions and granting agencies, including those dealing with disclosure and licensing, must facilitate collaborative research and encourage innovation. The business and academic sectors should launch a national dialogue aimed at creating a clear and consistent framework for IP agreements between individual companies and institutions.
The word ‘strongest’ in these contexts tends to be a synonym for control by whichever interest holds the patent. Heavy (strong?) control over IP (intellectual property) will mean less innovation and competition. Take for example India and its anti-retroviral drugs (my posting of Oct. 1, 2010 featuring an excerpt from Jenara Nerenberg’s article on the Fast Company website),
… The massive, low-cost ARV [anti-retrovirus] production industry in India has been made possible by the country’s patent laws. “Indian laws did not grant patents on a product, but only on a process to make it, which helped its drug firms to make cheaper versions and improved formulations using alternative methods,” SciDev.net reports.
But not everyone in the world sees those laissez faire patent laws as a good thing. India is in ongoing discussions with the World Trade Organization and the EU, but there is fear that increased patent requirements may dismantle the country’s thriving ARV production industry.
Note the difference between ‘strong’ and ‘laissez faire’ and the results in India. Personally, I’d like to see the world’s most balanced and flexible IP regime. If you have ideas about what you’d like to see considered in the review or recommendations of your own, check out Rob’s blog and contribute to his comments section where you’ll find some of my comments (once they’re moderated).